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PYRAMIDS OF GIZA -
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING EGYPT'S #1 ATTRACTION
Planning your visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza?
Here are my travel-tested tips for making the most of visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza!
Find out what to do when you visit, learn how to buy the tickets, save time, avoid lines.
Here is everything you need to know to make visiting the Pyramids of Giza efficient and memorable!
WHY VISIT THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
I am sure you heard of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only Wonder of the Ancient World still in existence.
Built during the Old Kingdom (c. 2686-2181 BC), specifically, during the reign of the Fourth Dynasty kings, more than 4,000 years ago, the Great Pyramids of Giza give us a glimpse into Egypt’s past.
For me, the Great Pyramids of Giza are the most magnificent structures and the most iconic sight in the world. Both, the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx of Giza have been on my list of places to explore for the longest time.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT ARE
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD?
The Seven Wonders of the World or the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a list of remarkable constructions of classical antiquity given by various authors in guidebooks or poems popular among ancient Hellenic tourists.
The classic seven wonders were:
- Great Pyramid of Giza, El Giza, Egypt the only one that still exists.
- Colossus of Rhodes, in Rhodes, on the Greek island of the same name.
- Hanging Gardens of Babylon, in Babylon, near present-day Hillah, Babil province, in Iraq.
- Lighthouse of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt.
- Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, in Halicarnassus, Achaemenid Empire, modern day Turkey.
- Statue of Zeus at Olympia, in Olympia, Greece.
- Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, in Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey).
WHERE ARE THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
The Great Pyramids of Giza sit on the Giza Plateau, which is located on the edges of the Western Desert. Specifically, they are positioned approximately 9 km (5 mi) west of the Nile River in the city of Giza and about 13 km (8 mi) southwest from Cairo.
Image Source: Map data ©2020 ORION-ME
WHAT ARE THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
The Great Pyramids of Giza are part of the Giza Pyramid Complex, which is also called the Giza Necropolis.
Image Source: Wikipedia
The Giza Pyramid Complex consists of:
- Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops
- Pyramid of Khafre
- Pyramid of Menkaure
- Great Sphinx of Giza
- “Queens” Pyramids
- Solar Boat Museum
In addition, there are:
- valley pyramids
- several cemeteries
- and the remains of a workers’ village
WHICH ENTRANCE TO THE GIZA PYRAMID COMPLEX YOU SHOULD USE?
There are two entrances to the Great Pyramid Complex.
Entrance # 1 is by the Great Pyramid, and entrance # 2 is by the Great Sphinx. You can enter by either one. Check out the map right above.
My recommendation is to use entrance # 1 located by the Great Pyramid. There is plenty of parking and plenty of room to get your bearings straight. Entrance # 2 located by the Great Sphinx is extremely crowded. The walkway leading to the Great Sphinx is narrow, uneven, and up the hill.
WHO BUILT THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
The pyramids were constructed during the period of the Old Kingdom, also known as the “Age of the Pyramids” or the “Age of Pyramid Builders (c. 2686-2181 BC). Specifically, they were built during the reign of the Fourth Dynasty Pharaohs.
The Pharaohs: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure erected the Pyramids of Giza.
Interestingly, the pyramid building project was started with the Step Pyramid in Saqqara during the the reign of the Third Dynasty Pharaoahs. Specifically, the Step Pyramid was built for the burial of Pharoah Djoser.
By the way, make sure to check out my post about Dahshur and Saqqara.
WERE THE PYRAMIDS BUILT BY SLAVES?
The ancient Greeks believed the pyramids were built with a massive slave labor force.
However, Miroslav Verner, in his book The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture, and Science of Egypt’s Great Monuments, argues that the pyramids were not only built by humans—instead of aliens or gods—but they were constructed by tradesmen and artisans whose skills were in high demand and who were paid wages and organized under a complex bureaucracy.
Source: Open Culture
In addition, Egyptologists Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawaas claim that 20,000-30,000 skilled laborers, including stone masons, engineers, architects, surveyors, builders, and other craftsmen, were conscripted to construct Khufu’s temple, while a larger force of workers was summoned during the summer months when the Nile flooded the surrounding valley and integrated with the permanent labor force.
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WHY WERE THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA BUILT
Pharaohs held a special position in the Egyptian society. It was a status of a being that combined both human and divine characteristics. As a result, this godlike status was held even after death.
First of all, the pharaoh body was mummified and then buried in elaborate toms, like pyramids.
Mummification was a necessary process since the Egyptians believed that the mummified body served as a home of the three spirits: ka, ba, and akh.
Ka was essentially a person’s double. It was the life force and at death it was separated from the body. However, it was important that after the pharaoh death ka had home as well as be properly nourished and cared for. It was important that the deceased body would resemble the living body as much as possible so that ka, which was free to roam around and then return, could recognize his body.
That is the reason why each tomb would contain absolutely anything that they might need and what would help them in their afterlife.
Interestingly, if the body was destroyed, or the name of the pharaoh was erased, like in the case of a sad story of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, then ka would be lost.
HOW WERE THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA BUILT
There are many theories on how the Pyramids of Giza were built.
- Some reports claim that the pyramids were built by either dragging, rolling, and then lifting the huge blocks into place.
- Some theories suggest that a system of ramps had to have been constructed for maneuvering the huge blocks.
- Finally, there are theories that suggest that wooden and bronze levers were used to intricately position the stones into their place. These are all speculations.
However, what is absolutely amazing, is the accuracy of the pyramid’s workmanship!
For example, the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimeters in length. On top of that, the base is horizontal and flat to within ±15 mm (0.6 in). Based on measurements taken on the north-eastern casing stones, the mean opening of the joints is only 0.5 millimeters (0.020 in) wide. Source: Wikipedia
Needless to say, Egyptians were very advanced builders. For example, the cornerstones of the pyramid’s foundations were built in a ball and socket construction in case of earthquakes or heat expansion.
Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie, who was the first one to take and then publish the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza related the precision of the casing stones as to being “equal to opticians’ work of the present day, but on a scale of acres” and “to place such stones in exact contact would be careful work; but to do so with cement in the joints seems almost impossible”. It has been suggested it was the mortar (Petrie’s “cement”) that made this seemingly impossible task possible, providing a level bed, which enabled the masons to set the stones exactly. Source: Wikipedia
FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
- I think that the most fascinating fact that I came across was made by Robert Bauval in his book Orion Correlation Theory.
- Bauval claimed that the three Pyramids of Giza are aligned exactly like the three stars of Orion Belt: Alnilam (Epsilon Orionis), Alnitak (Zeta Orionis), and Mintaka (Delta Orionis). He reported that the layout of the pyramids, and their relative sizes were a deliberate design plan.
Image Source: Google Imagery ©2020 CNES
Image Source: Pxfuel Free Images
- Another interesting observation that I came across was the fact that the Great Pyramid at Giza’s latitude, 29.9792458°N, perfectly matches up to the speed of light, which is 299,792,458 meters per second. It is a fascinating fact!
- And as some are claiming that the ancient Egyptians had some greater knowledge of the speed of light, space travel, and, potentially, advanced alien spaceships.
- The mystery that still puzzles the scientists is whether or not mortar was used to attach the stones to each other.
- How is it possible that some of the blocks are so perfectly matched that not even a human hair can be inserted between them? Why, despite the existence of millions of tons of stone, carved presumably with copper chisels, has not one copper chisel ever been found on the Giza Plateau?
- Another interesting theory that I read about suggested that the Pyramids of Giza were once covered in a white casing made of highly polished limestone blocks which reflected the sun’s rays.
- The pyramid’s angled sides symbolized the rays of sun and were designed to help the pharaoh’s soul to ascend to heaven and join the sun god Ra. The theory goes on and claims that the casings slowly disappeared after becoming loosened by earthquakes and crumbling to rubble or being cut loose and taken to build other structures.
- Another fascinating discovery that you should be aware of is that although, at the first sight, the Great Pyramid of Giza appears to have four sides, in reality, it has eight sides.
- Each of the four sides of the pyramids is evenly split from base to tip.The discovery goes back to 1940 when a pilot named Robert Marsland Groves while flying over it noticed the indentations.
These are all interesting speculations and it is fun to read about them. It just shows how little we know about the ancient Egyptians and how much more we still need to learn about them.
HOW TO GET TO THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
- With a Private Guide and a Driver
I think that having a private driver and a guide is the best way to go. This option gives you total flexibility. Also, having a knowledgeable guide by your side is simply invaluable. Now, if you are staying in one of the hotels in Cairo, your hotel will be more than happy to arrange for you a driver and a guide. Needless to say, this is an expensive option, but it is all worth it.
- On a Tour
There are plenty of day tours that stop at all major attractions around Cairo. You can do a half-day tour that just covers the Great Pyramids of Giza, or you can do a full-day tour that goes to the Pyramids of Giza, and then stops at Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara. I am positive that your hotel can make all the arraignments for you. It is probably one of the least expensive options. But, it does not give you much flexibility.
- By Taxi
If you do want to hire a private driver and a guide, or go on an organized tour, then book a taxi and head to the Great Pyramids of Giza. You will always be able to hire a guide right at the entrance to the Giza Necropolis.
There are three different kinds of taxi services available in Cairo:
- Black Taxi Service consists of rather old and beat-up vehicles; most of the time they do not a meters and the air conditioning.
- White Taxi Service consists of modern vehicles with a fare meter and air-conditioning.
- And finally, Yellow Taxi Service, that I am recommending. Yellow taxis are professionally owned and operated. In addition they can be pre-booked over the phone.
I would recommend that you ask your hotel to get a taxi for you. Be specific and tell them that you want Yellow Taxi Service. Mention that the vehicle must have a meter and air conditioning.
Uber launched in Cairo in 2014 and now operates in Alexandria, Hurgharda, Mansoura, Tanta and Damanhour as well. What’s nice about Uber is transparent pricing. No haggling! No negotiating! Give it a try and see if you like it.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA?
First of all, Cairo is heavily trafficked. It is a very congested city. So, needless to say, give yourself plenty of time to reach the Pyramids of Giza from the city center. The journey can take between 30 to 90 minutes depending on the traffic.
The Cairo Metro might be another option of reaching the Pyramids of Giza. It is efficient and inexpensive. If you are on a budget, then you should definitely look into it. The Cairo Metro website is a good tool to help you plan your journey. The English version is available by clicking on the ‘English’ button on the right-hand side.
Moreover, there are two carriages in the middle of each train, which are reserved for women only. They are clearly marked with a blue ‘ladies’ signs.
WHAT TO DO AT THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
How do you decide what to see and do at the Great Pyramids of Giza? Make sure to read my post: 10 Unmissable Things to Do at the Great Pyramids of Giza to find out all the details.
Here is a bucket list that contains 10 of the best experiences you can have at the Giza Pyramid Complex. It will help you to get the sense of this incredible place and all the treasures it holds.
1. SEE THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA
The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Pyramid Complex.
2. GO INSIDE THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA
For an additional fee, on top of the entrance ticket to the Great Pyramid Complex, you can go inside either the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and/or the Pyramid of Menkaure.
Read about the prices of the tickets and where the entrance to the Great Pyramid of Giza is located. Find out if it is worth going inside the Great Pyramid of Giza and which pyramid is the best to explore.
3. SEE THE PYRAMID OF KHAFRE
The Pyramid of Khafre is the second tallest and second largest of the Pyramids of Giza. However, if you look at it, it appears to be taller than the Pyramid of Khufu. For an additional fee, you can go inside the pyramid.
4. SEE THE PYRAMID OF MENKAURE
The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza. Did you know that at the end of the twelfth century al-Malek al-Aziz Othman ben Yusuf, Saladin‘s son and heir, attempted to demolish the pyramids, starting with that of Menkaure? Despite their efforts, workmen were only able to damage the pyramid to the extent of leaving a large vertical gash at its northern face.
5. BE AMAZED BY THE GREAT SPHINX OF GIZA
I have to honestly say that when I saw the Great Sphinx of Giza, it literally took my breath away! Did you know that a sphinx is a mythical creature with a head of a human, a cat or a sheep, with the body of a lion with the wings of an eagle.
6. WALK TO THE PANORAMIC SPOT
You can walk to the Panoramic Spot or if you have transportation (private driver) then hop in and instruct them to take you to the Panoramic Spot. Hands down, it is the best view of the Great Pyramids of Giza Complex.
7. GO ON A CAMEL RIDE
Hands down, go on a camel ride. It is part of the experience!
Negotiate the prices before you get on the camel.
I suggest that you ask to ride the camel to the the Panoramic Spot and have your pictures taken there. Read all bout it in my post.
8. GO ON A HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE RIDE
If you are up to going on a camel ride, then most definitely do it. The truth is that it is a bit tricky getting on and off the camel. Once you are up and situated, it is a piece of cake. However, not everyone is up to it and I suggest that you go on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Pyramid Complex.
9. EXPLORE THE SOLAR BOAT MUSEUM
Do not miss the Solar Boat Museum! If you buy the combo ticket, then the entrance to the Solar Boat Museum is included in the price of the ticket.
In 1954, the Egyptian archaeologist Kamal el-Mallakh discovered a pit containing 1,224 pieces of wood which were part of a boat. The process of putting the pieces together took 14 years and the result is a cedar-wood boat measuring 43.6 meters (143 feet).
10. EXPERIENCE THE SPECTACULAR SOUND AND LIGHT SHOW
If you need some ideas for things to do at night in Cairo, then my suggestion is that you catch the Sound and Light Show at the Great Pyramid Complex. You will be able to see the pyramids beautifully illuminated. Check out all the details in my post.
CAN YOU CLIMB ON THE PYRAMIDS
You cannot climb the pyramids. However, I saw tourists tipping the guards and climbing on the pyramids.
In my opinion, you should not do it. Let’s make as little destruction as possible and save the pyramids for the future generations.
WHAT TO WEAR WHILE VISITING THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
- There is no set dress code or specific restrictions on what you can or cannot wear while visiting the Pyramids of Giza. Bottom line, you can wear whatever you want. However, keep in mind that Egypt is a conservative country. So, with that being the case, cover up your body and be respectful. Skip tank tops or tube tops and short shorts.
- In addition, since you will be outside most of the time, I would suggest that you wear a hat and a sunshirt to protect yourself.
- Needless to say, wear comfortable and sturdy shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking.
- Finally, keep in mind that you will be in an open area that gets very windy and it is very dusty! It is a good idea to bring a scarf and cover up your nose and mouth. Each year, around April and May, the Khamsin winds loaded with sand hit Egypt. The winds take toll on the Great Pyramids of Giza, but especially weathered is the body of Great Sphinx of Giza which is carved out of softer layer of limestone.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
- The entrance ticket to the Giza Plateau costs 200 EGP per adult and 100 EGP for student (with valid ID)
- The entrance ticket to go inside the Great Pyramid of Giza costs 400 EGP, the Pyramid of Khafre costs 100 EGP, and the Pyramid of Menkaure is also 100 EGP
- The entrance ticket to the Solar Boat Museum costs 100 EGP.
- Consider buying the combo ticket, which includes the entrance to the Giza Plateau, entrance to the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the entrance to the Solar Boat Museum. The combo tickets costs 600 EGP.
- Included in your ticket is a free visit to the middle pyramid of the three satellite pyramids of the Queen of Cheops.
WHAT ARE THE OPENING HOURS OF THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
The Giza Plateau Archaeological Site opens every day between 8 am and 5 am from October to March, and 7 am to 7 pm every day between April and September.
My recommendation is to get there as early as possible. The tour buses start arriving between 9:30 am and 10 am and needless to say, it gets very crowded. You will get lucky if you manage to take a picture without any tourists in them.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO VISIT THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
My recommendation is to reserve a minimum of 3-4 hours. It is a bare minimum.
First of all, it is a huge site. It takes time to walk from pyramid to pyramid. Next, if you decide to go inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, you will need at least an hour to explore the area.
Moreover, if you are going to visit the Solar Boat Museum, then you need at least an hour to see the boat. Finally, if you go on a camel ride, then add another hour. Plus, you need time to take a ton of pictures!
So, do not rush it. Take your time. Find a quiet spot and soak it all in! Who knows when and if you are going to be back.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
Get to the Giza Pyramid Complex as early as possible. First of all, you will avoid the crowds that usually swarm the place by about 9:30 am. Second, if you are visiting during summer months, then getting to Giza early will save you from the scorching heat.
Honestly, that was my plan as well. However, due to the dense fog that has a tendency to linger on in the morning during winter months and obscure the views, I had to reschedule my visit to the afternoon.
WHERE TO STAY WHILE VISITING THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
I stayed at Marriot Mena House in Giza and it was fabulous!
Unfortunately, at the time of my stay, all the rooms with the views of the pyramids were going through the renovation. I was hoping that each morning I would be waking up to the sight of the Great Pyramid of Giza, but no such luck. However, the minute I stepped out of my room, I was greeted with the most amazing views of the pyramids.
By the way, I recommend the hotel and you will love it and I am not getting paid for this recommendation.
The hotel grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained.
The buffet breakfast, that I enjoyed every morning, offered endless possibilities and the food presentation was top notch.
By the way, after you have your breakfast, get your cup of coffee and go to the outdoor patio area and enjoy your coffee there while admiring the views.
I honestly have to say that the rooms are fair size, clean and nicely decorated. You can see some wear and tear, though. And, as I said, they were going through renovations. Above all, the customer service is outstanding! They will absolutely go out of their way to make your stay perfect.
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR VISITING THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA:
- Get to the Pyramid Complex as early as possible or late in the afternoon to escape the crowds. The tour buses arrive at about 9:30 am and leave at about 3 pm.
- Use entrance # 1 as marked on the map. Entrance # 2 is narrow and jam packed.
- Do not skip the Solar Boat Museum. The reconstructed boat is a sight to see!
- Go on a camel ride. It is part of the experience.
- Take the time and walk to the Panoramic Spot. You will be able to take amazing pictures.
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