But the magnificent structure is only one of three pyramids at the popular site and one of around 100 pyramids across the country.
These immense tombs were constructed by massive teams of workers on the orders of the pharaohs. The Giza pyramids were ordered by Khufu and were connected by covered causeways to mortuary temples in the valley which, in turn, had landing stages which were linked to the Nile by a canal.
Constructed using around 2.3 million limestone blocks, some of which weighed as much as 16 tonnes, the pyramid is vast. The length of each side of the base is 230.4 metres and its original height was 147 metres, although that has now declined to 138 metres.
The other two pyramids served as tombs for Khafre and Menkaure, with the Great Sphinx standing guard nearby.
And although the pyramids are now mere reminders of an ancient time, the power of their legacy is enduring, with the form playing an important role in modern architecture. For example, the glass pyramid at the Louvre pays homage to the ancient structures with a modern, almost futuristic twist.
Henry David Thoreau
Unique Things to See and Do near the Pyramids at Giza
- Explore the three pyramids – the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre and the smallest Pyramid of Mankaure.
- See the Great Sphinx that guards the entrance of Khafre’s pyramid.
- Visit one of the oldest boats in existence, used to carry the pharaoh’s mummy across the Nile and then to the afterlife, at the Cheops Boat Museum
Discover the pink granite and alabaster Valley Temple of Khafre
Built by Aliens?
Despite the arguments of theorists who believe the pyramids can only have been built by aliens or other mythical beings, evidence points to the contrary. The advanced engineering capabilities of Egypt’s early kings have been shown to be behind the giant structures.
The complex includes temples, causeways and a number of surrounding pyramids which are the tombs of members of the royal family, nobility and priests.
At the base of the plateau lies the town of the workers who toiled on their epic construction, with the Great Pyramid alone built over a period of 20 years. These were not slaves as once thought, but rather a workforce of 100,000 that laboured during three months of the year in exchange for food and clothing when flooding made it impossible to farm the land.
The flood waters are also thought to have made it easier to transport building stone to the site.
Getting to the Pyramids at Giza
With Giza located just 20 km from Cairo, it’s relatively easy to get to the pyramids.
Take the metro to Giza and then jump in a taxi. Otherwise, you can take a microbus which will drop you at Pyramids Road – around a 1km walk to the entrance. Buses will get you a little closer. Those that terminate at Mena House will get you within 250 metres from the entrance.
Tuk tuks are also available for the short ride from the major sites back out to Pyramids Road where you can continue your journey.
Did you know…?
The Great Pyramid at Giza has vents pointing to the constellation of Orion so the mummy’s spirit could fly straight up to the gods.
Did you ALSO know…?
Although it is commonly believed that Napoleon’s troops shot off the nose of the Sphinx at Giza, sketches from 1737 show it without a nose, more than 60 years before Napoleon reached Egypt.
Ready to plan your visit to Egypt? Check out these popular guides and trips.