Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gazing at Giza Again . . .

Giza seen from the air (Wikipedia)
When we left Cairo to take a day trip up the Nile to Giza, I was surprised by how close the pyramid complex at Giza was to the actual town of Giza, which is now the second largest city in Egypt at a healthy 7.8 million. One moment, we are in a dense city; the next at Giza, that burial complex of kings.

Seeing these pyramids was absolutely a thrill. We spent just one day exploring these pyramids.
The Terrifying One (Camp 2004)

Dubbed "The Terrifying One" in Arabic, the Great Sphinx remains an awesome sight -- despite its missing nose. I long believed that Napoleon's soldiers shot off the nose around the turn of the 19th Century, but research reveals no additional bullet holes! I discovered that in 1378, well before Napoleon, a Sufi preacher named Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr, angered by people who worshiped the Sphinx, took a crowbar to the nose to destroy its spirit. For his efforts, he was hanged and buried at the base of the statue.

The Great Sphinx and Khafre's Pyramid (Camp 2004)

Khafre's pyramid is seen above directly behind the Sphinx with its limestone cap still in place. The limestone casing was applied to reflect the sun throughout the day. 

At the foot of Khufu's pyramid, we discovered the excavation site of a solar boat. Layered over with massive stones, the solar boat (now displayed in a museum at the Giza complex) is ready to take the spirit of Khufu to the heavens to be reunited with Ra, the sun god.  

Solar boat excavation near Khufu's Pyramid  (Camp 2004)

Solar Boat Museum, Giza (Camp 2004)
We could walk entirely around this solar boat. Sometimes called a funeral barge or a royal barge, this solar boat was made of cedar wood from Lebanon. It had no mast and no sail, but would be powered by the Pharaoh's attendants wielding ten pairs of oars. What intrigues me about this boat is its purpose, to carry the soul of the Pharaoh to the heavens. I found on Wikipedia that during the time of the Pharaohs, the Milky Way was positioned over Egypt in such a way that in the early morning, the sun appeared at the foot of the Milky Way and traveled along its entire body, at sunset appearing to fall from the tail of the Milky Way. Wikipedia provides an image of the Milky Way as the ancient Egyptians may have seen it.

At the base of Khufu's
Pyramid (Camp 2004)
That's me, standing next to one of these massive pyramids, actually touching the stone. Reverentially, of course! My notes from our visit say approximately 2.3 million blocks were used to build Khufu's pyramid. Each of these stone blocks weighed about 2.3 tons.

Herodotus reports that the builders of the pyramids worked in three-month shifts for 20 years, 100,000 men at a time. The longer the pharaoh lived, the more time he would have to build a lasting memorial and resting place for his soul, but not every pharaoh lived a long life.

Note: I'm writing about a trip we took to Egypt in 2004 to share my memories and photos. I hope you enjoy these virtual trips!

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