Egypt // Cairo and the Pyramids //

The Pyramids of Giza

Of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, only the Pyramids of Giza have withstood the ravages of time. “From the summit of these monuments, forty centuries look upon you”, cried Napoleon. Resembling small triangles from afar and corrugated mountains as you approach, their gigantic mass can seem oddly two-dimensional when viewed from below. Far from being isolated in the desert as carefully angled photos suggest, they rise just beyond the outskirts of Giza City. During daytime, the tourist hordes dispel the mystique (though the site is big enough to escape them), but at sunset, dawn and late at night their brooding majesty returns.

The Pyramids’ orientation is no accident. Their entrances are aligned with the Pole Star (or rather, its position 4500 years ago); the internal tomb chambers face west, the direction of the Land of the Dead; and the external funerary temples point eastwards towards the rising sun. Less well preserved are the causeways leading to the so-called valley temples, and various subsidiary pyramids and mastaba tombs.