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Giza Plateau

It was not all work and no play. Soon after my arrival I of course ventured out to the Giza plateau west of Cairo to experience the famous pyramids.

The largest of the three, the pyramid of Cheops, was built around year 2550 BC as a tomb for King Khufu (Cheops in Greek). This pyramid is the last one of the original "Seven Wonders of the World", which has survived almost intact.

The Giza plateau holds innumerous other interesting archaeological finds than the pyramids. They all have boar pits and close to each pyramid, for instance, is one or more subsidiary smaller pyramids, tombs for the queen(s).

The Sphinx is yet another prominent structure at Giza. It is located some 600 meters south of the Cheops pyramid.

The area is bustling with tradesmen soliciting their trinkets or offering camel rides at hiked up prices.

Pyramid of Cheops

Surprisingly, my first impression of this pyramid was disappointment. Driving west out of Cairo towards the Giza plateau, the guide suddenly excitedly pointed and told us that there were the pyramids in the distance.

Between some buildings we could indeed see the pyramids but they looked rather small. But as we got closer the size kept growing larger and larger and once at the base it was simply awe inspiring and massive.

I twice crawled all the way up to the burial chamber deep inside the structure. It is a long climb and one will be drenched from the oppressive humidity inside the narrow passageways.

The king's burial chamber still holds the basalt sarcophagus, but is is empty and without lid.

In 1979 you were still allowed to crawl up to the top outside, but think twice before doing so: The descent is a lot more difficult than the ascent.

The Sphinx

Facing due east the famous Sphinx at Giza guards the pyramid of Chephren. It is 73 meters long and the face is an incredible 4 meters high. It is a recumbent lion with a human face. Impressively, it was carved out of a natural outcrop of rock on location.

It is commonly believed to have been constructed during the reign of Chephren (2520-2494 BC), but there is no solid evidence in form of inscriptions to verify this.

The missing nose has given rise to many myths. Many believe that Napoleon's soldiers broke it off by firing a cannonball at it and others ascribe the damage to British troops, the Mamluks and so on.

But a Dane published an illustration of the Sphinx without nose already in 1755, so none of these myths can be true. Confidence is much higher in the claim in the 14th century by an Arabian historian that a Muslim fanatic broke off the nose angered by the peasants making offerings to the Sphinx. he was later hanged for vandalism.

Photos on this page

This page features some of my snapshots from the Giza plateau and its three famous pyramids and the Sphinx.

The first photo shows the road from Cairo to the Giza plateau. It is a rare time capsule as the road will undoubtedly look very different today. Did you notice the donkey cart?

All three pyramids were originally covered with polished limestone but today only the Chephren pyramid in the middle has a small covered section left at the top. Back when the cover was intact the pyramids must have been reflecting the sun so much that the pyramids would have been shining like beacons and visible from far away.

There are some good shots of the Sphinx from different angles. Note in particular the small villages in the background.

Several of these old photos give a good impression of the massiveness of the pyramids when compared to the people next to them.

display program by Matteo Bicocchi