Another Wonder of the World I can cross off my list as we move into to Egypt! The second half of our journey through the Middle East has arrived, at the early hour of 3:30 AM. We left Jordan this morning at the butt crack of dawn, as my family always likes to say, for a 6am flight to Cairo.
Tourism has always been a huge industry in Egypt due to it’s copious ancient runes and the Nile River. However, it has taken a big hit due to recent news from the region leaving the number of visitors drastically lower than normal. While this is sad for the Egyptian economy, it is quite enticing for the tourist, as you are one of few of the visitors at a site at any given site. Perfect example: the Pyramids of Giza.
Built over 5000 years ago during the Old Kingdom of the Egyptian period, these impressive structures are one of the 7 Wonders of the ancient world (the only one still standing) as well as one of the new wonders of the world. Another one off my list! Feeling very happy about that! The pyramids, as many famous ruins are, are tombs for the pharaohs or kings of Egypt. There are 2 large pyramids, 1 medium pyramid, and 6 small pyramids at the site, all built for the family members of one royal family. The Great Pyramid was built during the reign Khufu, taking approximately 20 years to build, reaching the height of 481 feet. The second large pyramid, known as Khafre’s pyramid, standing at 448 feet has a little cap of the limestone at the top. The pyramids were originally covered with a flush layer of bright white limestone. Unfortunately, the limestone was stolen off the relics during the dark ages. You can only see a small top on Khafre’s pyramid, but its nice to envision what it would have been like.
The pyramids are surrounded by the modern city, and tower over some of the nearby apartments. It was such a sight this morning, turning around the corner and seeing them right there! They just seem to pop up out of nowhere! As a mentioned before, there was hardly anyone at the site during our visit! We were one of only like 6 groups there. From what I’ve read, previously there were crowds of up to 10,000 a day! We got an up close and personal visit of the ruins, getting to climb on the Great Pyramid and we went into the tomb of the second pyramid. Inside the burial chamber was very plain, only an empty tomb still remains. But you get a feeling for how small and narrow the passages inside were, and honestly, it felt kinda spooky climbing down and into this massive structure.
After some time wandering around in between the two large pyramids, which are very close together, we went up to the panoramic view point to get a view of the whole site. This was so gorgeous, seeing the sand dunes and rocky outcroppings, as well as all the pyramids, including the smaller ones. As with Petra, there are vendors and camel owners hawking their goods and services. Have a steely outside with them, because boy, are they persistent! I decided to pay a couple of bucks for a picture on the camel, because, you know, I can! The awkward and gangling animals that they are, it was fun taking a short little walk with them. We took a few group pictures and then off we went to another part of the site: the Sphinx!
Just in front of the pyramids is the Great Sphinx. I was disappointed to find, yet again, scaffolding on a famous site. However it was still impressive to see. The Sphinx has a human face on a lion’s body and was thought to be the protector of the pyramids and the causeway up to the ancient entrance. It used to be buried under sand until the late 19th century, and has been excavated and restored the last 100 years. Again, there was hardly anyone there except for a large group of local 3rd graders so excited to chat with us foreigners! Overall, it was such an inspiring day see these ancient sites. I find it truly spectacular that these ancient structures have lasted in seemingly pristine condition for 5000 years. We learned all about the process of constructing the pyramids, another amazing feat of technology. The workers rolled the 5 ton stones up the causeway using logs and possibly pulleys. Seeing them in person and really reveling in their sheer size was an unforgettable experience for me. And another wonder down!