Things to Do in Giza
The sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramids of Giza still live up to more than 4,000 years of hype. Their extraordinary shape, geometry and age render them somehow alien constructions; they seem to rise out of the desert and pose the ever-fascinating question, 'How were we built, and why?' The oldest and biggest pyramid is that of Cheops, and you can go inside this one if you don't suffer from claustrophobia. Once they were covered in smooth white marble but that was taken for temples over the centuries, but you can imagine how even more impressive they would have been then. Climbing on the pyramids is strictly banned.The sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramids of Giza still live up to more than 4,000 years of hype. Their extraordinary shape, geometry and age render them somehow alien constructions; they seem to rise out of the desert and pose the ever-fascinating question, 'How were we built, and why?'
The Great Sphinx of Giza is the greatest monumental sculpture of the ancient world and measures a massive 240 ft (73 m) long by 66 ft (20 m) high. It is generally believed to have been built around 2,550 BC but may well be even older. Legends and superstitions abound about the Sphinx, and the mystery surrounding its long-forgotten purpose is almost as intriguing as its appearance.
These days the Sphinx has been given a new role as part of a nightly Sound and Light show telling the history of Egypt with the Sphinx as narrator. Several times each evening, colored lights bounce off the pyramids as the story of an ancient world is told.
One of the oldest of the world's famous skylines, the Pyramids of Giza have had no trouble commanding attention throughout the centuries. Their mysterious history permeates the plateau from which they rise, and one of the three in particular, the Pyramid of Khafre, has its own tale to tell.
Also known as Pyramid Chephren, this tomb was built under the direction of the fourth-dynasty Pharaoh Khafre. Its condition and elevation give it the appearance of the largest of the pyramids, although it is actually several feet shorter than the tallest pyramid of Giza, the towering Great Pyramid. The Valley Temple and Mortuary Temple help make up the Khafre pyramid complex, and the Great Sphinx stands nearby.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramids of Giza are located just outside the fringes of Cairo on the the Giza Plateau. This complex of ancient monuments includes not only the mysterious pyramids but a workers’ village, plus the distinctive symbol of ancient Egypt, the Great Sphinx, which is situated at the base of the Giza Plateau.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the grandest in the complex, with the two smaller structures, Khafre and Menkaure, nearby. To the east of these there are three small graves – the tombs of Khufu's wives and sisters. There are two entrances to the complex, one via Pyramids Road at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and another below the Sphinx via the village of Nazlet asSamaan. (Most visitors enter the site from Pyramids Road, as this is where buses from the city stop.)
A magnetic presence in the Egyptian desert, the Pyramid of Menkaure dates back to 2490 B.C. and stands as one of the three famous triangular monoliths comprising the Giza Plateau. At 213 feet in height, this is the smallest of the triad, but its history is no less fascinating.
Made primarily of granite rather than limestone like its sister pyramids, Menkaure houses the tomb of the fourth dynasty's Pharaoh Menkaure, a benevolent and prosperous leader so focused on justice that Egyptians praised him more highly than any of their other monarchs. It is said that this praise unfortunately angered the gods, who had previously decreed that Egypt would suffer 150 years of hardship. When they saw that the people were flourishing under Menkaure, they allegedly allowed him to rule for only 26 (or possibly 63) years, depending on which version of history you choose to believe.
Papyrus is an important part of Egypt’s history. The raw material used to make this ancient paper comes from the stalk of the Cyperus papyrus plant, which has a brittle interior and a tough exterior and grows in damp regions of the Nile Delta. Its method of production was a well-kept secret for many years, allowing the ancient Egyptians to have a monopoly over its production and distribution.
The Papyrus Institute is a government-approved museum and shop not far from the Pyramids in Giza, where visitors can browse and buy a huge selection of hand-painted papyrus prints. Prices range from the cheap to the very expensive, but bear in mind that these prints are the authentic article and make for some quality souvenirs. Staff at the Papyrus Institute talk visitors through the entire process of manufacturing papyrus, including a demonstration of exactly how it is made.
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