Sing: God Be with You till We Meet Again, UMH 672
Though the three Great Pyramids are the most famous and prominent monuments at Giza, the site has actually been a Necropolis almost since the beginning of dynastic Egypt. A tomb just on the outskirts of the Giza site dates from the reign of the 1st Dynasty Pharaoh Wadj, and jar sealings discovered in a tomb in the southern part of Giza mention the 2nd Dynasty Pharaoh Ninetjer. But it was the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu who placed Giza forever at the heart of funerary devotion, a city of the dead that dwarfed the cities of the living nearby.
The advantages of Giza for a burial site are numerous, and it is fairly easy to see why it was chosen. It is high and flat ground overlooking everything. Any monument placed there would be seen from far away, especially if traveling via the Nile. It also has a ready supply of limestone on-site, eliminating the need to transport the blocks over a protracted distance.
Since around the 5th Century BC, and up until recently, stone from the monuments were taken and used to build buildings in nearby Cairo. First the polished white limestone "casing" was taken, then the softer core stones. Many of Cairo's oldest buildings are built partly from stones from the pyramids. This destruction continued well into the 19th Century until preservation efforts and a resurgence of national pride put a stop to it.
The Great Pyramids
There are no more famous ancient sites within Egypt, or for that matter elsewhere in the world, than the Great Pyramids at Giza. They are, without question, the icon most associated with Egypt. They have been both the main destination for tourists, and a source of imaginative thought to the world for over three thousand years.
How the Great Pyramid of Khufu was built is a question that may never be answered. Herodotus said that it would have taken 30 years and 100,000 slaves to build it. Another theory is that it was built by peasants who were unable to work the land while the Nile flooded between July and November. They may have been paid with food for their labor. The flooding waters would have also aided in moving the casing stones. These stones were brought from Aswan and Tura and the rising water would have brought the stones right to the pyramid.
The Great Pyramid is thought to have been built between 2589 - 2566 BC. There were over 2,300,000 blocks of stone with an average weight of 2.5 tons each. The total weight would have been 12 billion pounds and a height of 482 feet. It is the largest and the oldest of the Pyramids of Giza. The encasing marble which covered the outside of the pyramid has eroded or been removed over time. With this casing off, the pyramid lost 33 feet off all of its dimensions. The top platform today is over 1,000 square feet. The base of the pyramid is 754 feet square and covers 13 acres.
We only got to spend about twenty minutes of free time at the base of the Great Pyramid. That allowed us to climb up to where some folks were entering the pyramid. We also got to go look at the West and East sides and take a few photos. We did not stop at the other two pyramids but went up to a place above all three where we could get some good photos or ride a camel.
The Great Sphinx
In a depression to the southwest of Khufu's pyramid sits a creature with a human head and a lion's body. The name 'sphinx' which means 'strangler' was first given by the Greeks to a fabulous creature which had the head of a woman and the body of a lion and the wings of a bird. The sphinx appears to have started in Egypt in the form of a sun god. The Egyptian sphinx is usually the head of a king wearing his headdress and the body of a lion. There are, however, sphinxes with ram heads that are associated with the God Amun.
The Great Sphinx is to the northeast of Khafre's Valley Temple. Where it sits was once a quarry. Khafre's workers shaped the stone into the lion and gave it their king's face over 4,500 years ago. The sphinx faces the rising sun with a temple to the front which resembles the sun temples which were built later by the pharaohs of the 5th Dynasty. The figure was buried in the sand for most of its life. Pharaoh Thutmose IV (1425 - 1417 BC) placed a stela between the front paws of the figure. It describes when Thutmose, while still a prince, had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the sphinx. During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and told him to clear away the sand because it was choking the sphinx. The sphinx told him that if he did this, he would be rewarded with a kingship. Thutmose carried out this request and the sphinx held up his end of the deal.