The most well-known and photographed of the Pyramids is Cheops, which is approximately 540 feet tall, the equivalent of a 54 story high building. I've always been curious as to how they were actually built. The most widely held theory as told by our tour guide, Sammy, is they cut big limestone blocks , then gangs of men dragged the blocks to the pyramid site and pushed the first layer of stones into place. Next, they built long ramps of earth and brick to drag up the next layer of stones. They continued this process until they made it to the top. Finally, they covered the pyramid with an outer coating of white casing stones which is why the pyramids always look smooth in pictures. While Sammy's story seemed plausible, it's such an amazing engineering feat, that it's still hard to believe that's how they were actually built. As shown in the picturs in the EGYPT Planning BLOG below, we actually climbed the lower section of Cheops, which for me was one of the most thrilling things we did.
The other mystical sight was the Great Sphinx which is a creature with a human head and a lion's body. Of all the myth0logical stories we heard, the one most fascinating to me was how the Sphinx was found as it was buried for most of it's life in sand. The story goes that when Thutmose was still a prince, he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the sphinx. During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and begged him to clear away the sand because it was choking the sphinx. The sphinx told him that if he did this, he would be rewarded with a kingship. Thutmose carried out this request and the sphinx held up his end of the deal. The statue is crumbling today because of the wind, humidity and the smog from Cairo.
After 2 days in Cairo, we flew to Luxor to begin our cruise which will be covered in the next EGYPT BLOG.
At the end of the cruise, we flew back to Cairo and spent 2 more days there visiting several of the local Mosques and the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The Museum is just overwhelming as it houses over 120,000 objects, including the mummies of Egyptian Pharaohs, sarcophagi, sculptures and furniture We spent just 3 hours there which wasn't enough. I'd highly recommend that you take a tour that visits the Cairo Museum at the start of the tour as I feel you'll get more out of visiting the temples by having seen the jewels and antiquities first. To truly take it all in, you'll need a few days so look for a tour that gives you the option of extra days in Cairo. For me, the highlight of all exhibits were the jewels and antiquities taken out of King Tut's tomb. King Tut's Death Mask was just breathtaking, with the colors still so vivid after all these years.
When visiting one of the mosques, we had to take off our shoes and also put on the green capes pictured below as our pants were too short.
The picture below was taken inside one of the mosques and the other is an of over-crowded Cairo. I've never seen anything like the dense living conditions there. The final tip on traveling in Cairo is NEVER DRIVE. The drivers there are more reckless than those in either Italy or Paris --- so always take a guided tour.