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Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx

Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx

For over 4,000 years the Giza Pyramids, and the Sphinx, have majestically stood and watched as the surrounding areas have grown and expanded into the metropolis we now know as Giza, which in turn is part of the enormous Cairo metropolitan area. As far as ancient monuments go, these must be the most famous on the planet and have been for millennia: the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was the oldest of the original Seven Wonders of the World, and the only one that remains standing today! It was also the tallest man-made structure on the planet for about 3,800 years; the completion of England’s Lincoln Cathedral spire, c1300, took away that proud record (the spire is 520 feet, or 160 metres, tall).

The three pyramids were built by Khufu (Cheops), his son Khafre (Chephren), and his son Menkaure (Mykerinos) during Egypt’s 4th Dynasty (Old Kingdom). Debate reigns over the actual builder of the Sphinx, however, with many people accrediting it to Khafre, while many others say that it was his older brother Djedefre; whose own pyramid complex was built at Abu Rawash, 5 miles (8km) to the north of Giza.

Debate also continues over the actual building of these huge monoliths; especially The Great Pyramid. Just how were 2.3 million limestone blocks converted into a pyramid that stood 480.6 feet (146.5 metres) tall (though today it only measures 455.4 feet, or 138.8 metres, due to erosion and the removal of the outer casing stones). The mass of Khufu’s structure is estimated to be 5.9 million tonnes! The simple answer is that no one actually knows 100% how it was done, and theories range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Everyone has their own ideas, from Egyptologists to engineers to alien theorists, and all believe their idea is the right one. Perhaps one day the truth will finally be found out, but until then the world’s library shelves will have to struggle with the weight of the myriad of books with their innumerable theories.

Confusion often occurs over which pyramid is which; thanks mainly to the Giza Plateau not being completely level. It is obvious that the smaller of the three is Menkaure’s, but many people believe that the middle pyramid is Khufu’s as it looks the tallest, but this one is actually Khafre’s and it is built on a slightly higher part of the plateau: Khufu’s Pyramid is the one on the right hand side.

Entrance is allowed into the three pyramids and tickets are available at the main entrance, though be warned that only 300 tickets are available each day (150 at 0800 and 150 at 1300) for the Great Pyramid. Also the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure are open on a rotational basis, when one is open the other is closed. This allows for any work to be done, as well as letting excess carbon dioxide to escape.

Solar Boat Museum
In 1954, Kamal El Mallakh, an Egyptian archaeologist, discovered a boat pit, covered by 15 ton slabs of limestone, adjacent to Khufu’s Pyramid; the fourth such pit to be discovered. However this one was different from the others as it contained 1,224 pieces of a wooden boat. They were given to a local boat-builder, Haj Ahmed Yusuf, to see if they could be put back together and 14 years later, including the preservation and straightening of the wood, Khufu’s Solar Bark emerged.

This boat is now preserved in a purpose built, air-conditioned, building adjacent to Khufu’s Pyramid. At 143 feet (43.6 metres) long by 19.5 feet (5.9 metres) wide, with the timber frame being held together with ropes, as initially designed, this cedar wood boat is one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved ancient ships ever found; it has even been suggested that it would still be able to sail, such was the preservation of the wood.

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