The landmark of a magnificent engineering feat
Journey back to Cairo from Alexandria was comparatively quick. I was on my last leg for a couple of days in Egypt. I had started loving this country and the people. As I mentioned the tourism industry in other countries should learn a few tricks from this part of the world. They have so much to showcase to the world. The not completely utilized the ancient world is still lying there to explore and get amused by every single corner of the country.
Do you know, Egypt has something or other for every type of traveler. If you are a leisure traveler, go for long Nile cruises. If you delve in adventure sports, the Red and Mediterranean sea is right in front of you waiting to be explored through Scuba diving. If you are interested in history, you are in an unmatched paradise or an open book to study till you are tired. Egypt’s tourism industry lacks only one thing. Nothing to showcase modern-day technological wonders like Disney land or Eye of London or Waterworld of Dubai or Singapore. Oh! is that so? I have just now contradicted myself in the last few sentences. Open your eyes and relish ancient technological wonders in the form of gigantic statues, Pyramids, Sphinx, and what not. Still if you insist on modern and advanced wonders which attract younger members of your family, Egypt will slightly disappoint them on its face. But hold on till that point. Egypt teaches you heritage which is already excavated and still buried under sand can give you Goosebumps. Your kid can learn the history and might find something interesting which can become his career.
My next two days were divided into three parts. Pyramids, Khan Market, and Cairo Museum.
I realized, my planning sucked when I planned my itinerary for this country. I shouldn’t have dumped plans of diving and sightseeing in one bag of wishlist. I was repenting every day.
These two days, I literally had to touch and zoom past. Realized this especially when I visited the Cairo museum the next day. I will come to that part in my next section dedicated to the Cairo Museum.
Pyramids at Giza:
After returning from Alexandria, the next day Giza Pyramids sightseeing was planned.
I had started researching information on the internet. In Cairo, the internet was much better than in other parts of Egypt. The wealth of information unfolded looked pretty impressive. Never in my whole tour, I felt repent on choosing this country and next two days, there might be a peak point of that decision. I was going to witness the only remaining ‘Wonder’ from 7 wonders of the world’.
There were many questions in my mind about why, how, and when these Pyramids were built. To get the answers, we have to dig deep into Egyptian history. The digging has to be very deep when Egypt’s civilization was one of the richest and powerful 4000 years back.
I am talking about the period which is the start of the old kingdom, The period when Pharaohs were not just considered as rulers of the kingdom but were treated as a connection between Sun God Ra and his followers on earth. Every Pharoah was a god himself. Horus, the falcon god who is considered to be a protector of Sun God. When their soul departed from body, they became Osiris, the god of the dead.
If you have read my earlier blog on Luxor’s Valley of Kings, you will recollect the tombs of many kings that were found, so Pharoahs’ tombs have to be glorious than those tombs. So those were called Pyramids.
One more fact I realized. Though I was going to visit The Great Pyramids of Giza, there are Pyramids built in other parts of this side of Egypt, too. The Giza Pyramids are the epitome of Egypt’s ancient heritage.
These Pyramids were built not only to protect their mummified bodies. They were built in such a way with angled sides which connotes the sun rays. When they died their soul left the body and ascend towards heaven to be part of their god, Amun Ra, Sun God, so the Pyramids were pointed towards the sky where heaven is considered to be. There are lots of smaller tombs found around these great Pyramids which are of their courtesans. The concept of accompanying their beloved Pharoah.
Have you noticed the structure of the Great Pyramid from outside? Like steps climbing towards the sky, where heaven is supposed to be. But on these steps, I noticed there was also a polished layer which is now in a bad shape as that was used at some other constructions. The current Egyptian rule has forbidden to do so. Now every single piece of history found is preserved well, still, there are lot many links waiting to be excavated.
The Great and largest Pyramid of Giza and world:
I was going to visit the much celebrated Giza’s Great Pyramids which showcases Egypt’s glorious past and rich heritage. I couldn’t resist comparing today’s sightseeing what tourist does. clicking their pics in front of these sites. Actually, my guide insisted on me doing so. You could see some pics with the guide’s value-added as a job.
Once you leave behind Cairo’s modern structures and enter the red desert, you witness the three Pyramids’ tops rising out of the heat of red sand. This can be clearly seen as a sunrise out of an ocean.
As Hamdy started giving his guide speech, some of which I had already read but didn’t interrupt him. Normally locals know more than sometimes google knows. After all, google collects its data from netizens and not from local sources. These three Pyramids vary in heights. The Great Pyramid is about 750+ ft from the base was built for Pharaoh Khufu.
Though Khufu reigned for 23 years. Even though not much is known regarding his rule, but he is famous for his tomb, The Great Pyramid. The stories of its grandeur, the precision with it is built, the stories of tomb raiders and their raids, the articles stolen from his tombs. The original height of 481.4 feet, makes this Pyramid the largest pyramid in the world.
Pharoah Khufu’s dynasty believed in building Pyramids and the tradition continued with his son and grandson.
The middle pyramid at Giza:
Second, the middle Pyramid next to the Great Pyramid was built for Khufu’s son Pharaoh Khafre. You can say, it’s the second tallest Pyramid in the world with his tomb in it.
A pecularity of this pyramid is the statue of The Great Sphinx which guards the tomb against evil powers. This is the largest statue of the ancient world at the dimensions of 240 ft length and 66ft tall. It is believed to be created using Pharaoh Khafre’s face as a model.
You can find these Sphinx statues in Aswan and Luxor also. All made in sandstone, head of a human and lion’s body.
The last Pyramid of Giza:
As the tradition continued from Grandfather, Khafre’s son Menkaure had his own Pyramid which is the third and relatively shorter than his Grandfather and father’s pyramids. Perhaps to respect his ancestors, the height was kept lower.
Also one can see a tomb that was found closeby of Khufu’s mother. Like other pyramids, Khufu’s Pyramid is surrounded by rows of mastabas which are also tombs. These mastabas structures were the origins of Pyramids’ designs. Pyramids engineering exploration story had started from this structure. Later on, those Mastabas were adopted for preserving mummified bodies of Pharaoh’s relatives or courtiers of the king who wished to accompany and travel to heaven in his afterlife.
Even the Great Pyramid has a company of three very small pyramids that were built for his queens.
The big question:
Who Built The Pyramids?
Do you think, aliens built them or just humans like you and me? Carrying such huge sandstone slabs and placing it one on each other, was a herculean task without cranes and. This required the brain of a master engineer.
According to Hamdy, history says these pyramids were built by slaves or foreigners forced into labor. I think I saw in one of the Hollywood movies of laborers carrying huge stone slabs on slopes with the use of pulleys wooden rollers.
The research was conducted on skeletons excavated from the area. The carbon dating and DNA results were matching with Egyptians of those Pyramids era. May be of the laborers worked during farming’s offseason when the Nile river used to flood fields.
By the rough estimates, more than 2 million blocks of sandstone with an average weight of 2.5 tons each were cut, transported, and used to build The Great Pyramid. As per historians building of the Great Pyramid took 20 years with the labor of 20,000 men which was much lesser than earlier estimated 5 times more than the actual number.
Developing pyramid-building techniques:
While all those statics gives us a headache. More than the actual building of the structure, but to develop techniques to build them spread over centuries is one of the marvels which is a bigger loss to our generation. It was a trial and error method that today’s engineers are taught in their curriculum.
Under the rulership of pharaoh Snefru, Pharoah Khufu’s father, three pyramids were built and those were the real Pyramids with Granyite’s smooth-faced outer surface which is considered as true pyramids. So now I realized, these are the origins of technological evolution.
Khufu, son of Snefru, learnt the lessons from his forefather’s experiments. With all those learnings he was able to construct the ‘Great Pyramid,’ and it proved to be the largest one in the world.
The end of Pyramids era:
Do you think, one style of any tradition will last till the world ends? Not so, Pyramids were not exceptions to that law. By the time the Sixth dynasty came to power by end of the 24th century BCE, Pharaohs were losing their aura of divine status, so as prosperity and the Egyptian government’s stronghold over the kingdom. Egypt was going through a turbulent phase. The last king built his pyramid at Saqqara, a nearby place but with much lesser valor and grandness. Though after a couple of centuries, some kings tried to build, those were nowhere near their forefathers’ pyramids and lost in history.
What is left today:
Even though the grandeur is lost due to robbers who removed most of the Mummified bodies and their belongings, limestone coverings which lowered their heights, still Pyramids are attracting millions of tourists to witness Egypt’s rich heritage and glorious past.
So here I end Pyramids part of Egypt’s exploration. Still, one and half-day was left and I have to two more sites as per the itinerary.
Some parts of the information references are taken from History.com
Khan el Khalili Market:
I was on the outskirts of Cairo and after the Pyramid visit, we had a plan to return to Cairo for a visit to Khan market.
Every place in the country has one such bazaar or market. It portrays the country’s art and heritage which cannot be accomplished by an art museum. From here tourists can take back memories besides photographs of that country or place’s tip. These memories cannot be duplicated by your friends’ or neighbor’s houses even if they buy from eCommerce sites.
Khan el Khalili is such a market formed by an animal trader way back in the 14th century. Before entering the market, Hamdy warned me of not getting lost as this has numerous allies and many shops. He was right which I witnessed after entering. A maze of narrow roads and almost every lane looks the same.
This bustling ironic market with a tradition of 6 centuries, switched its avtaar from a place which not welcomed for the general public to market for diversified regions to sell their art, precious and rare items.
A must visit place:
Today, this has changed into a landmark tourist Venue and boiling point for all the cultures. No tourist’s visit to Egypt is treated as completed without visiting this market. That’s not true only for tourists but for locals also in the form of Jewellery shops sells which sells a truly authentic craft. This market has everything. One can say, it’s a modern-day super mall. The only difference is, it’s not multistoried, but spread across the place on the ground. There are many recreational venues such as coffee houses, street food vendors, restaurants, and providers of textile, jewelry, rare spices herbs amongst others.
I was like a kid left in a toy story captivated by variant architectural styles & Building methodology, although distinctly oriental, mesmerised, and dumbfoundingly amazed.
Bargain till you gain:
I was told by Hamdy, to let him know what exactly I am looking for and he would take me to those places directly, but first I wanted to get soaked in the experience. I was looking for some authentic Egyptian art, but not too costly. So he promised me to negotiate on the behalf. Every I tried to haggle for hand-blown muski glass goblets and hand-made leather slippers. I had forgotten, how I was carrying back home as I always travel with loads of luggage primarily because of my diving equipment, but still I picked up a few pieces to gift my friends. I could have also chosen some attar (fragrant essential oil) in delicate perfume bottles for not using it but as a decorative piece. I bought one and lost it somewhere while shifting houses.
I was done with most of the places in and nearby Cairo. The only place which was the last, but most important place left was Cairo Museum which was on my next day agenda. A place which is collection of ancient civilisation which no other museum has except museum in London. But London museum is full of collection from all over world which British stole during their Raj on half of the world.
In my last blog on Egypt, lets explore what Cairo museum has to offer through my view.