Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pyramids of Giza

The ancient Greeks considered the Great Pyramids to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. They are Egypt’s most visited monuments and among the greatest tourist attractions. For centuries the Great Pyramids of Giza have intrigued and puzzled visitors and, eve in the 20th century, it is difficult to stand before them and not to be overwhelmed. For 4.5 millennia, surviving the rise and fall of great dynasties and outlasting Egypt’s many conquerors, they have shared the desert plateau of Giza with other monuments: smaller attendant pyramids, some for royal wives; rows of mastabas, the tombs of 4th and 5th dynasty princes and nobles; and the imposing figure of the Sphinx.
It was not an obsession with death, or a fear of it, on the part of the ancient Egyptians that led to the construction of these incredible mausoleums; it was their belief in eternal life and their desire to be one with the cosmos. A Pharaoh was the son of a god, and the sole receiver of the Ka, or life force, that emanated from the god. The Pharaoh in turn conducted this vital force to his people, so in life and death he was worshipped as a god.
The mortuary complexes of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus, who were father, son and grandson, including the following: a pyramid, which was the Pharaoh’s tomb as well as repository for all his household goods, clothes and treasure; a funerary temple of the east side of the pyramid; pits for the storage of the Pharaoh’s solar barques, which were his means of transport in the afterlife; a valley temple on the banks of the Nile; and a causeway from the river to Pyramid. The entrance passageways, as with all 80 royal pyramids found in Egypt, face north towards the Pole Star; the tomb chambers inside face west, towards the Kingdom of the Dead; and the mortuary temples outside face east, towards the rising sun.
The pyramids and temples at Giza were built from stone quarried locally and from the Moqattam Hills. Napoleon estimated that there would be enough stones in the three pyramids alone to build a wall, three meters high all around France.
The Pyramid Of Cheops
This great pyramid, the oldest at Giza and the largest in Egypt, stood 146.5 meters high when it was completed around 2600 BC. After 46 centuries its high has been reduced by only nine meters. Approximately 2.5 million limestone blocks, weighing around six million tones, were used in the construction. It supposedly took 10 years to build the causeway and the massive earth ramps used as a form of scaffolding, and 20 years to raise the pyramid itself.
The Pyramid Of Chephren
South-west of the Great Pyramid, and with almost the same dimensions, is the Pyramid of Chephren. At first it seems larger than his father’s, because it stands on higher ground and its peak still has part of the original limestone casing which once covered the whole structure. It is 136.5 meters high (originally 143.5 meters).
The Pyramid Of Mycherinos
At a height of 62 meters (originally 66.5 meters), this is the smallest pyramid of the three. Extensive had done to the exterior by a 16th century caliph who decided he wanted to demolish all the pyramids.

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