Cairo, Egypt
30° 2' N 31° 15' E
Feb 11, 2008 16:34
Distance 314km

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Text written in: English

Pyramids and Museums

Cairo. Monday, February 11th.

Today was pyramid and museum day. Started off by heading to the pyramid at Giza. I imagined the pyramids would be in the middle of the desert and far away from Cairo. Not so. They are in the suburbs, right next to the city and the city is growing past them.

There are three pyramids at the Giza site. They are Khufu, Khafre and Menhaure. They were built about 5,122 years ago. The tallest is Khufu, which is 146 metres in height,  or as tall as a 50 story building. Next to it, separated by about 100 metres is Khafre, which is 140 metres high. Hiding behind Khafre is Menhaure, which is only 62 metres tall. I bought a ticket to go into Khafre, but after going only about 5 metres into the small tunnel I turned around. The tunnel would take about 2 minutes to go down, more than I can stomach, and the tunnel was crowded with people going up and down. Climbed up a small portion of one of the pyramids - these blocks of stone are very large. It is estimated that the largest pyramid is made up of 2.3 million blocks. The larger pyramids took about 20 years and 10,000 workers to build. What we see now as the outside of the pyramid is not the original exterior. When they were built they had a granite shell, which was polished such that it glowed in the sunshine. Over time, these granite stones have been stolen or removed and used for local construction. Other than the second pyramid, which has some of the granite still on the top, there is no granite left.

For those interested in physics, normally gravity causes things to fall at 9.8 metres per second, but inside the pyramids it falls at 9.4 metres. The ratio of the length of the inner chamber is pi (you know from the circumference of a circle) times its height. This is common for all pyramids, of which there are 97 in Egypt. It seems the Egyptians were aware of pi well before the Greeks were.

In front of the pyramids at Giza is the Sphinx. The Sphinx is large, but compared to the pyramids behind it, it does not look that large, but it is very grand. Overall, it is an awesome sight to see three pyramids and the sphinx in one sighting. For the record, it seems that every pyramid has a sphinx in front of it; three smaller pyramids for the owner's wife and first and second daughter, and a boat buried in the sand near it.

After lunch we went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It has 1.3 million objects on display. It is in an old building, but the volume of the displays is overwhelming. Where do you start? We had an excellent guide who took us thru a limited number of the exhibits. We were only there for about 3 hours, and for once I could have spent more time in a museum. Looked at dozens of stone sphinxes and carvings of various pharaohs and their tombs. Upstairs, there are hundreds of mummy's tombs and cases. It is too much to comprehend in a short time. Might go back when I am back in Cairo later this week.

Facts on Cairo and Egypt. Depending on how and who you count, upwards of 20 million citizens. Traffic is a mess, and parking crazy. Parking is free in Cairo (except at the airport), and there are no rules as to where you cannot park. Needless to say, cars are everywhere. As a courtesy, you should park your car in neutral so others can move it if it is in the way. Gas in about 20 cents a litre. People work 5 hours a day. Only 4% of Egypt can be used for agriculture. 31% of the population of 70 million is Eastern Orthodox, 60+% is Muslim and the balance is Jewish or whatever. You do not see many photos of the current ruler or president (Mubark), which is a first for me to see in a developing country. More useless data coming, will accumulate as I go.

Photos / videos of "Pyramids and Museums":

Boat in a museum next to the pyramids.  Each pyramid should have a boat buried next to it.  This boat was discovered recently. Looking directly up the face of one of the pyramids.  
The second pyramid, Khafre.  This is the only pyramid of these three that still has the granite stones on the top.  Most of these granite stones have been removed and used as home building materials in the surrounding area.  This pyramid is about 140 metres tall. The first pyramid, Khufu.  First, as it was the first of these three to be built and also the tallest, being 146 metres.  This is the same as the height of  a 50 story building!! The blocks of the pyramid.  Each block weighs about 2,500 pounds, or about 1000 k.  They are about 1 metre tall,  and upwards of 2 metres deep and long.  The largest of the pyramids has 2.3 million such blocks. Top granite portion of the second (Khafre) pyramid. Not to scale.  Still having trouble with the short hair.
Top of the tallest pyramid.  Once a year, on Independence Day, a flag of Egypt is put into this metal stand and anyone who wishes to can climb to the top.  Record is 7 minutes and 22 seconds held by a Dutch man.  It looks like it would be easy, but these blocks are large. Viewing the three pyramids of Giza from a distance.  In the background is Cairo.  The pyramids are on the outskirts of the city, not in the middle of nowhere or out in the distant desert. The first and second pyramid.  The one in the foreground looks larger but it is 6 metres less tall, but standing on  higher ground.
The smallest of the pyramids at Giza.  This one, Menhaure, is 62 metres tall. Corny or tacky shot, but everyone does it.  Background is the pyramid Khafre. Sphinx in front of the pyramid site.  Each pyramid should have a sphinx in front of it.  
Close-up of the Sphinx.  It is cut out of one stone.  The front nose has been broken off for the last 500 years.  The darker spots are birds nesting on the statue. A different angle of the pyramids and Sphinx.
Half human and half lion, it was intended to scare off evil spirits.