You can see the pyramids for a long time before you actually reach them, which makes for some odd contrasts along the way.
As we approach, I begin to realize how immense they really are.
Having survived nearly 5,000 years, the pyramids at Giza are at the same time elegant, monumental, and intricately-crafted. With a difference of only 2 inches in the length of each side of the Great Pyramid, they are as much a monument to the skill of ancient engineers as to the power of the rulers who commissioned them.
With an original height of 482 feet (the top 30 plus feet are missing today), Khufu’s pyramid was both the largest and tallest of the pyramids at Giza. However, in most pictures the slightly smaller pyramid of Khufu’s son Khafre, appears larger due to its slightly elevated location. (Khafre seems to have had quite the eye for real estate.) Irregardless of the visual trickery, they are a grand and amazing sight.
For those of us who did not take the camel trip up Mount Sinai (and those who did, but want a picture of themselves on a camel), we have an opportunity for a (very) short camel ride here.
My camel is named “Michael Jackson” and he seems to be a good-natured and cooperative creature.
(For those of you who haven’t traveled in the developing world, Michael Jackson isn’t a particularly surprising name – although this is the first camel I’ve met bearing that name, I’ve met quite a few other Michael Jacksons in my limited travels. Innumerable people, most often children selling things, have identified themselves to me as various American pop culture icons.)
While we do get a marginally different view of the pyramids on our short “tour”, this is mostly an opportunity to sit on a camel and take pictures of each other sitting on camels.
It’s fun, but I wish we had time to amble through the whole area.
Instead, we head back to the Great Pyramid.
To one side is the Great Pyramid itself, to the other the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure. Awesome.
I want to wander around and photograph the pyramids, but the Solar Boat museum also intrigues me.
The boat museum turns out to be a good choice. It is built around a reconstructed ancient boat that was found in a pit near the Great Pyramid. It took experts 14 years to reassemble the 1200 pieces that make up this 140′ cedar boat. It is both an impressive bit of reconstruction and an beautiful object.
Outside the museum again, we have to hurry to the bus to get to our next stop: The Sphinx!
The Sphinx was constructed around 2500 BC, probably under the direction of Khafre who’s temple it guards and face it shares. It was carved in-place out of a limestone outcropping that was probably left over when the better stone around was removed for use in construction. Today the Sphinx stands high above the surrounding desert, but for many centuries it sat buried up to its neck in sand.
We don’t have time to really explore here, but by now the late afternoon sky has clouded over and the wind is sending sheets of sand dancing across the landscape. It is time to call it a day.