Things to Do in Giza
One of the most mysterious Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (and the only one still standing), the Pyramids of Giza—the Great Pyramid of Khufu, Pyramid of Khafre, and Pyramid of Menkaure—still live up to more than 4,000 years of hype. Seeing these 4th-dynasty pyramids and their guardian Great Sphinx rising from the Giza Plateau is a must on any trip to Cairo (and the reason many travelers find themselves in Egypt).
The 66-foot-tall (20-meter-tall) Sphinx of Giza is an icon of ancient Egypt, and the subject of continued debate regarding its meaning, age, and original builder. With the head of a human and the body of a lion, the Sphinx—one of the world’s largest and oldest statues—is said to symbolize strength, power, and wisdom.
The last surviving wonder of the ancient world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is also known as the Khufu Pyramid or Pyramid of Cheops, in honor of the pharaoh who built it around 2570 BC. The oldest, largest, and tallest of the three Giza pyramids, it is full of narrow tunnels and eerie chambers that are open to visitors.
Sometimes known as the second pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre (Pyramid of Chephren) towers 446 feet (136 meters) above the desert, its tip still encased in the white limestone that once decorated all three Giza Pyramids. It looks taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza, built by Khafre’s father Khufu, because it stands on higher ground.
The smallest of Cairo’s three main Giza Pyramids, the Pyramid of Menkaure stands with its two counterparts on the Giza Plateau on the southwestern edges of Egypt’s capital. As part of Cairo’s most-visited attraction, this 4,500-year-old tomb is seen by millions of tourists each year.
A raised desert area on the fringes of Cairo, the Giza Plateau is most famous for its necropolis (city of the dead), which includes the Giza pyramids, the Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, and the Valley Temple. The largest and most famous of the Giza pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, is the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.
Dedicated to one single, spectacular item, an ancient boat used in the funeral rites of the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), the Solar Boat Museum (Khufu Ship) is a highlight of any visit to the Giza Pyramids. The 143-foot-long (44-meter-long) cedar ship may have been used to float his body down the Nile or intended for his use in the afterlife with the sun god, Ra.
Papyrus is an important part of Egypt’s history. The raw material used to make this ancient paper comes from the stalk of the Cyperus papyrus plant, which has a brittle interior and a tough exterior and grows in damp regions of the Nile Delta. Its method of production was a well-kept secret for many years, allowing the ancient
Egyptians to have a monopoly over its production and distribution.
The Papyrus Institute is a government-approved museum and shop not far from the Pyramids in Giza, where visitors can browse and buy a huge selection of hand-painted papyrus prints. Prices range from the cheap to the very expensive, but bear in mind that these prints are the authentic article and make for some quality souvenirs.
Staff at the Papyrus Institute talk visitors through the entire process of manufacturing papyrus, including a demonstration of exactly how it is made.
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