The most famous pyramids are found at Giza. They were built by three pharaohs Cheops (or Khufu*), Chephren (Khafre*) and Mycerinus (Menkaure*) during the second half of the third millennium B.C. This site is one of the seven classic wonders of the ancient world, the only one that has survived the passage of time. The other six are the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (in Bodrum, Turkey), the statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Turkey), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Pharos of Alexandria.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the three at Giza, is estimated to comprise as many as 2.5 million limestone blocks with an average weight estimated at 2.5 tonnes (2.5 tons). The entire structure was encased in a fine white polished limestone brought from the hills at Tura, on the opposite side of the Nile. This highly prized material was removed in the 16th century and used to decorate mosques in Cairo.
When completed, the Great Pyramid stood 146.6 metres (481 feet) tall, and its base was 230.3 metres (756 feet) square. The capstones (pyramidions) of all the pyramids were made of solid polished granite. For conservation reasons, they have been removed to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where they are on display.
At the moment, only the Great Pyramid is open to the public. (For conservation reasons, the others are closed.) After climbing a number of steps, one enters through a narrow passage on the north side. This passage leads to a sloping corridor with a low ceiling where one is obliged to bend over while climbing up a ramp. The ramp leads to a passage with a high ceiling called the Grand Gallery, from where stairs lead to the king's burial chamber. Good walking shoes and light clothes are advised for anyone entering the pyramid. The climb is strenuous and the narrow passages tend to trap the heat.
|The king's burial chamber is located in the middle of the pyramid, high above ground, and a series of relieving chambers were built above it to prevent it from collapsing.|
*The pharoah's Greek name is followed by his Egyptian name in brackets.