The Giza Plateau looking east. Photo by Berthold Werner.
From left is the Great Pyramid of Pharoah Khufu (Cheops in Greek), then Khafre, Menkaure and little Pyramid of Queens, backed by Cairo city. Khafre’s pyramid (with the cap) seems taller/larger than Khufu’s but that’s an illusion due to the steeper angle of the sides and the more elevated land it was built on. Khufu’s, built 2560–2540 BC, is taller and uses more volume of stones.
Visiting the Giza Pyramids
The Pyramids squat just on the edge of Cairo, the capital of Egypt, about 25 km (15 miles) from the city centre but only a few dozen metres from some buildings. The area is formally known as the Giza Necropolis and Great Pyramid is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still visible and Africa’s most awesome monument by far.
The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or Pyramid of Cheops, shares the Giza Plateau with the two slightly smaller pyramids of Khafre (aka Pharoah Chephren) and Pharoah Menkaure as well as some tombs and smaller monuments such as the Sphinx. Many Egyptologists believe, by the way, that the Sphinx’s face is that of Pharaoh Khafre.
The sides of all three pyramids are precisely aligned to magnetic north, south, east and west; the bases are square, level and built on rock, not the sand that covers most of Egypt.
The Great Pyramid took about 20 years to build and was finished around 2560 BC. It was then the tallest man-made structure in the world for almost 4, 000 years.
Originally the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface, and what is seen today is the underlying core structure. originally 146 m (481 ft) high and contains an estimated 2. 3 million blocks of stone each weighing 2. 5 tonnes or more. The largest block weighs as much as 15 metric tons.
Rock was quarried from just south of the site, worked and placed in position by thousands of paid labourers, not slaves, who were probably farmers in their off-season when fields were flooded during the Nile’s annual inundation.
Pity about the litter, garbage and junk lying around the Giza Plateau and indeed around Egypt generally. Egyptians are not alone in their inability to see a rubbish issue, it’s a problem we’ve come across throughout the poorer parts of the Middle-East and North Africa. Something to do with nomadic desert evolution. Drop some crap in the desert and move on. . Poof! Gone!
This enviromental neglect only stops when a government steps in and clearly Egyptians have other concerns at the moment. Tourists: consider the rubbish to be a part of the rich plastic tapestry of life in this part of the world.
The entry to the tomb inside the Great Pyramid (the small, dark, lower one, not the grand depression top left). Photo by MusikAnimal.
It’s quite an experience to be inside that mass of ancient carved rock but there’s little to see and it’s hot, steep, narrow and quite claustrophobic. No photos allowed inside.