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The last surviving Wonder of the Ancient World

This is without exception, the highlight of any trip to Egypt, including Cairo, Luxor, Aswan or Abu Simbel. Giza is in any case a suburb of the ever expanding Cairo, where the houses have reached literally the very limit of the fences that separate it from the Giza Plateau necropolis. Not a very wise decision, as it’s not any more as impressive as it would have been to arrive to Giza and see the magnificent Pyramids in full from far, and not a Pizza Hut for example, right opposite the Sphinx entrance!

The first and most impressive, complete, historical and largest of the ancient Pharaohs necropolis is Giza; then at just few kilometres to the south is Abusir, the next funerary complex which is closed to visitors, at least by the time of our trip here. And immediately south of Abusir is the enormous Saqqara site, home to the first and oldest pyramid ever built in humanity (the Step Pyramid, or Pyramid of Djoser), with many others from larger to much smaller, many tombs, the Imhotep Museum and the amazing Serapeum.

The last of the necropolis complexes within an acceptable distance from Cairo, is Dahshur, where you will find the first true smooth-sided pyramid ever built, The Red Pyramid of Sneferu; and one of the very last ever built by the ancient Egyptians, the Bent Pyramid; unique in the way that has two different angles since they did not know anymore how to really build perfect pyramids and had and angle miscalculation where if continuing at the initial angle, the whole structure would have collapsed, however changing its angle to a smaller one half way the construction meant stability yet its unique odd look. Completing this funerary complex among others, is the Black Pyramid of Sneferu, nowadays collapsed, however the original maze of corridors still intact underground.

All these three necropolis will make a full packed day of exploring, from the very early morning when the complexes open until their closure by around 18.00pm. This has been by all means the most magnificent visit to any ancient archaeological site ever in my life, and might certainly be your case too. No matter how tired you will end your day, it would have been worth every minute that’s or sure. Just try to be as comfortable as possible, for example being with my memory foam flipflops saved my feet to be honest, comfy shorts and t-shirt. Do not forget to bring sun cream and water, although you can find some stalls selling super cheap water all around the site.

People tend to forget that aside from the Giza Plateau, the other ones do exist and are as amazing as Giza or even more. Do not make this mistake by visiting only the Giza Plateau. You will have a truly unique experience by getting to the other complexes, and not just only because each of them offer something unique the other does not have, but because of the extraordinary great level of preservation, the easy way to get there, and as added value, you will be almost on your own to explore Dahshur and the possibility to get inside the Red Pyramid of Sneferu likely alone, which is to my personal experience, even a better experience than the Great Pyramid of Khufu or the pyramid of Khafre.

As an idea of how much we paid for a taxi driver to be with us for the whole day back in 2013, that was give or take some 30 Euros. If you plan to do something similar, unless of course you are in an organised tour, have that in mind and try to aim for a similar quotation even that many years after our first trip. Their local currency has devaluated brutally in the last years and everything is way cheaper than back then, therefore I would not be surprised you get a private taxi driver for the day even cheaper. In the other hand, after the introduction of Uber in the country, getting an Uber or taxi within the app has become super simple and you know at all times what price you will end up paying upfront. Sounds incredible, but an Uber or taxi trip from downtown Cairo to Dahshur comes to less than 6 Euros per way, between Dahshur and Saqqara less than 2 Euros, and between Saqqara and Cairo some 3 Euros. Now while it is straightforward finding the ride between Cairo and Dahsur, and Saqqara to Cairo, it might be more complicated timewise waiting, between Dahsur and Saqqara for what the best option is to ask the drive to wait for you and you only pay the time they spend waiting for you or negotiate some price.

For more information about the necropolis complexes check Wikipedia site, where everything is very well explained. Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.

Giza Plateau

How to get from Cairo

If you are staying at any of the hotels next to the plateau, then you could easily walk to the entrance. The Pyramids entrance gates are next to the big hotels, while the Sphinx entrance is by the hostels and low budget accommodations.

Whichever the case, either if you are next or not and unless you are in an organised tour as they take you everywhere door to door, the best option is to get a taxi or Uber. What’s the plus with the drivers? They can get in the complex and drive you around point to point as you wish. Remember temperatures in the desert with no shadow and plain empty paths from a place to another can be seriously difficult to manage on foot otherwise.

Tickets and how to plan the visit

There are 2 ticket offices. The first is near the main entrance of the Great Pyramid and the second near the Sphinx, in the eastern part of the Plateau. It costs EGP240 to enter the site, plus EGP220 to enter the Pyramids of Khafre or Menkhaure each, and EGP900 for the Khufu’s one.

If you enter the site by the Pyramids gate, then head first for the Khafre Pyramid to get inside (if you bough the ticket for it). This way you will avoid the many people with the same idea that starts to build up in the queue, and therefore, having a better experience. The corridors inside are really small, and up/down is along the same way, for what the less people the better. After this Pyramid, you can still get inside the other 2 if you bought the tickets for these, or walk around the area and the smaller Queen Pyramids (one of them opened for visit and included with your general admission ticket). There are also some tombs in the Northern Cemetery which can be visited.

Once you have seen this area, the best next option is going to the viewing point for the panoramic view. Your taxi driver will take you here. Once again, be aware that if you are not considering in having a driver, the walk will be long and extremely tiring not to mention dangerous, as there is absolutely not even a corner where to hide from the sun and heat. From the viewing point you will get the famous view of the 3 Great Pyramids, and a 4th, this is a Queen’s one. In reality, the site has 9 pyramids, 3 for the Kings and 6 for the Queens. Should you want to have an even better view with 6 pyramids at once, then you will need to move further away, but there is no path nor road. You will see people getting there on camels.

After the panoramic views, all is left is the Sphinx area. Your taxi driver will take you right to the entrance. You will need to show the main ticket for re-entry to the site once again. In here, you will have plenty of options on how and where to capture the best pictures as you like. You can enter through the side temple, which leads to the main entrance of the Valley Temple of Khafra, and from the main original causeway leading to the Khafra Pyramid, you can admire the Sphinx in full.

Main sights to see

  • Sphinx Possibly the most worldwide known monumental statute. With the body of a lion, fae of a human, it is the largest ever built by the Egyptians.
  • Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) The only surviving 7th Wonder of the Ancient World. The largest and tallest ever built, and over 4600 years later, still captivating the world.
  • Pyramid of Khafre The second largest in the Giza plateau, it was built for the Pharaoh Khafre, son of Khufu.
  • Pyramid of Menkaure The third of the great pyramids, and the smaller of this trio.
  • Queens’ Pyramids There are 6 in total and in different states of conservation, but generally very poor.
  • Nobles’ Tombs Located in regimented cemeteries surrounding the royal pyramids.
  • Tomb of Seshemnufer IV It can be explored from the inside.

Saqqara Complex

Hot to get from Giza

It is located 25 km from the Giza Plateau towards the south. It will just be around 30 minutes by road no matter if on an organised tour or a taxi/Uber. Avoid getting into multiple buses, this way it will only make you loose a lot of time, not to mention the almost impossible hassle trying to figure the buses and matching the times under the heat.

Tickets and how to plan the visit

The site opens from 08.00am until 17.00pm during the summer months, closing earlier in winter months and during Ramadan. Admission is EGP450 for the general area, with extra cost for getting inside certain monuments, for example the Serapeum EGP 270, the Tomb of Mereruka EGP 150 or EGP 240 for the Southern Tomb in Djoser complex. It is a quite large area, and some tombs are located actually away from the central areas, therefore, it will be handy to have your driver to take you closer to some of them.

The main sight with difference is the Step Pyramid of Djoser. This is in fact, the first and oldest pyramid ever built by the Egyptians, at the time when they did not know yet how to construct smooth-sided pyramids; and as you can see, it’s really great preserved although the height is now reduced because of loosing its encasing layers. This pyramid is located at one far end of the enclosing and once fully walled area. The original entrance to the complex has been rebuilt, so it gives you an idea of what the whole site might have looked like.

Outside of the walled complex there are many tombs, some of which you can enter and still admire the paintings and hieroglyphs. Other pyramids can only be guessed from the pile of rubble they are now. Further important places outside of the main area not to be missed are the Mastaba of Ti, Serapeum and Philosophers circle.

Main sights to see

  • Djoser Step Pyramid With difference, the most important building in the whole complex, and ancient Egypt in general, as this is the oldest recorded to date pyramid. Bear in mind it is not opened to the general visit, but you can walk the whole perimeter outside.
  • Funerary complex Containing many tombs open to visitors.
  • Mastaba of Ti The best decorated funerary architecture in Egypt.
  • Serapeum A big underground network of tunnels and giant sarcophaguses everywhere, all dedicated to sacred bulls of the Apis cult.

Dahshur Complex

How to get from Saqqara

It is some 10 km further south from Saqqara. In fact, from Saqqara, you can clearly see this other necropolis in the desert, therefore the little time invested coming here from the other is well worth it. Your taxi driver can enter in the whole complex, for what there is no need for you to walk from one pyramid to the other, as distances here are much bigger than at the previous sites.

Tickets and how to plan the visit

The site opens from 8.00am to 17.00pm, admission EGP 150. And the best of it is that you might be all on your own to explore the place! Really few to none tourist come here, mostly as they don’t even know this place exists, or as most of them are in organised tour groups and do not come here. Big error. Not because of the site having anything else than 3 pyramids, but because you have the chance to enter one of the best preserved pyramids of the ancient world, the Red Pyramid of Sneferu, at no extra cost.

So basically, once you enter the site, the first sight will be the Red Pyramid. You can clearly see how well preserved this is, and how big. Notice the small stairs going up, and yes, it’s opened! This pyramid is even better than the Great Pyramid interiors without any doubt. By far you will enjoy it more, as it has more rooms and corridors. Again, as opposed to the Cheops one where you climb up all the time, in this one, first you descent 65 meters, navigate through some corridors and chambers, and then you climb up to the last chambers.

After this pyramid, head towards the Bend Pyramid. There is another small car park right next to it. Notice how impressive this one is the nearer you get, and what is so important on this one? It’s the best preserved pyramid from all the existing ones, in the sense that you can get the idea of how a fully finished pyramid might have looked like, as most of the polished encasing stones are still intact. Funny-wise, this is the last pyramid built by the Egyptians at the time they did not know how to build them anymore. Fascinating how the civilization that had been the longest ever in the planet lost almost all of its knowledge and had to import it and succumb to the Greeks to even survive.

As last, the Black Pyramid. Mostly collapsed, it looks like a mountain of sand and only the original rock core visible. We did not get closer to it, as you can see it from far, but as I found information on the internet, it appears it is opened. The underground maze of corridors is still intact hence a great fact and experience to see.

Main sights to see

  • Sneferu’s Red Pyramid The world’s first smooth sided pyramid built by the humankind.
  • Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid The last pyramid ever built by the Egyptians.
  • Sneferu’s Black Pyramid A pile of rubble to the eye, but intact chambers and corridors.

Photo Galleries

Giza Plateau – October 2022

Giza, Egypt, October 2022

Saqqara and Memphis – October 2022

Saqqara, Egypt, October 2022

Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur – March 2013

Giza, Saqqara & Dahshur, Egypt, March 2013

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