August 18, 2006 Pyramids Egypt is home to as many as 100 pyramids and the greatest and famous of them all are the Pyramids of Giza. It is hard to imagine the close proximity of these historic structures to the city of Cairo. After waking up this morning to the constant hum of activity created by a city of approximately 20 million people, we readied ourselves for a day of cultural and historical adventure. We drove 30 minutes South East and quickly arrived at the historic site that was nestled in the congested city suburb of Giza. The size and the scope of the legendary stone mausoleums, which were built for the Kings and Queens of Egypt, were impressive. To me, the most interesting of all the pyramids were the Pyramids of Giza, which comprise of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. These ancient structures are the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Cheops, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu - because it was built for King Khufu (4th Dynasty)- the Great Pyramid of Giza is the best known manmade structure in the world. I was most astonished by the fact that this pyramid has been in tact for nearly 4,600 years. Imagine a structure that stands at 449.5 ft (137m), includes more than 2,300,000 limestone and granite blocks (each block weighing on average 2,300kg), and covers 13 acres of land (which is equivalent to about 10 football fields). This impressively well made pyramid is not only one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations, but also a famous symbol that resonates with millions of people worldwide. Take, for example, the American one dollar bill. If you were to look at it closely you would find the pyramid. The Pyramid of Khafre was built for King Khafre (4th Dynasty), who was one of the successors of Khufu. As I glanced up from the base of the pyramid at the top it felt as though I was looking at the jagged peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range. In this instance, however, it was men who used rudimentary tools to build this mountain of cut stone in an otherwise barren landscape. The Pyramid of Menkaure was built for King Menkaure, who was Khafre’s successor. This pyramid is the smallest of the great trio. It stands at a height of 66 meters, which is only one-tenth of the mass of the Pyramid of Khafre. Interestingly, there is a deep gash in the north face of the pyramid. One of the locals informed me that this gash was made by Saladin’s son Malek Abdel Aziz as he tried to dismantle the pyramid in AD 1186. He gave up after eight months having achieved little. The experience of visiting the Pyramids is unforgettable. Their extraordinary shape, geometry, and age are almost surreal to the point that one cannot walk away without having asked the question, ‘How were they built and why?’ August 18, 2006 The great Pyramid of Giza: Dimensions How Tall? At 481 ft the Great Pyramid stood as the tallest manmade structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. Today, it stands at 449.5 ft, having lost 31 ft from the top. How Steep? Each side of the Great Pyramid rises at an angle of 51.5 degrees to the top. For a pyramid to look like a pyramid, each of the four triangular-shaped sides must slope up and towards each other at the same angle so that they meet at a point at the top. The builders constructed the pyramid layer by layer, starting at the bottom. They had to check their work often, for even a tiny error at the bottom could grow into a very large error by the time the workers reached the top. How Heavy? More than 2,300,000 limestone and granite blocks were put into place to build the Great Pyramid. The average weight of a block is about 2.5 tons. You may be asking yourself, how much is that? Well, think of it in terms of refrigerators. If an average size refrigerator weights about 91 kg (and 1 ton = 1,000kg) then the average weight of a block is about the equivalent of 25 refrigerators. How Deep? When you descend the passageway into burial chamber, you’ll be about 66 ft beneath the foundation with over 6 million tons of stone piled above you. One can only imagine, without any windows, how very dark it must be! How Wide? The base of the Great Pyramid is a square with each side measuring 756 ft and covering an area of 13 acres. Interestingly, the area of the base is equal to about seven city blocks in Toronto.