The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Testament to the greatest architectural creations by the Egyptians, the Pyramids of Giza have been standing for over 4,500 years, making them the oldest surviving monuments in the world. Located on an arid plateau, the pyramids complex is about 12.4 miles away from Cairo in Egypt. Also known as the Giza Necropolis, these pyramids are part of the Ancient Ruins of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a number of small to large pyramids on the Giza Plateau, of which three are most notable – those of kings Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure (The Greek Historian, Herodotus named them Cheops, Chephren, and Mykerinus respectively). Another favorite attraction here is the Great Sphinx, a massive limestone sculpture of a human with a lion's body - or a lion with a human face!

The pyramids are tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs that are usually commissioned by them in their lifetime. These are believed to help them pass on after their death. The Pyramids of Giza belong to the 4th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs and their loved ones, who lived as early as 2,550 BC. Their global attraction helps the Egyptian Government rake in sizeable annual revenue; 2010 saw a revenue of $13 billion from tourism!

Interesting Facts about Pyramids of Giza

Marvels of the ancient world, the Pyramids of Giza not only represent the customs and culture of the ancient Egyptians, but also display the building genius of the people then. These massive pyramidal-shaped structures were made using limestone mined from the plateau, and set together with mortar. The mortar has been well-studied by the historians, yet it has not been able to be reproduced. The stones used to build the pyramids weighed anything between 2 tons and 50 tons! The outer façade is lined with casing stones, which are usually high quality limestone that are so shiny that they seem to sparkle from afar. Another interesting building feature of the pyramids is their cornerstone foundations, which are in the form of a ball and socket, that makes them resistant to expansion due to heat and any seismic activities.

There are various reasons why the three main pyramids of the Giza Plateau are more famous than the other 90 pyramids in Egypt. One reason is their size – the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre are larger and taller than any pyramids in the world. Another reason is the placement of the three Giza pyramids; they seem to align with the Constellation Orion.

Great Pyramid of Khufu

You will have no problem spotting the Great Pyramid of Khufu, which is the tallest of all the pyramids in the Giza Necropolis. The magnificent limestone structure is said to have been built with 2.3 million stone blocks, and stands at a height of 449 feet today. Till 1889, the Pyramid was considered the tallest building in the world (until the construction of the Eiffel Tower) at a height of about 481 feet which was reduced due to the stripping off of the casing stones by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century AD. They used the stones for constructing mosques and houses. If you have a compass, try testing directions that the four sides of the pyramid point to; you will see that they point exactly to the four cardinal directions of the earth! You can also buy a ticket and enter the pyramid crouching through a 100-feet tunnel. The interior has three chambers, which the historian Herodotus named as the King’s Chamber, Queen’s Chamber (this had nothing to do with the queen though!), and a Grand Gallery.

An interesting fact about the Pharaoh Khufu is that he not only has the tallest pyramid for himself, but also the smallest sculpture of himself (3 inches)!

Photo by : Ricardo Liberato

Published On: Friday, October 11th, 2013