Travel Icon: the Egyptian Pyramids
Egypt specialist Alex Grose guides you through 4,000 years of history on the Giza Plateau.
The Pyramids at Giza
No matter how seasoned a traveller you are, nothing on earth can prepare you for the sense of awe you feel as you set eyes on the pyramids at Giza for the very first time – truly one of the most iconic sights on the planet. With the tallest pyramid (the Great Pyramid of Khufu) standing a colossal 139 metres, the pyramids dominate the Giza Plateau, where the ancient desert landscape reaches the outskirts of bustling Cairo.
They can even be seen from downtown areas of the city, providing a constant reminder to modern Egyptians of their ancestors watching over them, as they have done for more than 4,000 years.
Despite centuries of study, the origins and purpose of these imposing structures remains a source of debate and conjecture. This air of mystery is palpable as you follow in the footsteps of some of the world's most celebrated explorers.
Now is a wonderful time to visit Giza and its surrounds. Visitor numbers are vastly reduced following the Arab Spring last year and recent travellers have been treated to an experience akin to that of the first European travellers to be drawn here during the late 19th century.
To be able to see one of the world's ancient wonders relatively free from other visitors is a fantastic privilege – so take advantage and go now as it's one that's sure to be short lived.
Did you know?
- The first pyramids were not pyramid in shape but flat bench-like structures known as mastabas.
- The pharoah who commissioned the largest pyramid on the Giza Plateau is also known for having the smallest Egyptian royal sculpture ever discovered. The ivory statue of Khufu stands only three inches high.
- The pyramids weren't built by slaves. The discovery of vast worker settlements shows that workers were actually well provided for with food and medical care.