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Pyramids of Giza & the Sphinx

  • Cairo, Lower Egypt, Egypt

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 18 March, 2024

The densely-crowded Egyptian city of Giza – on the West Bank of the Nile just outside of Cairo – welcomes millions of tourists every year to visit one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

The Giza Plateau, wedged between the city’s borders and the Western Desert, is a remarkable complex of gargantuan stone pyramids, several cemeteries, and a giant statue of a mythological sphinx – all dating back to 2,500 BC.

The Great Pyramid

The largest pyramid and the last survivor of the world’s seven ancient wonders was built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu.

A remarkable feat of ancient engineering, and an enduring testament to the sophistication of the ancient Egyptians, the Great Pyramid contains 2.3 million limestone blocks of over 25 tonnes each, cut and assembled to astonishing precision.

The other pyramids

Next to it are two other giant pyramids. the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, dedicated to the pharaohs Khafre and Menkaure. Just south of the pyramid of Menkaure are three smaller pyramids, believed to be the tombs of Menkaure’s queens.

The Sphinx

Sharing the Giza plateau with the pyramids is this no-less impressive statue of a sphinx – a mythological creature with human head and body of a lion. Its face is believed to resemble Pharoah Khafre.

Standing 20m high, 73m long it dates back to his reign in 2500 BC, and apart from a broken nose (cause unknown), remains remarkably well-preserved.

The Valley Temple

This structure beside the Sphinx was built to receive and mummify the pharaoh’s bodies, before entombment in a pyramid – it’s believed Pharaoh Khafre’s body was mummified here.

The massive granite slabs were shipped down from Aswan. It had been buried under desert sand until its discovery in 1852.

While you’re there

Rent a horse from reliable MG Stables or one of the other stables near the Sphinx and ride into the desert beyond the Pyramids. Perfect at sunset, and moonlight rides are also now available.

For evocative pyramid viewing without the hordes, head for Dahshur, a short drive south, there are smaller but equally impressive pyramids, which are blissfully crowd-free.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Most people visit as part of a group tour, but if you prefer to go it alone, take a taxi to the plateau and wander at leisure. You can ask your driver to wait or there are usually drivers at the exit to the site, beyond the Sphinx.

You can go inside the Great Pyramid – a limited number of tickets are on sale first thing in the morning and at 1pm. Be warned, it’s a strenuous, highly claustrophobic climb inside the great Pyramid. Ticket sales stop an hour before closing time.

For refreshments before or after, head to the nearby Mena Hotel café for Egyptian and international cuisine with views over the pyramids.

When to do it

The pyramid plateau is open daily (exact times vary by season).

April is sandstorm season; July and August unbearably hot. Spring and autumn are best for weather and optimal light.

Morning light is best to photograph the Sphinx, but late afternoon best for the rest.

Who to go with: organised tours

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