The Pyramids of Giza & the Sphinx
Among the major tourist sites, there is only one considered to be “The major” and on top of any
list - The Pyramids of Giza
There are three main Pyramids here, which were built in the 4th Dynasty (circa 2550 B.C). The
Pyramids of Ancient Egypt were built as tombs for Kings (and Queens), and it was the exclusive
privilege to have a Pyramid tomb. However, this tradition only applied in the Old and Middle
Kingdoms. Today there are more than 93 Pyramids in Egypt; the most famous ones are those at
Click on the winged serpent icon to download a 3D panoramic view of the Pyramids of
Giza, and the Sphinx.
Click on the winged serpent. (PLEASE NOTE: YOU WILL NEED MOVIE PLAYER
TO PLAY THE FILE)
Now let's go for a little tour around the site of the Pyramids and try to explore the
magnificence of the area:
The Great Pyramid of Khufu:
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is by far the most famous Pyramid in
Egypt, the biggest, tallest, and most intact. After its construction it
became one of the “Seven Wonders Of The World”, and today, it is the
only one of them remaining. For a period of 4300 years, the Pyramid
was also the tallest building on earth, until the French built the Eiffel
Tower in 1889 to take that accolade.
Khufu’s Pyramid is built entirely of limestone, and is considered an
architectural masterpiece. It contains around 1,300,000 blocks ranging
in weight from 2.5 tons to 15 tons and is built on a square base with
sides measuring about 230m (755ft), covering 13 acres! Its four sides
face the four cardinal points precisely and it has an angle of 52 degrees.
The original height of the Pyramid was 146.5m (488ft), but today it is
only 137m (455ft) high, the 9m (33ft) that is missing is due to the theft
of the fine quality limestone covering, or casing stones, by the Ottoman
Turks in the 15 Century A.D, to build houses and Mosques in Cairo.
You will find that the entrance of the Pyramid is located at the northern side, the same as almost every Pyramid in Egypt. On this
side there are actually 2 entrances, one is the original, and is 17m (55ft) above ground level, and the other one is a man-made
forced entrance located below it. Created in the 9th Century A.D by Khalif El-Mamoun, who was seeking the treasures that he
thought might have been kept inside the Pyramid. He sent out stonemasons to open up an entrance, and they cut it midway
across the centre of the northern side. Their tunnel goes almost 35m into the Pyramid, and was crudely cut, and at the end it
connects with the original inner corridors of the Pyramid. Nothing was found inside, as it was plundered in antiquity. Nowadays
visitors, to the site, use Mamoun’s entrance to gain access into the Pyramid, as it is actually considered to be a shortcut.
Please Note: If you attempt to go inside the Pyramid, you will have to bend down all the way till you reach the burial chamber!
From the main entrance of the Pyramid there is a long narrow corridor with low roof that descends for more than 100m (330ft),
which takes you to a chamber, located about 24m (79ft) below ground level, which is an unfinished burial chamber with very little
fresh air inside, and is inaccessible today.
Almost 20m (66ft) from that descending corridor there is another corridor connected
to it, which takes you up into the heart of the Pyramid. This ascending corridor ends
up at one the great parts of the Great Pyramid, the “Grand Gallery”! It is a large,
long, rectangular hall, which is 49m (161ft) long, and 15m (49ft) high, with a long
tunnel, at the bottom, that takes you the 2nd chamber, which is famously known as
the “Queens Chamber”. It actually has nothing to do with a Queen, and was given
this name by the early Arabs, who went inside the Pyramids and gave it its name. It
is commonly believed that it served as a magazine, or a storeroom, inside the
When you ascend the “Grand Gallery”, you will find, at its end, an entrance to the 3rd chamber, which was the real burial chamber
of King Khufu, and this is where you will find his stone sarcophagus, which was made out of one block of granite. You will find
this chamber to be really amazing, it is rectangular in form, has a flat roof, and is built out of granite that was brought from the
city of Aswan, which is located 1000Km (625 miles) away. The roof consists of 9 slabs of granite; each one estimated to be
around 50 tons in weight! Above the roof of the burial chamber, the Ancient Egyptians built 5 small relieving chambers so that the
huge pressure, of the weight above, would not cause the burial chamber to collapse. These 5 chambers are also made of granite,
and are about 1m (3 ft) above each other. The tops of the first 4 are flat, the 5th one having a pointed top to divert the enormous
pressure of weight away from the burial chamber.
Both the northern and southern walls of the burial chamber have two small tunnels with rectangular entrances. They are
small, and once were thought to go all the way through the outer sides of the Pyramid, though no exterior openings have been
found, and are believed to be “star shafts” that served a certain purpose in the ancient cult connecting the King with the
If you need to know more about these small tunnels, and their connection to the stars, it is a long story! I guess you will need to
come to one of my lectures!!!
One last point! The Great Pyramid is the Pyramid of the great Egyptian King, Khufu. The name “Cheops” is also associated with
this King and his Pyramid, the name being given to him by the Greeks. Though both names are generally accepted, Khufu was
used in this description because it was his birth name! The same goes for Khafre (Chephren in Greek) and Menkaure (Mycerinus),
and their Pyramids are described below.
The Pyramid of Khafre:
Khafre's Pyramid, or the 2nd Pyramid, is easily recognisable by the layers of its original
casing stones that still remain near its summit and this, along with the fact that it actually
stands on a higher part of the plateau, gives the
impression that it is taller than the Great
Pyramid. An optical illusion, as it is only 136m
(446 ft) tall, with sides of 214.5m (704ft), a
surface area of 11 acres and an angle of 53
degrees. It also has lost some of its original
height through the years, once being 143.5m
The only similarity to his father's Pyramid is
the entrance in the same, north facing side.
There are no corridors leading into the heart of
this Pyramid, the burial chamber being
underground, and a long descending passageway has to be negotiated to reach it. This
entrance is 50 feet (15m) above ground level, leading to the narrow passage, which
descends at a 25-degree angle into the large burial chamber, which measures 14.2m by
5m by 6.9m (46.5ft by 16.5ft by 22.5ft). To take the weight of the pyramid, the roof of
the chamber is set at the same angles as the pyramid face. A large, black sarcophagus is
found in this room.
A lower corridor is directly under the upper corridor, and once contained a portcullis that could be lowered
to prevent entry as well as an unfinished burial chamber, which was cut from the bedrock and, it is thought,
unused. Like the upper corridor, this one has a 25-degree slope, it then levels out, climbs slightly, and
eventually the 2 of them join together. The united passageway then leads to the burial chamber.
The Pyramid of Menkaure:
Khafre's son, Menkaure, built the smallest of the 3 main Pyramids on the Giza Plateau.
This one was only a mere 65.5m (215ft) tall, nowadays 62m (203ft), with sides of only
105m (344ft) and an angle of 51.3 degrees. It is thought that this Pyramid was altered
during its construction, and made a lot bigger than originally planned. The original,
smaller Pyramid had a simple descending corridor and burial chamber, but when it was
enlarged, a new corridor was built with 3 portcullises and a small panelled chamber.
Later still, another burial chamber, along with a storeroom were added at a lower level.
This Pyramid, like its 2 neighbours, has a
north facing entrance.
Apart from the size, Menkaure's Pyramid
differed from the other 2 in the choice of
casing stones. Whereas the Pyramids of his
father and grandfather were completely cased
in fine, white, Turah limestone, Menkaure's
Pyramid was only partly cased in Turah
limestone, from about 15m up! The first 15 metres was cased with pink granite, which
had come from Aswan, the last of which was taken by Muhammad Ali Pasha (1805-
1848) who used them to construct his arsenal in Alexandria.
The Great Sphinx:
The Great Sphinx, or as the ancients knew it, “Shesib Ankh” or
“the living image”, has to be one of the most recognizable
constructions in history. Think of the Sphinx and you
automatically think of Egypt and the Giza Plateau.
Sculpted from soft sandstone, many believe that it would have
disappeared long ago had it not been buried in the sand for so
many long periods in its lifetime. The body is 60m (200ft) long
and 20m (65ft) tall. Its face is 4m (13ft) wide with eyes
measuring 2m (6 ft) high. It faces the rising sun, and was
revered so much by the ancients, that they built a temple in front
The 18th Dynasty King, Thutmose IV installed a stele between
its front paws, describing how, when Thutmose was a young
Prince, he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the
Sphinx ‘s head. Thutmose had a dream where Ra Hor-Akhty the
sun God, talking through the Sphinx, spoke to him, telling the
young Prince to clear away the sand because the Sphinx was
choking on it. The Sphinx said to him that if he did this, he would become King of Egypt .
Thutmose cleared away all the sand and s after 2 years, the god fulfilled his promise to the price and he
was made king of Egypt
Today, part of the “uraeus” (the sacred cobra at the forehead ) and the nose are missing (not shot off by
Napoleon’s men as many believe, but were destroyed by Sa'im Al-Dahr, a Sufi fanatic from the Khanqah
of Sa'id Al-Su'ada.
In 1378, upon finding the Egyptian peasants making offerings to the Sphinx in the hope of increasing their
harvest, Sa'im Al-Dahr was so outraged that he destroyed the nose!). There are small parts of a beard in the
Cairo museum and big one at British Museum in London which reputedly belong to the Sphinx, but many
Egyptologists deny this, as the style of beard found, does not relate to the “nemes” that The Sphinx wears –
Because of the soft sandstone, the Sphinx has been repaired many times; sometimes the repairs causing
even more damage! Also, due to the wind, humidity, and pollution from modern Cairo, its condition is still
deteriorating, and the present renovations are a never-ending task.
I hope this gave you a glimpse of information about the Pyramids of Giza.
Before you go:
-The Giza pyramids opening times from 800 AM and closes at 1700
-Winter working hours are - ( 8:00 -- 16:30)
-Ramadan working hours are -( 8:00 --15:00)
-Entrance ticket per person - 60. LE
-Entrance to cheops boat Museum – 40 LE
-Entrance to Khafree's Pyramid – 20 LE
-Entrance to Khufu's Pyramid – 100 LE
Before you visit the site of the Giza Pyramids, you have to know the following facts:
It is forbidden to climb the Pyramids. You are only allowed to climb up the stone
steps that lead to the entrance, which is 55 feet above ground level.
t is strongly advisable to e Wear good walking shoes.
If you wish to take a car onto the site, you need to get a car parking ticket. 2 LE
for a small car, 5 LE for minibuses, 10 LE for a coach.
The best time to go the Pyramids, is in the morning between 0800 and 1200. - or
156:00 to 17:00
If you wish to go inside the Great Pyramid, there is an extra ticket for this that
will cost you 100 LE. You will find the ticket office for the entrance to the Great
Pyramid in front of the north-eastern side of the Pyramid. Sometimes is quite
difficult to get this ticket, as the amount is limited to a certain number of visitors.
They sell only 300 tickets daily, and they are divided among morning and
afternoon. They sell 150 at 0800, and then, at exactly 1300, the other 150.
If you wish to go inside Khafre's Pyramid, you will have to get an extra entrance
ticket - 20 LE. In addition to that, they charge 10LE for cameras.
As for Menkaure's Pyramid, it is now closed for restoration. The Pyramids are
opened on a rotational basis, usually it would last for a year, so that restoration
work can be done.
If you want to get a camel or horse ride, the best place for this are the stables at
the foot of the Pyramids plateau, it is cheap and safe.
In order to get rid of the vendors, simply say "No, thank you! " or "La Shukran"
and they will go away Believe it or not, it works.
As for the street vendors Don't say the word "Emshi", like many of the guide
books will advise you, it is simply means get lost, and you don't want to offend
anyone in there , after all they are just trying to make a living. Here are Some
useful Arabic words for you
Tip : If you don't want to pay the extra entrance ticket for any of the above
mentioned pyramids Pyramids and still want to have similar experience of being
inside one, then go the eastern side of the Great Pyramid and you will find there
three subsidiary smaller Pyramids (one was for the Khufu's daughter, one for
Khufu's wife and the third one for Khufu's mother). Two of these Pyramids (his
wife's and his mother's) are opened for visitors, and there is no extra charge to get
in. All you need to do is show your site ticket to the guard and you will be in!
If you ever feel that you need to go to the toilet while you're conducting your
visit, then the best place to go is at the boat Museum which is located in front of
the southern side of the Great Pyramid. Just tell the people at the entrance that you
only want to use the toilet and they will let you in.