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A Guide to Cairo, Egypt

The Pyramids, Sphinx and Saqqara

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Great Pyramid, Giza

Great Pyramid, Giza

Dylan Presman

What to See Around Cairo:

The Pyramids and the Sphinx

You won't want to miss one of Egypt's top attractions, the last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza. There are in fact three main pyramids in Giza; the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), The Pyramid of Kafhre and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaura. Each Pyramid is a tomb to a different King of Egypt. In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx, or Abu al-Hol in Arabic, "Father of Terror". Carved out of a single block of stone, this enormous cat-like sculpture has mesmerized millions of visitors.

Giza's three pyramids and the Sphinx were thought to have been constructed in the fourth dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom, arguably the first great civilization on earth. For most of us that translates in to about 5000 years ago. Even though there is still debate about how the pyramids at Giza were built, most are in agreement it wasn't by aliens . It is believed about 20,000 laborers were used and approximately 2 million blocks of stone, each weighing 2.5 tons, just to build the Pyramid of Khufu. For an in depth account of how they were built and a virtual tour inside the Great Pyramid (Khufu) explore the Pyramids with Nova and PBS.

Getting Around and Going Inside the Pyramids

Getting around the pyramids is easy enough, you can walk, take a horse and buggy or take a camel ride. A couple tips on the camel ride:

  • Bargain hard before you get on the camel.
  • Don't take a photo of the camel unless you are prepared to pay.
  • If you are feeling harassed then grab your nearest Antiquity Policeman to help you out.
  • Enjoy the ride, it is a once in a lifetime experience and worth a few bucks.

Climbing Up
I have some shaky Super 8 footage of myself as a six-year-old clambering up Khufu but that practice has been strictly forbidden since the 1980's. Some intrepid folks attempt to climb up the sides of the Pyramids late at night, but really, it isn't worth ruining a Wonder of the World just for the thrill of it.

Going In
You can go inside the pyramids, but beware if you suffer from claustrophobia. The climbs are very steep and narrow so your knees have to be in good shape. Here is a decent account of one person's experience inside Khufu (Cheops). You have to get a separate ticket to enter the pyramids and they are limited to 300 per day so get there early.

Sound and Light Show

A sound and light show centered around the Sphinx is a nightly occurrence. Although it may sound too touristy for some, everyone ends up learning some interesting facts about the Pyramids and shows are in several different languages.

How to get to the Pyramids:

A taxi from the center of Cairo is probably the easiest way to get to the Pyramids, although mini and micro buses also make frequent trips. An air-conditioned bus also departs regularly from the Midan Tahrir. For advice on getting to the Pyramids from other parts of Egypt check out this site.

Saqqara

If you are interested in seeing the forerunner to the Great Pyramid head to Saqqara to see the 'Step Pyramid'. It is considered to be the first pyramid ever built and it dates to around 2800 BC.

A Guide to Cairo

Page One: Introduction, When to Go and What to See

Page Two: Shopping in Cairo

Page Four: Getting Around Cairo and Where to Stay in Cairo

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