Like many other travelers, what drew me to Egypt was the strength and mystery of the Great Pyramids. Why are they there? Who exactly built them? In the minds of many, Egypt is a historical mecca, and a trip to Egypt certainly wouldn't be complete without a visit to such a remarkable site. I've dreamed of going on an Egypt pyramids tour and visiting the Pyramids since I was a little girl. Never did I expect to visit them after having been invited to be a keynote speaker at a large, international conference, and never did I think that I'd have my brother by my side to experience it with me! Like many other cities in the Middle East and Northern Africa, Cairo is a chaotic and bustling metropolis with its own unique charm. And, because of that, it is especially nice to escape the city and immerse yourself in the outdoors... especially when that plan includes visiting the Pyramids!
Of course, the most iconic of all pyramids is the Great Pyramid. Upon successfully entering the Giza Pyramid Complex, the Great Pyramid is the first pyramid that you will see... and it is truly great. As I'm sure you can imagine, most people and tour groups walk through the entrance and right up to the Great Pyramid. I recommend walking clockwise around the Pyramid as the lighting will be better, and there will be far less tour groups.
To think that the Pyramids were built without modern technology, and in such symmetry, is remarkable. Unlike how many of us picture the Pyramids, they are not, in fact, smooth on the outside... anymore. By now, the smooth limestone exterior that had once lined the Pyramids has eroded away, revealing a jagged step-like pyramid. You can enter the Great Pyramid and look up from the bottom to the top, however, there is absolutely nothing inside. You will be able to see the perfectly smooth rocks and the perfect pyramid shape, but the Pyramid itself is entirely empty and there are no hieroglyphs on the walls. Personally, we skipped going inside, as we chose to enter a pyramid that still had hieroglyphs (more on that later).
The unique thing about the Giza Pyramid Complex is that there's almost free rein. As with any big site, there are spots that are closed off, but I never imagined how many little alleyways there were that would offer incredible - and unique - views of the Pyramids.The Egyptian Pyramid Complex consists of three main pyramids: The Great Pyramid (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops), the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Respectively, they stand at 147 m, 134 m, and 62 m. There are also three Queens Pyramids on the premises.
Did you say the Pyramids and Sphinx?!
In my head, I always considered the Pyramids and the Sphinx to be one in the same. The Great Sphinx of Giza, however, is considered a monument and has a completely separate entrance (although, it's included in the cost of admission for the Pyramid Complex). The Sphinx was made of one carved piece of stone and has three tunnels underneath the monument. While we don't know exactly what they were for, archeologists presume that they were used for offerings. For those wondering, the lion's body of the Sphinx is a symbol of strength, while the King's head is a symbol of wisdom.
Visiting the Pyramids: The Oldest Pyramid in the World
I also wrongly assumed that the Great Pyramids of Giza were the original pyramids in Giza but, nope... those can be found in Saqqara! The oldest stone building complex in the world can be found at Saqqara in the shape of Djoser's step pyramid. The complex has various tombs, with the oldest dating back to the First Dynasty.While the Great Pyramid of Giza is completely empty inside, the tombs at Saqqara are colorful and detailed. The most well-known would be the Pyramid Complex of King Teti, where you crawl down a tunnel and into the pyramid to see the hieroglyphs inside the tomb and sarcophagi. There are plenty of accessible tombs on site though, and I recommend having a good wander.
A Quick Stop in Memphis: Egypt's Ancient Capital
To close off our Egypt Pyramids tour, we stopped in Memphis, Egypt's ancient capital city during the Old Kingdom. There are many temples on site, but arguably the most interesting thing to see in Memphis is the 10m (33 foot) Statue of Ramses II carved out of limestone. The statue is lying down because the base of it was broken, but the details of the colossus are just incredible!