Giza Revisited

It was back to Giza plateau again today, only this time we were a little more awake. Having surveyed them the other day from the outside, it was now time to go inside and see what we could see.

Once we'd achieved the necessary additional ticketing, a task that is not as easy as it sounds, we were finally granted access into the Great Pyramid (Cheops/Kufru). Initially it's a simple walk through an ever darkening passage, crudely hacked in modern times through one side. But soon enough we reached the start of the main gallery, a steep stairway with an enormously high vaulted ceiling. From here it's up to what is known as the Kings Chamber and the centre of the pyramid or straight ahead to the Queens Chamber.

The Kings Chamber, only 10 metres by 5, is unlike the rest of the pyramid being made of red granite. It contains nothing but a red granite sarcophagus although there is nothing to confirm that this was ever it's purpose. The ceiling is comprised of 9 slabs and weighs 400 tonnes with a further 4 slabs above these precisely positioned to direct weight away from the chamber itself. It is clear that there was never any decoration on these walls and contrary to popular belief, there are no hieroglyphs anywhere in or on this pyramid to give any clues. It's the ultimate statement in minimalist decor.

To get to the Queens Chamber, you have first to crawl/crouch through a metre square tunnel for a back-breakingly long 30 metres before emerging into a chamber slightly smaller than the Kings above. It contains nothing except a stepped arch on one wall, curiously off set and asymmetric which given the precision of the rest of work, cannot have been by accident or error. Unfortunately, looters have at some stage smashed their way through the back of this and it's now hard to tell if the gated tunnel that leads out from here is original, or their handy work.

There is some great purpose to this structure and neither of us feel that the simplistic explanation of it being just an elaborate tomb, is accurate. There are just too many mysterious details within its construction for it to be that easy. Unfortunately, it's just not possible to even begin to get a feel for the place as the next bus unloads its hoard of noisy tourists, who can think of nothing better to do than make ‘ghosty' noises and yell out to see if they can hear an echo of their own highly irritating voice. But such is the nature of something that's been on the tourist route since before the time of Anthony and Cleopatra. One nice touch was climbing up a shaft that at first glance seemed to go nowhere and to find at the top a collection of graffiti. The crudely scratched one dated 1808 was coarse when compared with the precision chiselling of the Romans and Greeks.

Having explored the internals, the only think now left for us to do was to grab a camel and head for the desert and the place where all nine pyramids can be viewed at once from a distance. Brief negotiations and off we went, lurching along aboard these fine beasts. Our two young escorts were good company, offering to take us tomorrow to Saqqara, faintly visible on the horizon across the dunes. But two hours was uncomfortable enough although one day we'd really like to take them up on the offer of a week through the desert and see some of the other 70 odd pyramids that lie along this bank of the Nile. Next trip maybe....