Pyramids Of Giza

Cairo, Egypt

The Giza Necropolis, including the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx, is one of the main tourist attractions within Egypt. Located on the south-west outskirts of the city of Cairo, the site is best accessed via car and, ideally, with a guide (ideally a professional licensed guide organised beforehand). Visitors should note that there is a fee to access the general Necropolis area (60 Egyptian pounds), and additional fees to access specific sites within the area. For example, access to the Pyramid of Khufu is an additional 100 Egyptian pounds, whilst access to the Pyramid of Khafre is 25 Egyptian pounds. However, note that all of these fees (and the availability of access to these sites) are subject to change.

Once inside the Necropolis, one can simply walk around the various sites, or take a camel or donkey ride around (for a fee). The three Pyramids of Giza are the most outstanding features within the Necropolis. They consist of the Pyramid of Khufu (also known as the Great Pyramid or the Pyramid of Cheops) in the north-east, the Pyramid of Khafre in the centre, and the slightly smaller Pyramid of Menkaure in the south-west. Access is generally open to the pyramids, but it can be very difficult to navigate some of the passageways and it is difficult to breath in some of the over-crowded and stuffy rooms and passageways. Some passages are as little as one metre wide and one metre high, with people trying to travel in both directions at once. As such, consider your physical fitness and your level of claustrophobia before entering the pyramids.

Image: All Gizah Pyramids

Creator: Ricardo Liberato

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035655291@N01/171610084/

The Giza Necropolis is one of the most popular tourist sites in Egypt, and for this reason it is also a site targeted by hawkers. To ensure your visit is not distressing or disappointing, there are a few issues that visitors should be aware of before they plan their trip.

The value of a guide in the Giza Necropolis cannot be understated. In addition to providing transport and historic/cultural information on the sites, a guide can also provide advice, warnings, and even protection against hazards in the area. In particular, the sales practices among hawkers/vendors within the Giza Necropolis are widely noted as being among the most aggressive and unscrupulous in the country, and caution should be observed whether or not you intend to buy anything.

The advice provided here applies to sites in Egypt in general, but should be strictly observed within the Giza Necropolis:

  • In all cases, be careful who you organise payment for services with, and who you give your money to. Try not to publicly display large sums of cash, or, if you need to arrange a large payment, organise the exact sum of money in a private/secure area before you exchange for goods/service. Many hawkers will flock to you if they see you publicly display large sums of cash.
  • Before using any service (eg: tour guide, someone taking a photograph of you, camel ride, taxi ride), confirm the total costs involved. Negotiate total costs before you begin to use the service. There are ample stories of tourists paying 5 Egyptian pounds to briefly sit on a camel for a photo opportunity, then paying a lot more for help getting off the camel afterwards.
  • If you take a photo of a person and/or their property (eg: their camel near the pyramids), they may demand payment. It is best to check first and organise the cost of this before you take the photo.
  • Many hawkers will consider an item sold if you touch or hold it. If you are interested in an item, look at it, but be careful picking anything up as you may then be forced into a difficult sales situation. In many cases, if you express the slightest interest in an item, hawkers will begin an aggressive attempt to sell it to you. Thus, think carefully about what you are interested in buying before confronting hawkers, or be prepared for an aggressive round of negotiations.
  • Be wary of ‘faux guides’ (locals in the area who will approach you with an offer their services – they will often pretend to be authoritative ‘chiefs’, ‘guardians’ or ‘protectors’ of the local area). It is far safer (and in fact more affordable) to organise a professional licensed guide beforehand (hotels often recommend reliable services). Faux guides will often know very little about the area, and may try to take more money from you throughout the tour for ‘extra access/service fees’.

Image: Giza Necropolis
Creator: Christopher Karykides

In December, 1914, the first contingent of men of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) arrived in Egypt, and based themselves at Mena Camp, just several hundred yards from the Great Pyramids. From their tents, these Australians gazed up in awe upon the ancient structures. When given the opportunity, typically on Sundays and in the evenings, these men would explore the many tombs in the Necropolis area, climb the narrow passageways down inside the pyramids, and, occasionally, attempt to climb to the very top. Richard Edwards of the 4th Battalion, AIF, recorded in his diary

Arrived on the very tip of the Pyramids at 5.10 after a very hard
struggle. We also rode a camel down to the “Sphinx” & had a photo taken
on same. Back again to the pyramid & inside it. Such a funny place built with
enormous big stones about 10 yards long by about 2 wide. We went into the
King’s Chamber “King Cheops”, also the Queen’s, also saw where the coffins were first put.

An almost obligatory experience for these soldiers was to take a donkey or camel ride around the Necropolis, and to pause in front of the Great Sphinx to have their photo taken. In addition, many unit commanders insisted that group portraits be taken of their units in front of the pyramids, such as the image shown here of men of the 11th Battalion, AIF, taken on 10 January, 1915. Captain Charles Barnes recorded the occasion:

After Church this morning the whole Battalion was marched up to the
Pyramid (Old Cheops) and we had a photo took or at least several of them.

Evidence of the visits of these Australian soldiers can be seen today in the extensive photographic collection held by the Australian War Memorial, and in the remains of the graffiti they created at the time of their visit. On the exterior of the pyramids Australian soldiers carved their name into stone, whilst on the interior they pencilled their names and unit numbers on the walls of great tombs and tunnels.

Image: Group portrait of all the original officers and men of the 11th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, AIF, on the Pyramid of Khufu.
Source: Australian War Memorial, P05717.001

The Great Sphinx

The Great Sphinx lies directly east of the Pyramid of Khafre. Whilst visible from the surrounding area, closer access can be gained via the Temple of the Sphinx, which lies directly to the east of the Great Sphinx.  The image of a sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, appears throughout much Ancient Egyptian art, but none are as famous as the Great Sphinx that stands prominently near the pyramids at the Giza Necropolis.

Debate continues over the origins of both the Great Sphinx and the pyramids, though it is generally believed that the Pharaoh Khafre, who built the second largest of the Great Pyramids – the Pyramid of Khafre – also built the Great Sphinx. Among other forms of evidence, this is primarily based upon the fact that the Great Sphinx lies directly in front of the Pyramid of Khafre and is of a similar architectural style to other structures in Khafra’s complex.

As with the Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx was considered an obligatory experience for Australian soldiers during the First World War and it is believed that thousands of these men posed for a photograph on camel or donkey in front of the Sphinx.

Image: The Great Sphinx
Creator: Christopher Karykides

Sources:

Australian War Memorial, http://www.awm.gov.au

Richard Asaph Edwards, No. 1260, 4th Bn AIF, diary entry dated 12 and 13 February, 1915, Australian War Memorial PR91/192.

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