The Giza Pyramids stand 13km from Cairo’s city center, visible from many parts of the city. Three pyramids, the Great Sphinx, minor tombs, a workers’ village and several ancient cemeteries make up the archaeological site on the Giza plateau. They are one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a UNESCO site and the one attraction you should see if you have time for nothing else while in Cairo. The pyramids were built as burial tombs for three generations – the grandfather, Khufu was buried in the Great Pyramid; his son, Khafre is buried in the second pyramid and his son Menkaure was buried in the smallest of the pyramids.
The Great Pyramid of Giza (Pyramid of Cheops or Pyramid of Khufu) was built in approximately 2560-2540BC. This is the largest and best preserved of the pyramids made of about 1,300,000 blocks each weighing between 2.5 tons and 15 tons and reaching a height of 137 meters. There are a number of tunnels and burial chambers in this pyramid and the others. Visitors enter the pyramid into a narrow tunnel with a low roof so that you have to remain bent over while ascending a flight of stairs to the burial chambers.
In front of the Great Pyramid is the Boat Museum which houses an ancient royal vessel which was discovered dismantled in a pit south of the pyramid. The boat (and another boat which remains in a different pit) would have been used as a funeral boat or as a symbolic solar bark for the king to use in his afterlife. The boat has been painstakingly restored and reconstructed.
The Pyramid of Khafre (Pyramid of Chephren) is smaller than the Great Pyramid and recognizable by the original casing stones at the peak of the structure. It was built as a burial chamber for the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Khafre who ruled c.2558-2532BC. This pyramid stands 136 meters tall but is on a higher part of the plateau so appears to be taller than the Great Pyramid. The burial chamber in this pyramid is below ground and reached via a passageway which descends at a 25° angle. The burial chamber holds a black sarcophagus.
The Pyramid of Menkerinos (Pyramid of Mykerinos) is the smallest of the three pyramids. It was built in c.2510BC as a burial tomb for the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Menkerinos. This pyramid stands 62 meters high and has a different kind of outer stone casing than the other two pyramids. Inside the pyramid has a subterranean burial chamber.
It is possible to enter the pyramids but they are never all open at the same time as they are open on a rotational basis and there is a limit to the number of tourists allowed inside the pyramids each day. To enter the pyramids you will need to first pay your ticket from the ticket office. It is possible to get a camel or horse ride at the foot of the plateau.