The Giza Necropolis stands on the Giza Plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This complex of ancient monuments is located some 8 km (5 mi) inland into the desert from the old town of Giza on the Nile, some 25 km (15 mi) southwest of Cairo city centre. Great Pyramid of Giza is the only remaining monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
This Ancient Egyptian necropolis consists of the Pyramid of Khufu (known as the Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Cheops), the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) a few hundred meters to the south-west, and the relatively modest-size Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinos) a few hundred metres further south-west, along with a number of smaller satellite edifices, known as “queens” pyramids, causeways and valley pyramids. The Great Sphinx lies on the east side of the complex, facing east. Current consensus among Egyptologists is that the head of the Great Sphinx is that of Khafre. Associated with these royal monuments are the tombs of high officials and much later burials and monuments (from the New Kingdom onwards), signifying the reverence to those buried in the necropolis.
Of the five, only Menkaure’s Pyramid is seen today without any of its original polished limestone casing, with Khafre’s Pyramid retaining a prominent display of casing stones at its apex, while Khufu’s Pyramid maintains a more limited collection at its base. Khafre’s Pyramid appears larger than the adjacent Khufu Pyramid by virtue of its more elevated location, and the steeper angle of inclination of its construction – it is, in fact, smaller in both height and volume. The most active phase of construction here was in the 25th century BC. It was popularised in Hellenistic times when the Great Pyramid was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Today it is the only one of the ancient Wonders still in existence.
Due largely to 19th-century images, the pyramids of Giza are generally thought of by foreigners as lying in a remote, desert location, even though they are located just outside of Cairo repleat with McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and KFC restaurants!
The Great Pyramid
King Khufu, who is also known by the Greek name Cheops was the father of pyramid building at Giza. He ruled from 2551 to 2528 BC and was the son of King Sneferu and Queen Hetpeheres. The pyramid was built in 2589 to 2566 BC and consists of 2.3 million limestone and granite blocks of stone. The base is 13 square acres, 0.6 million square feet. The length of each side of the base is now 745 feet and the total weight of this pyramid is 6.5 million tons. The average weight of an individual block of stone is 2.5 tons, the height of Cheops is 449 feet and the angle of incline is 51 degrees.
The Pyramid of Khafre
Khafre was the son of Khufu and was also known as Chephren. He ruled from 2520 to 2494 BC and he is responsible for the second largest pyramid complex at Giza which includes the Sphinx, a Mortuary Temple and a Valley Temple. This pyramid was built of red granite and limestone in 2558 to 2532 BC. The base is 704 feet on each side and covers an area of 11 acres. The average weight of each stone is 2.5 tons some of which are as large as 7 tons. The height is 446 feet and the angle of incline is 53 degrees. Khafre is best known for its statues and the most famous is the Sphinx.
The Pyramid of Menkaure
Menkaure, also known as Mycerinus, ruled from 2490 to 2472 BC. He was king of the smallest of the three pyramids at Giza and is believed to be Khufu’s grandson. The dating of this pyramid is undetermined as is the number of blocks of limestone, red granite and basalt of blocks of stone. The base is 344 feet on each side and is 203 feet in height with an angle incline of 51 degrees.
The Great Sphinx of Giza (Arabic: أبو الهول “The Father of Fear”) is a half-human, half-lion Sphinx statue in Egypt, on the Giza Plateau at the west bank of the Nile River, near modern-day Cairo. The largest monolith statue in the world, it stands 73.5 metres (241 ft) long, 6 m (20 ft) wide, and 20 m (65 ft) high. Commonly believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians in the 3rd millennium BC, it is the earliest known monumental sculpture. The Great Sphinx is one of the world’s largest and oldest statues, yet basic facts about it such as the real-life model for the face, when it was built, and by whom, are debated. These questions have collectively earned the title “Riddle of the Sphinx,” a nod to its Greek namesake, although this phrase should not be confused with the original Greek legend.
The Great Sphinx is thought by most Egyptologists to represent the likeness of King Khafra (also known by the Hellenised version of his name, Chephren) who is often credited as the builder as well. This would place the time of construction somewhere between 2520 BC and 2494 BC. Because the limited evidence giving provenance to Khafra is ambiguous and circumstantial, the idea of who built the Sphinx, and when, continues to be the subject of debate.
What name ancient Egyptians called the statue is unknown. The commonly used name “Sphinx” was given to it in antiquity based on the legendary Greek creature with the body of a lion, the head of a woman and the wings of an eagle, though Egyptian sphinxes have the head of a man. The word “sphinx” comes from the Greek Σφιγξ — Sphinx, apparently from the verb σφιγγω — sphingo, meaning “I strangle,” as the sphinx from Greek mythology strangled anyone incapable of answering her riddle.
A couple of things to point out that were quite surprising to us. Firstly, the Sphinx is really small relative to the Pyramids – almost shockingly smaller. Secondly, “sphinxes” are very common throughout all of the temples of Egypt. They are a symbol of power and wisdom and thus were plentiful wherever we went. This one probably got the most publicity because of its proximity to the Great Pyramids and its size relative to other sphinxes which were generally the size of statues outside Chinese restaurants!
The Khufu ship is an intact full-size vessel from Ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2,500 BC. The ship was almost certainly built for Khufu (King Cheops), the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. It is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved vessels from antiquity. It measures 43.6 m overall. It was identified as the world’s oldest intact ship and has been described as “a masterpiece of woodcraft” that could sail today if put into water.
The ship was rediscovered in 1954 by Kamal el-Mallakh, undisturbed since it was sealed into a pit carved out of the Giza bedrock. It was built largely of cedar planking in the “shell-first” construction technique and has been reconstructed from more than 1,200 pieces which had been laid in a logical, disassembled order in the pit beside the pyramid. The history and function of the ship are not precisely known. It is of the type known as a “solar barge”, a ritual vessel to carry the resurrected king with the sun god Ra across the heavens. However, it bears some signs of having been used in water, and it is possible that the ship was either a funerary “barge” used to carry the king’s embalmed body from Memphis to Giza, or even that Khufu himself used it as a “pilgrimage ship” to visit holy places and that it was then buried for him to use in the afterlife. The Khufu ship has been on display to the public in a specially built museum at the Giza pyramid complex since 1982.
On our way back from the pyramids we stopped in souvenir store and were treated to a papyrus demonstration.