First stop this morning is at The Citadel, the castle and mosque of Muhammad Ali (the original–NOT the American boxer!). His tomb is located within the mosque. It is on a hill, high above the city of Cairo, where we get a good view of the, uh, black cloud of pollution hanging over the city. In spite of the pollution, we can see quite a bit of the city from up here, and, though it is more peaceful than down below, the constant sound of honking horns floats up to us. The mosque is very pretty, with its domed ceiling and intricate detail work. Pretty lights are strung across the ceiling. We enjoy a few minutes inside, and then it’s on to the Giza Pyramids!
I am so excited for this! Coming from the USA, where a building that is 200 years old is really “old”, it is amazing to me to be looking at structures that are nearly 5000 years old! The pyramids at Giza are astounding! I wonder, “How on earth did they build them, when each stone block weighed, on average, 2.5 tons?” Cheops’ pyramid (the biggest one, though it doesn’t appear so) alone is built from an estimated 2.3 million blocks. No one knows how they did it, but according to the ancient historian Herodotus, “it took 100,000 workers over 30 years to build this pyramid.” (from LDS TravelStudy Guide, “Egypt”, p. 87) The pyramids of Chephren and Mycerinus are smaller, in deference to their fathers, but no less spectacular. Chephren’s pyramid still has a portion of the original limestone casing at the top. I can only imagine how beautiful the three pyramids must have looked with their original polished limestone and granite faces.
Near the big pyramids, but not as grand or noticeable, are some smaller pyramids, built for the wives of the pharoahs. This contrast in size and grandeur symbolizes in stark reality the lesser role of women throughout Egyptian civilization (and ancient civilizations in general). It is repeated over and over in the pyramids, tombs and temples. (Just an observation–not a political statement)
We have the option of going inside one of the pyramids, with the warning that it is not a particularly pleasant experience. But I am in Egypt, most likely for the one and only time in my life, and I am not going to miss seeing the inside of a legendary pyramid because it is hot, stinky and cramped! If you are truly claustrophobic, don’t go inside, but otherwise, it was worth a few minutes of discomfort. The passageway is only about 4’ X 4’ (I’m estimating), so you have to hunch over and walk down for a ways until you come to level ground, where you can stand up straight for a few feet. Then you have to hunch over again and go up to the sarcophagus room. This is a fairly large room, with an empty stone sarcophagus (box) on one side. It was hot and stuffy in there, and I was very glad to get out, but hey, I had to see the inside. Once upon a time, that room would have been stuffed with treasures of all kinds, but the pyramids have long since been robbed of their treasures.