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Anouk Zijlma

Climbing the Pyramids in Egypt

By February 26, 2006

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climbpyramids.jpg I recently got an email from someone requesting information about climbing the great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Why did he want to clamber up the side of the Pyramids? "I have touched the past," he said. "I can conquer the future." But his inner mountaineer will have to be satisfied with trekking around inside the Pyramids or taking a camel ride around their base. Climbing up is not an option.

I have some shaky super 8 footage of myself as a six-year old clambering up the last remaining Ancient Wonder of the World, but since the 1980's the Egyptian authorities have put a stop to it. It isn't just about thousands of sweaty, climbing tourists damaging the Pyramids -- it's also downright dangerous. The Pyramids used to be covered in limestone, which has eroded over the years. The steps were never made for climbing. They're uneven, crumbling and quite large -- at least five feet high in some places.

Inevitably, the fact that climbing the pyramids is forbidden doesn't stop everyone from doing it. Young Japanese tourists are apparently particularly adept at avoiding guards and clambering up in the dead of night. Bribing guards to turn a blind eye is also commonplace. But if you think you're going to enjoy the climb and the view, you may be disappointed. Bribing guards and climbing a steep, crumbling, ancient wonder in the pitch dark is not relaxing. Given the air pollution in Cairo, the sunrise views from the top aren't anything to write home about. And going down is even more dangerous than climbing up.

The bottom line is that it's not worth the risk of a fine, arrest or a broken neck. And why not respect the Pyramids instead of satisfying your need to conquer them? If that's not possible then there are plenty of pyramids in Central America you can still climb.

Image of the Great Pyramid of Khafre at Giza by David Hutchinson

Comments
February 2, 2008 at 9:08 pm
(1) Jim says:

You should realize that I happened on this article looking for info about climbing the pyramids. You say “Don’t do it.” Now I have to. It must be worth the trip.

August 12, 2008 at 7:01 pm
(2) Richard says:

Climbed the big one in 1960. At that time they had a 15 ft. pole guy-wired on top to show the origional height. From the top you could look down on the workers area, where over 22,000 laborers lived and died within the shadow of the pyramid.

January 2, 2009 at 11:10 pm
(3) Live a Little says:

Wow I never knew that commentators now days had lost all sense of adventure…damn live a little and grow some balls!!!!!!

May 17, 2009 at 1:15 am
(4) kevin says:

In February 1980 my wife (married 1 year, we were in our early 20′s) and I traveled to Egypt and went out to view the pyramids and the Sphinx. As we were looking at the Great Pyramid a young Egyptian man, also early 20′s, approached us and I told him I wanted to climb the Great Pyramid. I knew I could do it but didn’t know if it would be safe for my wife. Long story short, we paid him $20 U.S. dollars, he paid off the guards on three sides and the three of us climbed up one of the corners to the top. It was mid week and late morning. It was only the three of us on the whole thing. At the top, the view was stunning, no smog. We have a picture of us on top together that the Egyptian guy took of us. It was unbelievable we got to do that, especially as the years have past and people talk about the difficulty of climbing to the top of the pyramid… sneaking at night, in the dark. We did it in the day and on a beautiful day. We count our blessings.

May 18, 2009 at 4:49 pm
(5) someone says:

wow no need to be so negative we just wanted to kno u didnt have to be all defensive. theres plenty of pyramids it wudnt hurt if a couple of people now and then tried to climb to the top. gosh…

June 11, 2009 at 9:01 am
(6) Ernest says:

lol i agree with Jim, now i must climb the pyramids!!! Anouk, seriously where is ur sense of adventure? sure things get dangerous but thats the whole point!!! :)

July 23, 2010 at 5:15 am
(7) Pat says:

PLEASE TAKE NOTE THE REFERRED PYRAMIDS ARE NOT IN CENTRAL AMERICA (bad GEOGRAPHY) buT IN MEXICO, THEY ARE SUCH A WONDER, ONE CAN CLIMB THEM, THEY AND THERE IS SUCH A WONDERFUL VIEW FROM THE WHOLE MEXICO CITY IN ARQUEOLOGICALSITE:TENOCHTITLAN ALSO DOWN SOUTH IN MERIDA, YUCATAN, MEXICO THERE IS THE PYRAMIDS OF CHICHEN ITZA, JUST AMAZING! IN THE MIDDLE OF PARADISE. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ! ONE OF THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD.

December 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm
(8) heyo says:

@Pat – actually there are Mayan pyramids in multiple countries – I know at least Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala contain ruins. Please don’t insult others’ geography knowledge without actually knowing what you’re talking about. Also, please refrain from typing with caps lock on – many people, myself included, find this practice very irritating.

A couple of years ago, I visited the Mayan site Lamanai in Belize and it was incredible. It doesn’t get the huge amount of traffic that some places do so they had no problem letting us climb to the top of the High Temple.

January 18, 2011 at 6:52 am
(9) Ghazal says:

No one is talking about preservation of these sites. It is always the intant pleasures:I have to see what it looks like from the top.Well, it is always a bird’s eyes view from the top; no details, you know what I mean?

June 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm
(10) Crys says:

These wonders are slowly eroding away from time, sand and weather. If people desire to climb them, that ambition itself is worth something. Yes, these sites should be protected and preserved, but it was ambition that caused their creation.

August 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm
(11) Jeff says:

My story is similar to Kevin’s (#4). He climbed Cheops in February 1980; I did about six months later. I was a college student traveling around the world on semester at sea. We were approached by a guide who, for a reasonable fee to him and his cousin — the local security chief, would guide us to the top. It was near dark when we arrived at the top. Our guide said it was dangerous to climb down in the dark, and then quickly ran down himself. We opted to spend a freezing night up there, and were greeted by a dark pollutted sunrise. nevertheless, a magical experience. We were right to be cautious, as the very next day, a fellow 20 year-old student from the ship climbed up, then slipped on the way down and fell to her death. Her family in the U.S. opted to bury her remains in Egypt. I understand why the Egyptian government has cracked down on the climbing both for safety and preservation reasons. I know from experience that the attraction to do it overwhelmed my sense of safety, and that sometimes, it makes sense to not let people make their own choices on these things.

August 10, 2011 at 5:42 am
(12) Joe says:

I climbed it in 1996. Extraordinary experience, but very demanding mentally and physically in the way down. I would not do it again – a single mistake and your life is gone. If you slip one step, you will not be able to stop yourself and you will roll till death down to the ground, dozens of meters. Yet if you are adveturous, try it. You will not damage the pyramids – they have resisted tremedous heat, temperature contrasts, and wind and sand for hundreds of years, so a few crazy folks climbing makes no damage at all.

September 22, 2011 at 11:04 am
(13) Aaron says:

how long does it take to climb?

November 4, 2011 at 1:05 am
(14) chris says:

2 hours up..1 hour down

did it in the dark in 1995

December 1, 2011 at 2:05 am
(15) SOS says:

A friend and I climbed the pyramid in 1976. It was great! And easy, we were 20 years old. Like climbing up on table tops, about that height. The only thing was there were one or two guys wanting to take us and get paid, so we were dodging and scrambling away from them. When we got to the top we smoked hash. So I call it “High Adventure on the Great Pyramid!” It was a blast and easy to come down too. I’m so glad I had that experience as I love Egyptian art and culture. I think the author saying you may be disappointed is blowing air up your skirt. It’s the chance and experience of a lifetime so don’t listen to her.

December 2, 2011 at 3:42 am
(16) H.Bad Warrior says:

I would love to climb it, I would even settle to just see the pyramids. Anyone need a traveling buddy :)

December 8, 2011 at 11:06 am
(17) bill says:

“The Pyramids used to be covered in limestone, which has eroded over the years. ”

Incorrect. The limestone casing were removed by Arabs in the middle ages to build structures in Cairo.

May 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm
(18) John Jones says:

Maybe they don’t want you to get to the top.

May 17, 2012 at 2:30 am
(19) Ben says:

Those people who seem so intent on climbing, and therefore hastening the destruction of something that is regarded as an ancient wonder of the world epitomise the selfish attitudes which are so wrong in the world today. What they fail to appreciate is that while one person climbing the pyramid will not make them collapse, these people are not special and above others and if they think can climb them then understandably everyone else will also. It is everyone climbing them that will destroy them.
Respect the fact that these structures are greater than anything any of you will ever create in your own lifetimes and that many people died in their creation by not destroying them with your juvenile desires for ‘adventure’ and letting them continue to inspire future generations.
It makes me think your lives must be so boring and your minds so narrow that climbing something like this equates to adventure. Real adventures exist on this planet and spending a few hours climbing and destroying an ancient monument before returning to your hotel room is not one of them.

August 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm
(20) stev lord says:

Well the fact of the matter is that most people will not try and climb the pyramids, because it is forbidden, against the law perhaps…so what real harm can be done by the few who really want to climb them and do?….of course it is one thing to say that you saw the pyramids, quite another to say you climbed to the very top of one…I will be sure to take with me 2 beers,water,bread and my smart phone for music, photos and for posting a comment on FBook, saying that I am sitting at the Top…oh and possibly a joint…maybe.

Does anyone know how much the fine could be for climbing them?

March 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm
(21) kiva667 says:
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