Trip Start Jun 16, 2008
36Trip End Jul 20, 2008
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Diana and I started our tour early in the morning. Our first stop was at Sakkara. This is the site of the first pyramid. At this point in time when it was built they were not able to create a pyramid like the three famous ones. So Sakkara is known as a step pyramid as it appears to be a large rectangular structure wth a smaller one on top and then a smaller one on top of that one and so on. Sakkara is one section of the great necropolis of Memphis, the Old Kingdom capital and the kings of the First Dynasty as well as that of the Second Dynasty are mostly buried in this section of the Memphis necropolis. The Step Pyramid is the oldest known of Egypt's 97 pyramids. It was built for King Djoser of the Third Dynasty by the architect and genius Imhotep, who designed it and its surrounding complex to be as grand as it was unique and revolutionary. Imhotep was the first to build stone tombs in honor of the king's majesty. His many titles included 'Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt', 'Administrator of the Great Palace', and 'Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vessels'.
From Sakkara we had a nice view all around us of te desert. Off in the distance we could spot the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
Next we drove to the site of the famous pyramids of Giza. But first, some history on this site...When Khufu, perhaps better known by his Greek name, Cheops, became king of Egypt after the death of Sneferu, there was no convenient space remaining at Dashur, where Sneferu was buried, for Khufu's own pyramid complex. Hence, he moved his court and residence farther north, where his prospectors had located a commanding rock cliff, overlooking present day Giza, appropriate for a towering pyramid. Giza can be subdivided into two groupings of monuments, clearly defined and separated by a wadi. The larger grouping consists of the three "Great" pyramids of Khufu, Khephren (Khafre), and Menkaure, the Sphinx, attendant temples and outbuildings, and the private mastabas of the nobility. Though the three Great Pyramids are the most famous and prominent monuments at Giza, the site has actually been a Necropolis almost since the beginning of Pharaonic Egypt. A tomb just on the outskirts of the Giza site dates from the reign of the First Dynast Pharaoh Wadj (Djet), and jar sealings discovered in a tomb in the southern part of Giza mention the Second Dynasty Pharaoh Ninetjer. But it was the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) who placed Giza forever at the heart of funerary devotion, a city of the dead that dwarfed the cities of the living nearby. In order to build his complex, he had to clear away many of the old tombs, filling in their shafts or even totally destroying them. His pyramid dominates the sandy plain.
Diana and I first visited the largest pyramid, Khufu's pyramid. We were so excited to finally have this view. We were able to walk right up to the pyramid and we could even climb up it a ways on the blocks. It was quite exciting for me!
Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Khufu's Pyramid is the first, and only survivor. It is indeed impressive, originally standing some 146.59 (481 feet) high and covering about thirteen acres of land , though in the last hundred or so years, modern marvels (the Empire State Building, built in 1930, is over three times as tall though situated on only two acres of land) probably make it seem less impressive to visitors than to those who, for thousands of years, came to visit the pyramid prior to our modern era. The finished pyramid, which included a superstructure and substructure, was surrounded by an enclosure wall of fine Turah limestone, which enclosed a court paved in limestone. There was a valley temple, a causeway from it leading to a mortuary Temple that was itself situated against the pyramid. There was also a cult pyramid, as well as three pyramids for the burial of queens, a number of boat pit and other structures. Though we really do not know with absolute certainty, the pyramid complex of Khufu probably remained mostly intact for almost 4,000 years.
Next, we visited the second pyramid. At this pyramid Diana and I paid a fee to be able to enter inside of the pyramid. There is absolutely nothing to see inside but it was the excitement of walking down the clausterphobic inducing tunnels that go inside this ancient and magnificent pyramid and to be able to say that we were inside of this historic place. The climb inside was demanding on the body and it was quite warm inside but a terific experience. The tunnel led down into the pyramid to where the sarcoffogus used to be.
On its southwest diagonal is the pyramid of Khephren (Chephren, Khafre). Although it is smaller, a steeper angle results in the illusion that they are the same size. In fact, Kephren's pyramid appears taller since it is on higher ground. The notion that this was done on purpose to out-do his father is without question. As it occupies the central point, has the illusion of greater size, and still has some of its casing stones intact, it is frequently mistaken to as the Great Pyramid, something that would no doubt please Khephren were he alive today.
Further along the southwest diagonal is the smallest of the three great pyramids, that of Khephrent's son, Menkaure. It is also the most unusual. First of all, it is not entirely limestone. The uppermost portions are brick, much like the several Pyramids at Dashur, though separated from them by several centuries. One theory is that Menkaure died before his pyramid could be completed, and the remaining construction was hastily done to finish it in time for the burial. It is also not along the diagonal line that runs through the Great Pyramid and the Second Pyramid, but instead is nearly a hundred meters to the southeast.
Then our guide took us to a panaramic vantage point that gave us a view of all three pyramids. It was an impresive view to take in all three pyramids at once sitting here in the desert. Diana and I also took a short camel ride along a ridge overlooking the three pyramids.
Next we visited the Sphinx. It is located in Khafre's pyramid complex area. It is a huge creature with the head of a human and a lion's body. This monumental statue, the first truly colossal royal sculpture in Egypt, known as the Great Sphinx, is a national symbol of Egypt, both ancient and modern. It has stirred the imagination of poets, scholars, adventurers and tourists for centuries and has also inspired a wealth of speculation about its age, its meaning, and the secrets that it might hold. The Great Sphinx is to the northeast of Khafre's (Chephren) Valley Temple. Where it sits was once a quarry. We believe that Khafre's workers shaped the stone into the lion and gave it their king's face over 4,500 years ago. Khafre's name was also mentioned on the Dream Stele, which sits between the paws of the great beast. However, no one is completely certain that it is in fact the face of Khafre, though indeed that is the preponderance of thought. Recently, however, it has been argued that Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid, may have also had the Great Sphinx built.
Then we went for lunch at a location that overlooked the pyramids and Sphinx.
Later we visited a perfume factory. In Egypt they have the pure fragrances that are used to make perfumes. Most perfumes contain only 10% fragrance and close to 90% alcohol, but these Egyptain fragrances contained no alcohol. In the end we spent a small fortune purchasing some fragrances to be used as cologne, perfume, medicine for a sore throat and to be burned for smell in the home. In addition we bought some beautiful perfume bottles.
Later in the evening, Diana and I took a taxi on our own back to the restaurant we ate at for lunch. Here we visited the 4th floor which was basically an open area on the roof. Rather than spend money for the famous sound and light show at the pyramids we spent money on a good dinner and some drinks and had an intimate view of the show from atop this restaurant.