On the edge of Cairo with its multi-million population, you can see them clearly rising out of the desert sand: the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza. For thousands of years, these majestic structures have symbolised the Ancient Egyptians and their fascinating civilisation. Strolling between man-sized lion paws and beautiful hieroglyphics, you’ll imagine yourself in the time of the pharaohs.
On first seeing the Sphinx and Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Menkaure, it’s not difficult to understand why they are among the greatest mysteries of all time. The easiest way to get here is by organised tour, but those who prefer to travel on their own can get here by bus or taxi. Stay until the end of day; watching the sun set behind the pyramids is a truly magical experience.
At once 147 metres in height, the Pyramid of Cheops is the largest in the complex, followed by the Pyramids of Chephren and Menkaure, which are 136 and 61 metres high, respectively. The pyramids were most likely built between 2550 and 2490 BC, making them around 4,500 years old. Their construction was an inconceivably vast undertaking. The Pyramid of Cheops alone consists of around 2.3 million stones, each weighing thousands of kilos. We still do not know to this day how the Egyptians accomplished this tremendous task without modern technology.
Cheops was the first pharaoh to commission the construction of a gigantic tomb at Giza. His son Chephren had the second pyramid built. It may seem larger than his father’s, but appearances are deceiving, as Chephren had his pyramid built on a hill. The Pyramid of Pharaoh Menkaure is a lot smaller and the rough top layer suggests that it was never finished.
“We still do not know how the Egyptians accomplished this tremendous task”
The Great Sphinx is located in the desert sand on the east side of the complex, close to the Pyramid of Chephren. This mysterious creature has the body of a lion and a human head with royal headdress. With a length of 73.5 metres and a height of 22 metres, the Sphinx is still the largest sculpture carved from a single piece of stone in the world. Most archaeologists believe that this enormous beast dates back to the time of Chephren and that the face of the Sphinx is that of this pharaoh. The head is probably much smaller than the lion’s body due to erosion, which becomes visible more quickly at the top.