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Visiting Pyramids of Giza
The iconic Pyramids of Giza. Perhaps the most famous tombs in the world? And the only remaining of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. I have always wanted to visit them and see the pyramids with my own eyes, it has been on my bucket list for ever, and listed on this blog post as such! But, I had definitely heard mixed reviews and was a little worried I would be disappointed when I finally made it. So I wanted to write this post about all you need to know about visiting Pyramids of Giza, so anyone visiting would know exactly what to expect.
Where are the Pyramids?
I feel this is fairly well known now; the myth that they are located in the middle of the desert has been long since dismissed. They are located just on the edge of one of the suburbs of Cairo. It takes about 30 – 45 minutes to get there from central Cairo (on a good run, the traffic in Cairo can be awful!) The Sphinx is actually the closest to the edge of the town.
Located about 13km from the centre of the city and around 8km from the Nile. Man made canals were used during the flood season of the Nile to divert water near to the site, to allow boats to unload at a dock near the Pyramids.
Getting to the Pyramids
As I was part of a group, we arrived by mini bus. When we arrived we got off the bus, went through the entrance and got back onto our bus the other side.
I would suggest getting some sort of private transport to the pyramids, be it an Uber or a taxi. However I do believe you can catch the metro to Giza, and then take a minibus the remaining 5km. For us, having our own bus it meant when we arrived we could hop back on and drive to a view point to be there before anyone else. Even if you are not part of a group tour, it might be worth considering looking at day tours for visiting Pyramids of Giza.
Opening hours and cost
The entrance to the Giza Plateau is 160EGP (about £7.50 or $9.50).
Opening hours are 8am to 4pm daily. I would recommend being there for 8am. It is busy, but only gets busier as the day progresses.
There is also a sound and light show at the Sphinx, which begins at 8.30pm each evening. Take a look here for more information. I had heard it is worth seeing if you are in the area, but not necessarily worth a special trip.
This is the first place we headed when we arrived at the Plateau, we raced there to beat everyone else and so had it entirely to ourselves for a while. From here you can see all 9 of the pyramids. Yes, there are 9 Pyramids of Giza! The three large pyramids built as tombs for the Pharaohs, and two of these Pharaohs built three smaller pyramids each as tombs for their wives. The third didn’t as, as our guide said, he wasn’t very nice!
It is quite a walk from the pyramids themselves, so best to either pay extra for transport, or as I said make sure it is included in a tour or day trip.
Great Pyramid of Khufu
This is the oldest Pyramid in Giza and, despite appearances, the largest (Khufu’s son built his pyramid on higher ground to make it misleading!). It was completed in 2750BC and was originally 146m high. Over the many (many) years the height has reduced by 9m!
This is also the first pyramid you arrive at when you enter the Giza Plateau. Standing so high right in front of you, it is impossible not to be in awe of its magnificence.
This is also the pyramid that you can enter. Although I decided not to. The night before I was wavering about whether I was going to. Then there was an incident in a broken down lift, where I started to panic and I realised I was a little claustrophobic, so I decided to give it a miss. If you do want to enter, it is an additional ticket at a cost of 300EGP (£14.00 / $17.75). You can’t take any photos inside, and they will ask you to leave your cameras with the guard.
To enter, you don’t use the original entrance, but a new one opened up underneath. Accessed by climbing some of the huge stone blocks of the Pyramid. As I said, I didn’t go inside, but some of the group did. They said it was definitely not for the claustrophobic, particularly as you leave the same way people are exiting. But they said it was definitely worth it!
If you don’t want to pay the additional cost, you can enter some of the Queen’s pyramids for free.
Pyramid of Khafre and Pyramid of Menkaure
The other two main pyramids that make up the Giza Plateau. Khafre was the son of Khufu, and his pyramid was built 10m shorter than that of Khafre. This pyramid still has some of the original limestone casing at the top that used to cover all three.
You can sometimes enter this pyramid, although on the date I visited (April 2019), you were not able to. Opening usually alternates between this one and the third pyramid, the Pyramid of Menkaure. The third and smallest of the pyramids. Menkaure died before his pyramid was completed and so the casing was never properly finished at the bottom.
The world famous sculpture with a head of a man and a body of a lion. Many popular theories believe the face is that of Khafre, because of the likeness of the relief to busts of the Pharaoh.
You reach the Sphinx through Khafre’s Valley Temple. This temple once sat on the edge of a man-made lake, connected to the Nile by a canal. These temples were a site of worship, but also the beginning of the funeral ceremonies and rituals. It is interesting to note, the Valley temple of Khufu hasn’t been found, and it is believe to be under the modern city of Giza.
Walking through Khafre’s Valley temple you can see the intricately carved walls, some of which haven’t been completed. The temple was also made of huge blocks of stone, carved and fitted together. It is a very impressive sight.
I had often heard people were disappointed with the Sphinx, it was much smaller than they expected. This was definitely not the case for me. I was awed when I saw it for the first time. Again, such a famous symbol and I was seeing it in real life. Just incredible. Maybe it helped I went with low expectations, but this was a real pinch me moment in life!
What to wear
I visited in the middle of April, and it definitely wasn’t as warm as I had expected. I wore a jump-suit, light jumper and trainers. Which was actually perfect. You don’t need to be covered up, in that these Pyramids aren’t temples, however Egypt is a Muslim country so it is always best to wear something modest.
Camels and Horses
This is a very hot topic right now, and rightly so. No one wants to support animal abuse of any kind. So, the only thing I can advise is tread with caution. Some of the distances within the complex are large, so the services can be genuine ones.
Officially the prices for 30 minutes is 50EGP, but haggling would still be expected. Chose only healthy looking camels. If you want to go for a longer horse ride, there are official stables in the near by village, which is better than the horses inside the complex.
How much time do you need to spend visiting Pyramids of Giza
I think you could safely spend a day at the complex. We had about 2 hours, which was fine but I would definitely have liked to have more time. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Cheops boat museum or explore the other two temples.
I would recommend half a day, and leave before lunch as there is only place to eat on the site, and it is expensive!
What to expect when visiting Pyramids of Giza
It can be pretty intense visiting Pyramids of Giza, I am not going to sugar coat it. But it is definitely worth it! There are lots of locals wandering around the area, selling their wares. From hats, scarves, bookmarks, postcards to camel and donkey rides. And they are going to be persistent.
Most of the conversations starts with ‘where are you from?’ And they have a reply for most nationalities; being British, I got a lot of ‘lovely jubbly’ and ‘how now brown cow’. A firm ‘no thank you’ might be the end of it, but often it won’t.
Remember, there is no such thing as a free gift! Despite being frequently offered it, or it being thrust in your hand or your bag or indeed being wrapped around your head. Even when they say it is free because they love England. Soon the conversation will turn to how many children they have, and can you help them to look after their children? I kept repeating I didn’t need the free gift, until eventually they got the message. Mostly they just walked off.
Other things to watch out for, when they offer to take your photo. Or take you to a secret view point. These things often require some sort of payment. Also while there is security, there are others posing as ‘security’ who will get you off the pyramids, to then only use one of the above tactics.
But be patient, keep calm and stick to your guns. And all will be well, I never felt in any danger.
Is it worth visiting Pyramids of Giza?
100%. I think even the most sceptical can’t help but be blown away by these impressive buildings. I have heard people say that they weren’t the highlight of Egypt, but have you ever seen a more impressive tomb? The same old cliché is true, how on earth did they build these incredible structures? And only seeing them in real life can make this feat seem even more impressive!
Have you visited Egypt? What did you think of the Pyramids and the Sphinx?
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