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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Giza "Must Do and Great sightseeing in the Ancient Pyramid City"

Giza or Gizah is the third largest city in Egypt. Being located on the west bank of the Nile river, some 20 km southwest of central Cairo. Along with Shubra El-Kheima, Cairo and Helwan, the 4 cities form the Province of Greater Cairo metropolis. The city of Giza is the capital of the Giza Governorate, and is located near the northeast border of this governorate in coordinates. It is located right on the banks of the River Nile. The city's population was 2,681,863 in the 2006 national census, while the governate had 6,272,571 at the same census. Its large population makes it the second largest suburb in the world, tied with Incheon, Korea and Quezon City, Philippines, second only to Yokohama, Japan.

Giza is most famous as the location of the Giza Plateau: the site of some of the most impressive ancient monuments in the world, including a complex of ancient Egyptian royal mortuary and sacred structures, including the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and a number of other large pyramids and temples. The plateau and its monuments have been recorded in the Giza Plateau Mapping Project run by Ancient Egypt Research Associates, directed by Dr. Mark Lehner.[1] AERA's 2009 field season was recorded in a blog.

The Great Pyramid of Giza at one time was advocated (1884) as the location for the Prime Meridian, a reference point used for determining a base longitude.

The Pyramid of Cheops

The Pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the group and indeed the most massive of all the Egyptian pyramids, was built by Cheops or Khufu, and was known to the ancient Egyptians as Ekhet Khufu ("Horizon of Khufu"). According to Herodotus (ii, 124-125) 100,000 men worked on its construction for three months every year. The cubic content of this huge structure, excluding the rock foundation and the chambers in the interior, is 3million cu. yd/2-3million cu. m (originally 3-3million cu. yd/2-5million cu. m). The base measurement is 746ft/227.5m (originally 756ft/230.38m), the vertical height 450ft/137.20m (originally, including the apex, 481ft/ 146.5m), the angle of inclination 51° 51'.

Ascent of the Pyramid of Cheops

The ascent of the pyramid (permitted only exceptionally and with the help of a guide) is hazardous and extremely strenuous, since it is necessary to climb steps more than 40inches/1m high. From the platform on the top the view extends west, south and northwest over the yellowish brown expanse of the desert, with the Sphinx, the smaller pyramids of Giza and the more distant groups of pyramids as far as Dahshur, while to the east are the cheerful green fields of the Nile Valley and, beyond the river, the Citadel of Cairo and the Moqattam Hills.

Pyramid of Cheops - Interior

The interior of the pyramid can also be seen, but the visit is fatiguing (lack of fresh air) and not particularly rewarding. The entrance is by a passage on the north side which was cut by tomb-robbers some 50ft/15m below the original entrance. This narrow tunnel leads into the Grand Gallery, a long passage (28ft/8.5m high, 37.5ft/12.25m wide, 154ft/47m long), a marvel of skillful masonry, beyond which is the tomb chamber (19ft/5.75m high, 34ft/10.50m long, 17ft/5.25m wide), containing the open, empty granite sarcophagus. The mummy has not been found.

Pyramid of Chephren

Some 175yd/160m from the southwest corner of the Pyramid of Cheops is the Pyramid of Chephren, known to the ancient Egyptians as Wer-Khefre ("Great is Chephren"). It stands higher than the Pyramid of Cheops and therefore appears larger. It has a vertical height of 448ft/ 136.5m (originally 471ft/143.5m), a base measurement of 691ft/210.5m (originally 706ft/215.25m) and an angle of 52° 20'. The total volume of masonry is 2.16million cu. yd/1.65million cu. m (originally 2.43million cu. yd/1.86million cu. m). A considerable section of the original casing has been preserved on the apex of the pyramid. The layout of the mortuary temple on the east side of the pyramid can be clearly distinguished.

Solar Boat Museum

Excavations on the south and east sides of the Pyramid of Cheops in 1954 brought to light five long cavities for boats, with a solar barque broken into more than a thousand pieces as a votive offering (now displayed in the new museum on the site).

The 43ft long boat, which is the centerpiece of the museum is thought to be 4,500 years old and to have carried the Pharaoh Cheops down the Nile from Memphis.


The pyramids and mastabas of Lisht lie to the north of the village of that name, some 19mi/30km south of Dahshur. Amenemhet I, founder of the 12th Dynasty, moved his capital from Thebes to Lisht in order to establish firmer control over Lower Egypt, and near here, on the edge of the desert, he and his son Sesostris I, who for a time ruled jointly with him, built their pyramids. The pyramids, now visible only as sand covered mounds, were surrounded by smaller pyramids for female members of the royal family and hundreds of mastabas belonging to high State officials. A few irregularities in the ground on the edge of the cultivated land no doubt markthe site of the erstwhile capital of ltj-towy.

Pyramid of Mycerinus

Some 220yd/200m southwest of the Pyramid of Chephren is the smaller Pyramid of Mycerinus (Menkaure), which has a vertical height of 203ft/62m (originally 218ft/66.5m), a base measurement of 354ft/108m and an angle of 51°. The limestone blocks of which it is built are of unusually large size. On the south side of the pyramid are three smaller pyramids, left unfinished, for relatives of the Pharaoh.


Immediately northwest of the Valley Temple of Chephren, a simple but finely built granite structure, is the Sphinx, perhaps the most celebrated monument in Egypt after the Pyramid of Cheops: the figure of a recumbent lion hewn from the natural rock with the head of a Pharaoh (Chephren?) wearing the royal headcloth and cobra. The divine image on the breast and other royal insignia are missing. Weathering and deliberate mutilation have wrought much damage over the course of the centuries but in spite of this the Sphinx still conveys a powerful impression of majesty and artistic achievement. The total length of the figure is 241ft/73.5m, its height some 65ft/20m. Preservation work is in progress.

Must Do

Pyramids Sound and Light Show

Pyramids Sound and Light Show (Son-et-Lumière), admission: foreign languages shows LE 60, Arabic show LE 11, private shows in foreign languages, LE 65 + LE 300 (covers operating expenses), Arabic private show, LE 16.50 + LE 150. More than slightly kitsch and frequently inaccurate in historical detail, but a worthwhile evening activity nonetheless. The "voice of the Sphinx" narrates the history of the Giza Plateau and its place in Egyptian history, as a dazzling laser display picks out the details of the Pyramids and displays historical scenes on the side of the Great Pyramid itself.

If you eat at the Pizza Hut restaurant just outside the entrance to the Sound and Light Show, there's a good chance you'll be offered to watch the show from the roof of the restaurant for a small tip. While it's not as good as watching it from a front row seat inside the fences, it's excellent value for money. As of November 2009, extremely bright lights have been pointed at the roof of the Pizza Hut and various other buildings to get tourists to attend the show. They put projection lights towards the Pizza Hut so it's not easy to see much. Pizza Hut has replied by putting up a barricade on the roof to try to block the light.

If you eat at the Pizza Hut restaurant just outside the entrance to the Sound and Light Show, there's a good chance you'll be offered to watch the show from the roof of the restaurant for a small tip. While it's not as good as watching it from a front row seat inside the fences, it's excellent value for money. As of November 2009, extremely bright lights have been pointed at the roof of the Pizza Hut and various other buildings to get tourists to attend the show. They put projection lights towards the Pizza Hut so it's not easy to see much. Pizza Hut has replied by putting up a barricade on the roof to try to block the light.


First Show

Second Show

Third Show

Winter (Oct-Mar)

6:30 PM

7:30 PM

8:30 PM

Summer (Apr-Sep)

8:30 PM

9:30 PM

10:30 PM




















no show









Camel Rides

Camel Rides. Avoid succumbing to the temptation of taking a camel ride around the Pyramids, if you can, the practice is noisy, smelly and overrated. Basically, there are many better places in Egypt to take a camel ride, if you must. Things are a little better run than they used to be, and the practice of taking tourists out into the desert and refusing to return unless "tipped" is rather rare now.

Horse Riding

Go horse riding in the desert to experience both the spirit of the Egyptian horses and the true majesty of the Pyramids seen from outside the 'circus ring' wall. Be careful of touts, however; it's best to ride from one of the better quality stables, like FB Stables. Ride in the shadow of the Great Pyramids or further afield on a half day trip to Saqqara or Abu Sir or camp out over night with a barbecue and fire. You can also watch the Sound and Light show from FB's rooftop terrace! If you do ride with a tout (they will encourage you to do this if the area is closed for entry for example) they will make out that you will have a great view of the pyramids (which you won't), they will then charge you a fortune, ride at high speed through the streets without a helmet (or any regard for safety), they will then demand a tip as you ride back and try to take you to a 'museum' which is actually a shop (where you will be pressured to buy stuff).

See The Sunrise

See the sunrise, the first sun beams colouring the Pyramids from the terrace on the third floor of a cafe or from the roof terrace of the hostel situated near the second western entrance and ticket-office.

FB Stables

FB Stables, Gamal Abdul Nasser St, Sphinx (Turn left after the sphinx KFC, then right in Gamal Abdul Nasser Street. FB is the last stables on the left), ☎ (+20) 016 507 0288. Popular with expats who keep their horses at livery, Karim at FB Stables is also great for a 'tourist' type ride to view the Pyramids and Sphinx from the desert. Longer rides to Saqqara and Abu Sir can be arranged in advance, as can sunrise, sunset and moonlit rides. Other than the horses and good company, one of the best things about FB is their amazing rooftop terrace (with bbq) with unrivalled views over the Pyramids - a great place to relax with a drink whilst watching the Sound and Light shows.


By metro

Metro Line 2 now runs from Cairo into Giza, although it doesn't go all the way to the Pyramids. Get off at Giza station (not the terminus!) and ask around for minibuses for the remaining 10 km, 15-20 min trip to the Pyramids (al-haram).

By taxi

It's possible to negotiate a taxi to take to you out to the Pyramids from any of the traveller-frequented parts of central Cairo - don't forget to haggle however. Taxi drivers will nearly always want to take you to see their "brother's" perfume shop, or their "father's" carpet warehouse on the way - if you don't want to waste time doing this, and being put on the spot to make a purchase - just make it very clear that you only want to see the antiquities.

Fortunately there are other Taxi options, which are the yellow ones and recently introduced white ones. These are metered and air conditioned. You might save yourself the hassle with the black and white taxis mentioned above, and at almost the same cost. On the other hand there are stories of drivers of white and yellow cabs fixing the meters, which would hardly be surprising given that it happens all over the world.

By bus

From central Cairo, the optimum way to get to the Giza Pyramids using public mass transit options is by bus routes 355 or 357 - a large white, air-conditioned coach with CTA (Cairo Transport Authority) on the side. Travelling every 20 minutes from the airport and Heliopolis, the bus stops (or doesn't - you may have to flag it down!) at the Abdel Menem Riyad Station in Midan Tahrir, next to the Egyptian Museum, before continuing out to Giza and the Pyramids. Tickets costs LE 2 - a bargain!

Even cheaper and more interesting is taking the ordinary buses 990 or 997, costing 50 piastres, from the big central bus station close to the museum, ask people to find the correct lane. Be careful when about getting down, most people will be honest and help you, but you may encounter scammers who take you to their camels instead of to the pyramids. For 997, the correct spot is along a long avenue, after you're spotted the Pyramids and the bus has done a U-turn and then turned left — get off when you a see a blue sign for the Light and Sound show.

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