Pyramids of Giza

The Pyramids of Giza, the major tourist sight in the immediate surroundings of Cairo, are commandingly situated on the northeast margin of the Plateau of the Western (Libyan) Desert. They are the largest and most imposing of the six groups of pyramids set along the edge of the desert over a distance of some 25mi/40km. They are approached by the Road to the Pyramids (Shari el-Haram), which runs southwest from the Cairo suburb of Giza, increasingly flanked in recent years by high-rise buildings and blocks of flats.
The Pyramids of Giza, built by rulers of the fourth Dynasty (c. 2600-c. 2500), rank among the oldest surviving structures erected by man. In Greek and Roman times they were marveled at as the first of the Seven Wonders of the World, and they still exert a powerful fascination, both as an extraordinary technical achievement and as a demonstration of the power of the Pharaohs, who could marshal tens of thousands of subjects and slaves to construct these colossal monuments. The question of the relationship between the size of a pyramid and the ruler for whom it was built is still unsettled; it seems probable, however, that the size depended on the Pharaoh's personal inclination, power and economic resources. It has not been possible to prove an alternative theory that the size of a pyramid might be increased in stages in the course of a lengthy reign. Features common to all the pyramids are their situation on the edge of the desert to the west of the Nile and their structure, built up from huge blocks of the local (mostly nummulitic) limestone and enclosed in a casing, originally polished, of fine grained white limestone or granite. Concealed within the great bulk of the pyramid (in the later period) or underground beneath its base (in the earlier period) were the relatively small tomb chamber, a chamber for the cult of the dead Pharaoh and other chambers for the grave goods. Also common to all pyramids were the entrance on the north side and the mortuary temple on the east side, with a causeway (originally open, later frequently covered) leading up to it from a valley temple on the edge of the Nile Depression.

Giza - Pyramid of Cheops

The Pyramid of Cheops, also called the Great Pyramid, is the largest pyramid at Giza. The interior consists of narrow passages, the Grand Gallery, and the tomb chamber, containing an empty sarcophagus.

Giza - 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.

Giza - Smaller Pyramids

On the east side of the Pyramid of Cheops are three smaller pyramids for queens and a daughter of the Pharaoh and a large cemetery for other relatives. On the south side is a row of large mastabas belonging to high dignitaries.

Giza - Royal Cemetery

To the west of the Pyramid of Cheops is the extensive royal cemetery for members of the Royal House and high State officials, established during the fourth Dynasty and used until the sixth. As on the east side of the pyramid, the mastabas here are arranged in straight lines.

Giza - 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.

Giza - Sphinx

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.

Giza - Cheops Papyrus Exhibition

A short distance east of the Sphinx is the Cheops Papyrus Exhibition, where the making of papyrus by hand is demonstrated and sheets of papyrus, with and without painting, are sold as souvenirs.

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.

Giza - Son et lumière

The pyramids and the Sphinx are floodlit at night. Son et lumière performances are given in the area to the southeast of the Sphinx.


North of Lisht lie the pyrmaids of Amenemhet I and his son Sesostris I, from the 12th Dynasty.

Kafr Tarkhan

Kafr Ahmar (west bank). 1.25mi/2km southwest of the station, beyond the Bahr el-Libeni (canal), is Kafr Tarkhan, where Flinders Petrie excavated a large cemetery of the Early Historical period in 1911-12.

Zawiyet el-Aryan

Pyramids of Giza - Floor plan map Pyramids of Giza Map
Sections of Giza Pyramids - Floor plan map Sections of Giza Pyramids Map

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