The great pyramid of Giza.
Updated: Mar 8
THIS EXTRAORDINARY STRUCTURE, BUILT 4500 YEARS AGO TO HOUSE KING KHUFU’S BURIAL CHAMBER, IS THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD.
the heaving suburbs of Cairo part, and you catch your first glimpse of the pyramids, standing lonely yet defiant, their simple triangular silhouettes strangely majestic Clambering from the bus, you’re barely aware of the melee of tourists, touts and camels. Your eyes are drawn to the peak of the largest pyramid, looming overhead against the backdrop of an azure sky. At its base, you marvel at the enormous slabs of stone reaching shoulder height you would struggle to climb onto one even if it was allowed. You ponder how an ancient civilization transported these behemoth stones, then erected such a magnificently well proportioned edifice. On the northern side is the entrance a chance to escape the afternoon sun? But once inside, the mercury rises and you gasp for fresh air in the narrow passage, bent low to avoid hitting your head on the ceiling.
You finally reach the Grand Gallery that leads to the King’s Chamber, where you can stand up straight at last. All that’s left inside is the broken remains
of the granite sarcophagus. But despite there being little to see, the experience of climbing through such an ancient structure is unforgettable.
Once outside again you hop on the back of a horse for a peaceful parade around the local area, a healthy distance from the still-swarming tourists and touts.
The sun begins to dip into a fiery orange ball, casting a golden, hazy glow over the three noble pyramids.
The Great Pyramid was the tallest structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889. Originally 147m
high, with sides 230m long and a 50,000-sq-metre base, the casing is large enough to fit London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and Houses of Parliament
inside – but this goliath structure was built to house just three burial chambers.
The ancient King Khufu’s small, granite-lined burial chamber lies deep in the heart of the pyramid, 100m below the peak. Grave robbers looted
its contents years ago, so all that remains is the 1m-wide granite sarcophagus, which wouldn’t fit through the entrance passage. It must
have been placed there while the pyramid was still under construction.
The Queen’s Chamber is an enduring mystery. Some say it was never intended for the queen – and no sarcophagus was found inside. A third, unfinished burial chamber lies underneath the pyramid. The two smaller pyramids nearby were built for King Khufu’s
son, Khafre, and his grandson, Menkaure. Khafre’s pyramid, which sits in the middle, appears to be the tallest, but it is simply built on higher ground.
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