Sunday, December 1, 2019

Mystery of Egypt's pyramids

Our spring trip to Egypt would not be complete without a visit to the pyramids of Giza. We were as fascinated with these ancient wonders as travelers have been for thousands of centuries. Learning about the history of these imposing structures gave us greater appreciation for the magnitude of engineering skills required to build the pyramids.
Three main pyramids at Giza. Note how close the city of Cairo is in the background.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest in the Giza pyramid complex near Cairo, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain mostly intact. The Great Pyramid was the tallest structure made by man in the world—a record it held for almost 4,000 years.
The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world
for almost 4,000 years.
Located on the Giza plateau near Cairo are three major pyramids (and three other smaller ones) that were constructed over a 20 year period more than 4,500 years ago.  The most widely accepted theory is that Egypt’s ancient pharaohs expected to become gods in the afterlife, and the pyramids were filled with things they would need in the next world. It was a place where their mummified bodies would rest for eternity. Despite this belief mummies have not been found inside the pyramids.

Foundations rocks are truly enormous.
Standing as a defining symbol of Egypt’s history, how the pyramids were built is still a big mystery. The ancient engineering feats are so impressive that even today scientists aren’t sure how the pyramids were built. Experts speculate that it became a national project with workers coming from many communities across Egypt. Many were farmers whose land was flooded by the Nile during the rainy season, so the government provided work for them to do.

We marveled at the immensity of the pyramids and positioned ourselves near the bottom stones of the Great Pyramid to show perspective of its size. Totally dwarfed, we stood in amazement at the achievement of a civilization without modern tools and an educated engineering fleet.

See me touching the pyramid!
The Great pyramid stands at 450 feet high--eroded over the centuries from a height of 479 feet high. Inside are triangular poles for support. Although visitors can go inside the pyramids for a fee, there’s not much to see today. It’s reputed to be very hot inside, so we did not go in.

The perfectly pyramidal structure covers two football fields. It is comprised of 2.4 million blocks of stone which weigh anywhere from two and a half tons to eight tons each! Because of the immense size and weight, it’s difficult for us to comprehend how these stones were raised and positioned so precisely.
Souvenir vendors ply their wares in what is admittedly a tourist destination.
Of course, the Egyptians never miss an opportunity to make a buck. Trinkets and camel rides are for sale nearby. Photo hawkers are everywhere—and quite insistent on using your camera or theirs to take touristy photos of you and the pyramids—all for a price. But, what the heck, we couldn’t resist taking some of these fun photos—and I got several at a bargain price later when the “photographer” tracked us down.
Getting on and off a camel requires holding on tight.

As if these amazing structures aren’t jaw-dropping enough, don’t forget to take photos of the enormous Sphinx statue there, too. It’s still an attention-getter, even though part of the face has been destroyed. 

The Sphinx is another iconic structure for Egypt.
Duly impressed despite the crowds, we were glad to have had this time to visit one of the world’s most historical sites. I highly recommend a day trip to Giza when visiting Cairo.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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