and Giza Pyramids
Hilgenberg and Jana Piersall
Jerry and I share
something in common. We both have a great passion for
Egypt. While at the annual Class of 1967 party, Jerry
found out that my sisters had given me a trip to Egypt. He
couldn't tell me enough about what I was about to see.
And, I couldn't get enough of hearing about it.
Jerry and I decided to share our experiences of our individual
trips with you. We hope you catch the "fever" as we did.
Perhaps it is a Mummy's curse, we prefer to call it a great
blessing, to have seen such an awesome place. Egypt.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient
World, the Giza Pyramids stood as the tallest structures on the
planet for nearly 4,000 years. For perspective, consider this:
On the timeline of history, the Queen Cleopatra lived closer in
time to the present day than to the builders of the Giza
The first pyramids were constructed at Saqqara, necropolis for
the ancient capital of Memphis. A “necropolis” is a large burial
ground. Think of it as an ancient cemetery.
Djoser’s “Step Pyramid” is the earliest discovered pyramid. It
of a series of mastabas stacked one on top of another. A
“mastaba” is a flat-topped tomb. A mastaba is always above
ground, but there are usually one or more levels below ground.
Often mastabas have many rooms. So the first pyramid was built
from the simple idea of stacked mastabas.
parking lot (left). There’s a particular spot at Giza where you
can capture all three of the pyramids in a single photo, so
naturally that’s where the Egyptians choose to place their
bazaar to try to entice tourists. You can have your photo taken
sitting on a camel for about a $1, or a short camel ride for
about $5. Camels are recalcitrant, unpleasant creatures by
nature. Folklore has it that whenever an Egyptian tells you “he
loves his camel as much as any man can”, it means that he only
hates it a little bit.
The largest pyramid at Giza is Khufu’s Pyramid, which was the
first constructed. Each side of Khufu’s Pyramid is 756 feet, and
the structure’s is square within a few inches on each side. If
you remember your history lessons from grade school, you may
remember Khufu’s Pyramid as “Cheops Pyramid” – the Greek
translation. Only about seventy years of time stands between the Djoser’s Step Pyramid and Khufu’s Pyramid.
During that seventy years, there was quite a bit of
experimentation in pyramid construction,
concerned with discovering the correct angle. Too steep or too
shallow, and the structure would collapse on itself. Most of the
pyramids at Saqqara appear as mounds of rubble today.
Originally, the pyramids were covered with a finish of
glistening, smooth white limestone, each with a gilded capstone,
which must have made a very impressive sight. However, over the
white limestone was “harvested” for other uses and all that
remains today of the original casing is the smooth covering near
the top of Khafre’s Pyramid, as you can see in the photo.
Otherwise, the pyramid construction
we see today is the exposed underlying structure.
Khafre’s Pyramid was originally 471 feet high and 706 feet
square at the base. It sits on higher ground than Khufu’s
Pyramid and therefore looks taller. However, merely looking at
the photos or reading about these dimensions cannot adequately
convey a sense of just how massive
these structures are; for that, you must stand next to one.
The interior of the Pyramids consists of several rooms connected
by a series of tunnels. It is possible to enter both the Khufu
and the Khafre Pyramids, but it is not for the claustrophobic.
The tunnels can be quite narrow and steep, and the ceilings very
low – particularly on the connecting passages. As the
ventilation is also poor, there’s not much reward for entering
except to be able to claim that you did it – there is no
decoration, hieroglyphs, etc.
All of the limestone for the Great Pyramids at Giza was quarried
at the site. The heavy granite pieces used to support interior
ceilings were quarried at Aswan, then floated down the Nile
during the annual floods. At that time, the Nile would flood for
several weeks each year and would rise to within a few hundred
feet of the site.
Seeing the Sphinx in person is a lot like meeting a television
They’re much smaller in real life.
One piece of limestone that was deemed unsuitable for use in the
pyramids was instead used to create the “original” Sphinx. The
limestone of the Sphinx has weathered significantly over the
millennia, as you can see from this photo. Foreign invaders also
have contributed to the deterioration; the French destroyed the
nose of the monument when Napoleon invaded Egypt in the 19th
January 1, I went to see the pyramids at Giza and the
can see, finally, the Egyptians are attempting to restore some
of their treasures, and save them from total destruction.
One real danger in Egypt is the pack of wild dogs roaming the
Here you can see how easily one might be attacked by this
menace. (Just kidding, however, the mothers of these dogs were
taking a nap in the sand, close by, and I really wouldn't want
to cross them.) The shopkeepers nearby keep the dog and
babies fed. There are hundreds of wild cats and dogs all
over this country!
Here’s another photo of the Sphinx that gives you an
of how the Giza Pyramids National Park adjoins the modern day
city of Giza. (Giza is the western bank of the Nile and Cairo is
the eastern side of the Nile.) Many people tend to think of the
pyramids as completely surrounded by desert, but that isn’t so.
In fact, just across the street from the spot where I’m standing
in the earlier picture, you can find one of those combination
KFC-Pizza Hut restaurants. Perhaps the most interesting location
in the world for them --- imagine sitting munching your fried
chicken while gazing on an open view of the Sphinx and the Great
One thing that definitely stood out when I first arrived were
there were walls, and on the walls, there were guard towers.
In the towers there were guards, with guns. Machine guns
and rifles. At first, this was very upsetting as I was
fearful, but I was told they were the police, and here, we are
taught that the police are good and they protect us.
Little did I know the real truth. Luckily, it wasn't until
I returned home that I learned the real truth about the Egyptian
police! And the Egyptian people did not commence their
revolution until after I had returned home. Whew!
jamband known as
Grateful Dead purportedly were reading over a translation of
parts of the Book of the Dead when they came across the phrases,
"We now return our souls to the creator, as we stand on the edge
of eternal darkness. Let our chant fill the void in order that
others may know. In the land of the night the ship of the sun is
drawn by the grateful dead." The name stuck.
Wikipedia contributors, "Jam Band,"
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
Wikipedia contributors, "Grateful Dead," Wikipedia, The Gree