Showing posts with label Giza Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Giza Egypt. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wanders Among Cairo’s Ancient Wonders ~

"I bear witness of the will of Cheops, my father: to defy time, forever. I saw Anthony and Cleopatra pass. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon paused at my feet. I saw ambitious dreams of conquerors whirling like dead leaves. As my motto, I chose an Arab saying: 'The world fears time, but time fears the Pyramids.'

From the book "Wonders of the Pyramids: The Sound and Light of Giza," introduced by Zahi Hawass. American University in Cairo Press (AUC Press, 2010)
Great Sphinx - Giza, Egypt
Sometimes we’ve been let down by a tourist destination; usually the kind where we’ve believed the hype and expected more than what we found. We wondered if our outing to Giza, the Cairo suburb where the Pyramids and Sphinx are located, would be one of those experiences.  Smog could obscure our views and suburbia has surrounded these centuries old desert delights, guidebooks warned.

Sphinx with suburbia as a neighbor - Giza, Egypt
On the flip side, sometimes we end up in such amazing places that we need to pause and allow ourselves to absorb the place; a mental ‘pinch’ you give yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming – the kind of moment in which you give thanks for being fortunate enough to be at that particular place on earth.

The latter is how we found ourselves on the morning we toured the Egyptian Pyramids and Sphinx. They didn’t disappoint! As imagined scenes we’d carried with us through the years came to life, we tried to comprehend the scope of  history to which we were bearing witness. Our brains were numbed by the size and the grandeur of these wonders from the Ancient World.

Wandering among Ancient Wonders - Giza, Egypt
The Sphinx (which means ‘strangler’) with the body of a lion and the head of a person, simply knocked our socks off - as proven by the number of photos of us we let the guide take of us with the Sphinx as a backdrop. 

But we almost needed a photo like the one above to assure us we hadn’t dreamt it all.  Yes, we really were standing at this amazing structure believed to have been built for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khafre during his reign, 2520-2494BC. (The date alone is mind-boggling!)

The Great Sphinx and Pyramid - Giza, Egypt
Egyptians built sphinxes, usually with the head sporting the likeness of a Pharaoh or god, to guard tombs and temples.  This one, the Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the oldest and largest statues in the world; its head believed to be the likeness of the Pharaoh Khafra. It faces to the east (sunrise) and guards the pyramid tombs to its rear.

At 241 feet long, 20 feet wide and 66 feet high, it is enormous. The eyes alone are 6 feet tall, the ears three feet and the nose - before it was knocked off - is believed to have been five feet long.

(About that missing nose:  for decades Napoleon and his men got the blame for the ‘nose job’ but other stories say it was Turkish soldiers and yet others say it was chiseled off by someone who considered the Sphinx as evil.)

Undated photo - source and attribution not available
I found this un-dated photo of the Sphinx covered with sand (source and attribution not available). which shows how erosion and weather have affected it in the last 4,500 years.  The Sphinx once had a beard which served to help support the head. A portion the beard is in the British Museum in London.  Beard or not – the Sphinx should be on your ‘must see’ list.

Sadly, pollution and rising ground water are now joining that blowing sand as threats to the Sphinx, which is said to have been carved from bedrock in an ancient causeway, and repair work is on-going.
The Giza Plateau

The Plateau is home to the Great Sphinx and the famous Pyramids, Wonders of the Ancient World.  What we hadn’t realized before our visit was the vast number of cemeteries and tombs – far less grand in size and design that are tucked into the hill along the causeways and that border the Pyramids.

Camel ride vendor rides among tombs - Giza Plateau, Egypt

Standing in the shadow of the first of the three Pyramids on a warm late December morning it was easy to understand why they are considered such wonders.  You can’t help but wonder how in the world they were ever built back in a time without computer-assisted-drafting and modern-day construction equipment.

Size as compared to modern day vehicles and buildings - Giza, Egypt
We’ve all seen photos of the Pyramids but until you are there, looking at their towering height and substantial girth and the size of the stones used to create them, you can’t quite get the feel of  just how enormous they are and the feat of their construction. Each stone weighs several tons and the number of them used in construction is mind-blowing: 2.3 million in the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) alone!

Humans carved and placed these stones - Giza, Egypt
I am not a fan of small places so we opted not to crawl/walk through the Pyramids. It can be done at an additional cost (not included in the entry ticket).  We opted to climb a bit of the stairway to the entrance – I am five feet tall to give you an idea of the size of stones put into place by the hands of human workers.

Camel ride, anyone? Giza Plateau, Egypt
You can also hire camels to get you from one viewing area to another, but we chose to be driven by our guide. The ‘crush’ of souvenir and camel ride touts didn’t materialize; we may have been approached by a few but they quickly left us alone when we indicated no interest in their products.  Tourism has tanked and those who make a living from those visitors are suffering.

Mystical, magical and somewhat smog-obscured Pyramids - Giza, Egypt
You could visit the Pyramids on your own, using public transportation or taxis to get there. We opted for a half-day private tour and selected a company, Ramasside Tours, that had been highly recommended by Tripadvisor users. We’d used the same company for our airport to hotel transfer and again for a transfer when it came time to leave Cairo. Our guide was knowlegeable and the driver had nerves of steel.

We hope you’ll join us next week when we head off to explore the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo. Thanks for the time you spent with us today. Happy and safe  travels to you and yours ~

Linking up today:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday Weekend Travel Inspiration


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