Wonders Never Cease (Giza, Egypt)

The plateau of Giza houses the most famous constructions in human history; the pyramids of Cheops, Chephren, Mycerinus and the Sphinx. The other smaller ones here belong to the queens. It is said that when Cheops became the king of Egypt, there was no place at the royal necropolis in Dahshur for his own pyramid. He moved his court and residence further north towards a commanding rock cliff, ideal for a gigantic pyramid. Thus was born the ‘Wonder’ that did not need any speculation about its appearance, shape and size.

One whole day can be easily spend in the plateau; lazing around at ones own pace, admiring and welcoming the ‘wonders’ with the soft sun and bidding goodbye with the sunset followed by the famous “son et lumiere”i.e. the sound and light show.

There are two entrances to the plateau and we took the village side to get the feel of the place and the first grand structure that awed us immediately was none other than the Sphinx.

Carved out of a huge piece of limestone, the haunting architectural masterpiece, The Sphinx, resides majestically in the Giza plateau. The Arabians call it Abu-al-Hol i.e. “The Father of Terror” and the ancient Greeks called this cat like man “The Sphinx.” Resembling a winged monster with a lion body and a woman’s head, the Sphinx was a massive structure. According to Greek mythology, it was noted for killing anyone unable to answer its riddle. Itself a riddle, we visitors, thronged to experience this architectural wonder to find out what it had to reveal. Even though it was marvelous, the weary face of the Sphinx revealed the roughness of Nature on it. The nose and the beard had broken off and the natural glaze was also quietly fading away. It is believed that either Napoleon or the Turks broke off the nose and the beard of the Sphinx during their target practice, some adventurers carried these off and finally it is now hosted by the British Museum of London.

 Walking past the Sphinx we took the road that runs through the plateau and almost touches the three structures there. An unusually interesting thing in the plateau was the Solar Barque Museum. Along the eastern and southern sides of Cheops’ pyramid were discovered five long pits which perhaps contained the boats of the pharaoh. These solar barques were used to bring the mummy of the dead pharaoh across the Nile to the temple from where it was ceremoniously brought up the causeway to be placed in the chamber. One of the ancient boats still exists and is carefully restored on the second floor of the museum. We were asked to cover our shoes and enter the premises where we had a grand view of the boat and the pits that were discovered.

At any time of the year only two pyramids are open for the public to visit and for us it was the ones of Chephren and Mycerinus; the two smaller ones. Interestingly, the pyramid of Chephren still has some of its original casing intact, towards the tip of the structure. Apart from the entrance fee, there were separate tickets for visiting the pyramids. Even though the pyramid of Chephren looked bigger than his father’s, it is much smaller in size and the entrance is as claustrophobic as all other tombs we had earlier visited. The large granite sarcophagus of the king still lies in the burial chamber.

The pyramid of Mycerinus was much smaller, with extensive damage done to the exteriors. In the interior, a hall goes down from the entrance through a corridor that leads to a small chamber and a few rooms.

The general view around was awesome; especially the vast desert that faded in the horizon. There were quite a few tour groups who had joined the safari to Saqqara. They rode on horses and camels and would cross the desert to reach the other side of the desert.

After the sunset we returned once again, this time to witness the sound and light show. There is an open air seating arrangement in the cafeteria facing the Sphinx and the English show started in its scheduled time. Taking the role of a narrator, the Sphinx related his tales of centuries that has gone by. In an enchanting atmosphere, with sound, light and music, the show captivated us and made us re-live every moment of the ancient times with the great Pyramids that had almost come to life with the play of floodlights on their symmetrical planes and angles.

The show ended and we returned, admiring the grand structures and the architectural expertise that went with it.