Touring the Great Egyptian Pyramids

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Pyramid Tours – Explore the Funerary Complexes of the Pharaohs

In ancient Egypt the desire for eternity was the driving force behind the construction of the pyramids, the sheer scale and technical mastery of which continues to be a source of wonder.

Built as tombs for kings and sometimes queens, these world- noted monuments did not stand in isolation, but were designed as part of funerary complexes that included shrines and temples, where priests would summon the spirits of the royal line and make offerings to ensure their immortality.

Between 2700 and 1640 B.C., a great number of these fascinating structures were constructed and, although many have since been reduced to rubble, lots of examples still survive today.

Imhotep’s Step Pyramid

The first master Egyptian pyramid builder was an architect by the name of Imhotep. Around 2680 B.C., he was commissioned to build a tomb for the pharaoh Djozer, and, as was habitual, work commenced during the monarch’s life.

Imhotep started by building a tomb in the form of a traditional mastaba. These were long flat rectangular buildings, built of sun-baked mud bricks, with walls standing around 12 feet high.

The name mastaba derives from the Arabic “bench,” on account of the tomb’s similarity to a long stone seat typically found outside Egyptian homes in later times.

The innovative Imhotep, however, used stone as his medium and continued to add to the tomb until he had created a six-layered, stepped pyramid, standing 200 feet high. The result was the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the first monument in Egypt to be made wholly out of hewn stone.

The vast disbursement and labor involved in its construction is a clear demonstration of the considerable power exercised by the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

Imhotep, who also appears to have been a scholar and physician, was held in such great respect that he was worshipped as a god after his death. His superb accomplishment still stands today at the ancient site of Memphis, south of Cairo.

The Pyramids of Giza

By the fourth dynasty (approximately 2600 B.C. to 2500 B.C.) the Egyptians had perfected their marvelous architectural skills enabling them to construct the most prominent and famous of the Egyptian Pyramids, those at Giza.

Unlike the Step Pyramid, the Giza Pyramids – known as Khufu Khafre and Mycerinus – were of true pyramidal form and were originally constructed with smooth white limestone faces. Such was the wonder they inspired that they were considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The largest of the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza, named after and built for the pharaoh Khufu, who ruled between 2589 B.C. and 2566 B.C., stands 481 feet high.

Its construction was an immensely costly business, involving many thousands of skilled workers (not slaves) over a period of some 20 years. The monument contains around two and a half million blocks of stone, whose average weight is more than two and a half tons, with some weighing as much as fifteen.

Most of the stone used was locally quarried limestone. Granite, a much harder stone, was also used for the construction of the burial chambers and internal passages. This was brought by river a distance of more than 500 miles from quarries in Aswan in the south. The stones were then dragged into place by manner of ramps.

Standing next to Khufu are the later Egyptian pyramids of Khafre (471 feet high) and Mycerinus (204 feet). The Khafre funerary complex is also home to the famous limestone statue of the Sphinx, the oldest and largest of the many images of man-headed lions.

The Giza Sphinx

Dwarfed by the colossal pyramids, the Sphinx is, nevertheless, a huge monument, standing 66 feet high and 240 feet long. The statue, whose head is viewed to be that of the pharaoh Khafre himself, was intended to represent a divine protector.

Between its paws is an inscribed granite slab which describes a dream that a prince named Tuthmosis had while resting in its shade during a gazelle hunt. He dreamed that he was approached by the Sphinx, who promised him the kingdom if he cleared the sand that covered his body and that was making breathing difficult.

Tuthmosis obliged the Sphinx and went one step further, ordering the construction of mud-brick walls around the monument to prevent further encroachment.

That the Sphinx was good to his word is demonstrated by the 3000-year-old slab located by Tuthmosis IV, the new pharaoh of the land.


Are You Ready to Tour the Pyramids?

Egypt is home to some remarkable pyramids and our experts can help you plan the ultimate tour of the many pyramid sites throughout the country. Come and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime on  Egypt Pyramids Day Tours!

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