– SEPTEMBER 15, 2015
On this day we were able to check a very important box off of our bucket lists….we have now been to the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx! This Pyramid complex contains 9 pyramids, 2 cemeteries, Builders’ Quarters, Mastabas, Tombs and Temples. It is far more than the couple of Pyramids people think are here, there are indeed much, much more to see in person.
Start early! Its gets pretty hot in the Sahara Desert if you start after 9am. Egypt has a golden rule…get up early, rest in the afternoon, go out at night. Follow this and you’ll have a fine time here.
PYRAMID OF KHUFU
The largest of the three pyramids at Giza, known as the Great Pyramid, is truly an astonishing work of engineering. It was built over a twenty year period. Some believe that it was built by slaves, but this is not true. One hundred thousand people worked on the great structure for three months of each year, during the Nile’s annual flood when it was impossible to farm the land and most of the population was unemployed. The pharaoh provided good food and clothing for his workers, and was kindly remembered in folk tales for many centuries. The workers did not care for material goods in this life, as they believed that everything they did today was all gearing you up for a better afterlife. They happily sacrificed their bodies and lives for the pharaoh, the extension of the gods.
The sides are oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass and the length of each side at the base is 755 feet or 230.4 m. The faces rise at an angle of 51º 52’ and their original height was 481 feet or 147 m. They currently rise 451 feet or 138 m. It was constructed using around 2,300,000 limestone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. Some blocks weigh as much as 16 tons. For centuries, the Great Pyramid was encased in smooth limestone, but this was plundered in our era to build Cairo. The bottom of the pyramid has been refinishes in one section to display how it originally appeared.
PYRAMID OF KHAFRE
Khufu’s son Khafre built his pyramid on a nearby site at Giza. It appears taller than his father’s, but this is an illusion as it is built on higher ground and was in fact, originally at 447 .5 feet or 136.4 m, 33.5 feet or 10.2 m shorter than the Great Pyramid. Khafre wanted to look more important than his father, but he also wanted to respect his father at the same time. By building a pyramid shorter than his father’s he honored his father, but by placing it on a higher plane it then appears to be taller from Cairo, thus making it seem more important and closer to the heavens.
Khafre’s pyramid retains some of its original limestone casing at the apex, and so it is possible to imagine how the pyramids might have appeared in antiquity. Khafre also built the Great Sphinx.
PYRAMID OF MENKAURE
Khafre’s son, Menkaura built the third pyramid at the Giza necropolis. With an original height of 228 feet or 70 m, it is less than half the height of the pyramid built by his grandfather, Khufu. The lower layers consist of red granite from Aswan and the upper courses were originally made of gleaming white limestone.
THE GREAT SPHINX OF GIZA
The largest and most famous sphinx is the Great Sphinx of Giza, situated on the Giza Plateau adjacent to the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile River and facing east. The sphinx is located southeast of the pyramids. Khafre built the Great Sphinx, which is 66 feet high (20 m) and 240 feet long (73 m) and is part of Khafre’s pyramid complex. It represents Ra-Harakhte, the sun god, as he rises in the east at dawn but the face of the Sphinx is a portrait of Khafre himself, and is contemporary with his pyramid. It was carved from an outcropping of limestone left after quarrying the stone for his father’s pyramid.
Unfortunately, the great sphinx has deteriorated over the millennia and was extensively renovated in ancient times. More recently it was mutilated by the Sultan Mohammed an-Nasir in AD 1300; and lost its nose in 1798, when Napoleon’s soldiers used it for target practice.
At the Great Sphinx site, the inscription on a stele by Thutmose IV in 1400 BCE, lists the names of three aspects of the local sun deity of that period. The inclusion of these figures in tomb and temple complexes quickly became traditional and many pharaohs had their heads carved atop the guardian statues for their tombs to show their close relationship with the powerful solar deity, Sekhmet, a lioness.
The Great Sphinx has become an emblem of Egypt, frequently appearing on its stamps, coins, and official documents.
VALLEY TEMPLE OF KHAFRE
This valley temple was part of the funerary complex including along with the pyramid (with its burial chamber) a mortuary temple (joining the pyramid on its east side), and a covered causeway leading to the valley temple. The purpose of these valley temples has been debated: they could have been used for the mummification process or perhaps for the “opening of the mouth” ceremony, when the “ka” entered the deceased person’s body. This temple is an excellent state of preservation, having been buried by desert sand until the 19th century.
The structure was built out of red granite, which is only available from the quarry in Aswan. This means the architect designed the building, specified exactly what each block would need to be cut like, then the people in Aswan cut the blocks & finished them, then shipped them to Cairo via the Nile River and assembled them on site to fit perfectly. Quite an amazing accomplishment.
This was on our bucket lists as long back as we can remember. It was an awe-inspiring experience and one that we will never forget for the rest of our lives.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.