2015 Egypt Trip: Day 2 – Pyramids of Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur

No visit to Egypt is complete without having a close encounter with the pyramids. Primordial mound, burial chambers inside the pyramids, unsolved method of construction, millions of stone blocks, marvellous feat of engineering at that time are among mysteries that would make a visit to them is a must.

We woke up to golden sunrays that showering the three Giza pyramids. I climbed back to the rooftop and took some gorgeous shots in this golden time of photography.

Today is a big day. We’re going to visit three main sites of pyramids: Giza, Saqqara, and Dahshur.

Exactly at 8.30am upon check-out, we met Yusuf again at the lobby hotel meanwhile our luggages were being transferred to the van. He’s ready with Mohammed, the driver.

Not so long we’re at main entrance to the pyramids, close to Oberoi Hotel. Yusuf bought us tickets and told us that we had to carry our luggages past x-ray security check. Now the adventure begins.

Yusuf started by ushering us to the great pyramids of Khufu (Cheops), the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis . Yusuf explained that  the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. At height of 146.5 metres (initially), it consists of roughly 2.3million stone blocks. (doing some maths it would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day and would involve moving an average of more than 12 of the blocks into place each hour, day and night. Impressive).

We then dared ourselves to enter the great pyramid of Khufu. We knew beforehand that nothing to see inside the pyramids, it is dark, narrow and humid. But, experience can never be bought.

Camera is not allowed inside the pyramid. Neither is the guide. So we went inside without camera and guide. The (modern/intrusive) entrance is located at the north side of the pyramid and tens of meter (about 15 stone blocks) above ground. This is not the original entrance, however. The original entrance is higher up flanked by angled stones.

Security check was there, guarded by 3-4 men. Again, the man at the entrance gestured a baksheesh demand but I ignored it and just say “Later…”

To reach one of the chambers (only the King’s chamber is open while the Queen’s chamber and subterranean chamber are closed) we would need to navigate a narrow, but level tunnel (we can notice the rough nature of this tunnelling, while the original passageways and chambers inside the pyramid are smooth and finished) and then modern steps. These steps lead us to a ramp that goes around the blocks and then the Ascending Passage including the Grand Gallery. The gallery is basically a grand corbelled hall, 8.6m high and 47m long with wide starting 2m to 1m at the end. 

See a detailed cyberjourney of the Great Pyramid of Khufu interior here: http://www.guardians.net/egypt/gp1.htm

The King’s Chamber is, contrary to what one might expect, nothing than an empty roughly 10x5m2 space 6m high, with original damaged coffer and CCTV 🙂

This dark, humid, and hot ascending walk to find an empty chamber might disappoint you, but it’s still an experience I never forget.

****

“…some people give 200 tips, some give 300”, he started his trick when we arrived back at camel ride site. “Since you are good people you will give me good tips..” “If you are happy, I am happy”

I gave good tips but not the amount he tried to fool me. “Listen! I’ve been to many countries, there is no such tip equivalent or more than the cost itself.” Then I gave him total price plus tips and walk away.

Prior to that, while we were busy with taking pictures, one man approached us stealthily, opened cold soft drinks, handed over to my kids who reluctantly accepted them (as they have been pre-warned by me not to accept anything from a vendor) and asked to drink them. At the end, he demanded exorbitant price. Though I managed to bring the price down, the feeling of being cheated was a pain especially when you know you don’t want them.

A trip to Egypt is best done with a guided group. Though we were with our private guide who helped but still did not keep these tricks totally at bay. It seems that tourists make every tout or tourism worker see dollar signs when they walk in? Sorry to generalize but reality bites.

***

Once we finished with the Pyramid of Khufu, we were escorted by Yusuf to see boat pits, and two tombs (prepare 10EGP baksheesh) on the east side of the pyramid. We then go back to our van and continue to the camel ride site in-between the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Khafre. A 30-40min camel ride would drop us to a place where we could have all three pyramids in one line as a good photo background.

Before we went down to Saqqara and Dahshur, Yusuf had us visited a papyrus factory. It was interesting to see how papyrus paper is made from the pith of papyrus. In this factory, examples of papyrus paper artwork were on display from a small A5-size paper to large paper of 1 x 2 m or more. The prices are ranging from 100 to thousands EGP. Expensive? Genuine? I don’t know. The factory claimed that it’s genuine and it’d give a certificate of authenticity for each product.

I googled and found that some ‘papyrus’ are made from banana leaves or some other materials including corn husks, potatoes, eggplant, carrot and a few other materials. True papyrus is usually heavier in weight, strong, difficult to tear and somewhat retain their “memory” when crushed.

Anyway, I bought one piece of artwork (A4 size) at a cost of 200EGP (later I found a similar artwork at Khan el-Khalili at 50EGP after bargain. “They’re different ….” “Mine is genuine….” I try to vindicate my purchase.

***

The last three pyramids we visited after a papyrus tour were Step Pyramid, Bent Pyramid, and Red Pyramid. They are the first three pyramids constructed in Egypt.

The Step Pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser, is located in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, 22km southeast of Giza. It was built during the 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser.

The Step Pyramid, is the central feature of a vast mortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration.

This first Egyptian pyramid consisted of six mastabas (of decreasing size) built atop one another in what were clearly revisions and developments of the original plan. The pyramid originally stood 62 metres (203 ft) tall, with a base of 109 m × 125 m (358 ft × 410 ft) and was clad in polished white limestone (wikipedia).

The Bent Pyramid is an ancient Egyptian pyramid located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur, approximately 15 kilometres south of the Step Pyramid, built under the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Sneferu (c. 2600 BC). A unique example of early pyramid development in Egypt, this was the second pyramid built by Sneferu.

The lower part of the pyramid rises from the desert at a 54-degree inclination, but the top section is built at the shallower angle of 43 degrees, lending the pyramid its very obvious ‘bent’ appearance.[1]

Archaeologists now believe that the Bent Pyramid represents a transitional form between step-sided and smooth-sided pyramids. It has been suggested that due to the steepness of the original angle of inclination the structure may have begun to show signs of instability during construction, forcing the builders to adopt a shallower angle to avert the structure’s collapse. This theory appears to be borne out by the fact that the adjacent Red Pyramid, built immediately afterwards by the same Pharaoh, was constructed at an angle of 43 degrees from its base (wikipedia).

Note that the entrance tickets to all pyramids in Saqqara and Dahshur entitled you to enter into inside the pyramids. We didn’t opt to. We thought one for the Great pyramid is enough.

***

Before Yusuf and Mohammed from the Guardian Tour dropped us off at Novotel El Borg Hotel at the end of this full-day pyramid tour, they offered us a lunch at Saqqara Restaurant which we found excellent despite pricey.

A perfume factory tour was actually offered by Yusuf to conclude the day, and as we’re not interested and didn’t want to fall into a unnecessary pricey purchase, we politely declined, although that was after we arrived on site.

***

Be able to see, visit, enter inside the pyramids and learn such a rich history is an unforgettable experience.

Unfortunately , the touts, hagglers and the cheaters around the Pyramids take the “wow” out of the experience of actually witnessing such an awe inspiring site.

The Pyramids themselves are magnificent. I am glad to see the pyramids but …..would never go again.

RELATED POSTS

Day 1 – Arrival, Museum

Day 3 – Citadel, Al Azhar, Cairo Tower

Day 4 – Tahrir, Cairo – Luxor, Karnak Sound & Light Show 

Camel Ride in Giza Pyramids
Camel Ride in Giza Pyramids
Giza Pyramids Complex (Wikipedia)
Giza Pyramids Complex (Wikipedia)
$60 room with millions dollar view
$60 room with millions dollar view
Pyramids silhouette during sunset was just stunning
Pyramids silhouette during sunset was just stunning
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Pyramids ready for Light Show
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Tourist buses dropped their visitors ready for Light Show (view from Guardian Guest House Hotel)
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Sphinx takes a central role in Light Show
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A complete view of Sound and Light Show
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Enjoying Light Show from Roof Top
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Colorful lighted pyramids
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The Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure in the morning
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The Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops (solar boat museum on the left)
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The Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, and Sphinx (taken from the Guardian Guest House rooftop)
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A view we have been waiting for (taken from the Guardian Guest House rooftop)
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Entering Security Check of Giza Pyramids Complex
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Exiting Security Check. Had to lug all of our luggages.
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The pyramid is not smooth; millions of stone blocks at the size of 1.3m to 1.5m in height
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At the Great Pyramid of Khufu; see stone blocks as comparison
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Never imagining the Giza Pyramids are located in the middle of the desert. It is bordering with busy Giza town
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Entrance to the Pyramid of Khufu we’re about to enter
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Information board showing Khufu’s Pyramid Complex
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Grand Gallery inside the Pyramid of Khufu
What you see inside the Pyramid nothing than empyt chambers; all sarcophagus, mummy or treasures have been evacuated to the museums (Source: Unknown)
What you see inside the Pyramid nothing than empyt chambers; all sarcophagus, mummy or treasures have been evacuated to the museums (Source: Unknown)
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A pit believed used during pyramid construction
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Faiq & Fathan inside one of the tombs near the Great Pyramid of Khufu
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The Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren)
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The Pyramid of Menkaure
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Take a horse or camel ride to have this breathtaking view of all the pyramids
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A family photograph with all-pyramids background
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Faiq and his mom enjoy a camel ride
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A close encounter with Sphinx
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Seatings for Light Show
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On the way out of the pyramid complex lined with souvenir stalls

SAQQARA AND DAHSHUR PYRAMIDS

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The Pyramid of Djoser or Step Pyramid: the first pyramid in Egypt
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Another view of the Pyramid of Djoser – currently under restoration
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Cool Fathan passing by Step Pyramid
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At the Pyramid of Djoser
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These feet probably belonged to statues of Djoser, as king of Upper and Lower Egypt, and two very young royal princesses
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Roofed colonnade entrance at the Pyramid of Djoser
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Roofed colonnade corridor leading into the complex, with stone pillars carved to imitate bundled plant stems.
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View toward Red and Bent Pyramid of Dahshur (see two pyramids?)
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The Red Pyramid: the third oldest pyramid in Egypt located at Dahshur
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Entrance into the Pyramid is possible; we opted not to
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Listening the history of Bent Pyramid: the second oldest pyramid in Egypt
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Bent Pyramid
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Red Pyramid seen from the Bent Pyramid; one kilometer away

We Stayed at?

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View from Guardian Guest House
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As the hotel is located close to entrance to the pyramids heavy traffic (both cars and horse) and noise is not uncommon; and oh that sour smell of dung 😛
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Simple breakfast room. Ask for omelette!
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