When planning this blog, I thought to myself, “Perhaps I should condense some days in Egypt. I could combine the pyramids with… no, I can’t. It’s the pyramids.”
You really can’t “share” the pyramids with anything else. They need to stand alone in all their glory. We hired a guide and driver to help us see the pyramids, and I am glad we did. We didn’t only see the Great Pyramid, but we saw Giza, Memphis, Saqqara, and Dashur! I used to think that there were only 3 pyramids in Egypt, and they were alone in the desert, far from the city. Little did I know that there are still hundreds which border the city of Cairo, and you can even explore the interior of a few of them!
Our first stop was the Bent Pyramid. It was built by the Pharaoh Snefreu around 2600 BC. It was the first “true” pyramid. (We will see one pyramid that came earlier, but it was built in a series of ‘steps’, rather than with clear linear sides.)
The reason it is called the “Bent” Pyramid is because, as you can see, the angle of the sides is bent about halfway up. Sneferu most likely wanted it built too steep, and when the builders were constructing it they realized they had to taper it off earlier than anticipated to avoid collapse. To this day, it still retains a lot of the original limestone casing; the pieces that make the sides smooth, not choppy like Lego blocks. Another cool fact? This pyramid has two entrances, not just one!
Here is Emily with the Red Pyramid in the Dashur area. (The Dashur area is where the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid are located.) This is the third largest pyramid in Egypt. It is called the Red Pyramid because when seen from a certain angle and in a certain light, the pinkish limestone appears red to the eye. This pyramid was also built by Sneferu.
Our lovely guide Mohammed held my camera while we explored the INSIDE of the Red Pyramid! He snapped a few cool photos of us making our way to the entrance. The Red Pyramid is the first successful attempt (in history) at building a smooth-sided pyramid. What was it like inside? Really hot! The heat gets trapped in there. Other than that, it is eerily “perfect”. The angles inside are perfect, the chambers are perfect, the chutes and channels are perfect. It is difficult to fathom that such perfection was achieved 5,000 years ago, and is still “perfect” to this day! I don’t have any photos inside the pyramid, as cameras were prohibited, but with a simple Google search you can see the inside for yourself 🙂
After Dashur we went to the ancient city of Memphis. (No, not in Tennessee.) It was the capital of the Old Kingdom (when the Dashur pyramids were built), and is famous because of all the statues that were found there. The above photo is my sister and I with the Alabaster Sphinx. Yes, made completely out of alabaster!
Sean and I with a statue of King Rameses II. He is one of the most well known Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. He is seen here wearing the false beard, signifying royalty, with his left foot forward, also a stance of the royals.
Inside the museum at Memphis is a giant statue of Rameses II. It is around 10 meters long, and is carved out of limestone. My favorite cool fact about this one is all of the cartouches he had carved on it. A cartouche is an Egyptian hieroglyph; you can see one on Rameses’ shoulder in the above picture. A cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the name inside the oval is royalty.
So, when Rameses II had this statue built, he had at least ten of his own cartouches carved into he statue. Why would he have it carved so many times you ask, when once would have clued us in just as well 5,000 years later? Well, archaeologists found hundreds of cartouches of other Pharoahs all over Egypt that Rameses had defaced and replaced his own name on. Therefore, when he had his own statues made, he ensured that nobody like himself could cover up his name in the future! What audacity!
Here is the Step Pyramid, the oldest pyramid in all of Egypt. It was built for the Pharoah Djoser by the famous architect Imhotep. If you’ve seen the film The Mummy, then you know that the whole movie was based around Imhotep himself. While he was a famous, historically-significant architect, his body remains undiscovered, which makes him the perfect candidate for a mysterious blockbuster film…
Anyways, the Step Pyramid was the first pyramid of Egypt. Before pyramids, simple “mastabas” were built. A mastaba is a flat-roofed structure with sloping sides. Well, Imhotep began stacking mastabas and adding more to the layers as he went along, and ended up with the first pyramid ever.
The tunnels beneath this pyramid for a maze about three and a half miles long. Wow.
Imhotep was also famous for building the first columns ever in history. Sean loved this fact, seeing as he is has a major in ancient Greece and Rome, the “kings” of the columns. Here we were in Egypt, looking at the birth of the first columns ever!
The funny thing was that when Imhotep had these columns built, he didn’t believe they could stand on their own, so he had a small brick “supporting wall” for each column. As we now know, those could have been removed and the columns would have functioned just as well. Pretty neat!
After all of this build up, we finally visited the Great Pyramid of Giza. One of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Great Pyramid of Giza was built for the Pharoah Khufu (Cheops) around 2560 BC. It is aligned perfectly with true North, and scientists to this day still cannot replicate the engineering that took place to build such a monument.
The view looking out over Cairo from the steps of the Great Pyramid. (It was so sad to see such a small amount of tourists, on Christmas day!)
This is a shot of the Grand Gallery inside the Great Pyramid. Can you believe the engineering that had to have taken place for this to work?! The stones are laid at a slightly steeper angle with each layer starting up from the floor, so each stone fits into a perfect slot cut in the roof of the gallery. Each block supports the others around it, not only by the base of the block alone. I can’t believe they were able to build such cavernous interiors which still exist today!
Once you walked through the Grand Gallery, you were inside the King’s Chamber. It is entirely faced with granite, and the original sarcophagus is still inside.
Sean and I on Christmas day, looking out over the Pyramids of Giza.
This boat was what blew my mind the most out of everything we saw that day. No joke. This is called the Solar Boat, and was discovered buried next to the Pyramids of Giza in the 1950’s. They dug up a pieces of wood perfectly inscribed with numbers for reassembling the boat – imagine “attach piece 145 A to 145 B”.
After fourteen years, they had reassembled a cedar-wood boat 143 feet long.
The cedar wood was brought from Lebanon almost 5,000 years ago when the boat was first built.
That’s right. You’re looking at a five-thousand year old boat. I can’t believe it either.
It is called the Solar Boat because it was built for Khufu in the afterlife. When the Pharaoh died, he was going to sail through the sky with the sun, thus the need for the Solar Boat.
Further, they tested the wood while they were excavating, and determined that it had been, at one point immersed in water. Therefore, they can conclude that the boat was built for Khufu’s death, then sailed from Cairo (Memphis) to Aswan, the city of the dead and then back again. Aswan is the city of the dead because it is the home to the god Osiris, the god of the dead. I love this stuff.
Lastly, we finished our day with the sun setting over the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids. It was a perfect day. I think I may quit my job and go into Egyptology…
Stay tuned! There is still lots more of Egypt to discover!