The Pyramids at Giza are not only Egypt’s most renowned icon, but also one of the most universally recognized monuments in existence. Vying with the likes of the Great Wall, the Eiffel Tower, and the Christ Redeemer, it is doubtful exactly which tops the list; but the Pyramids are sure to be up there. Both the oldest and the largest pyramids in the world, and their construction and alignment is so precise that today many are still not certain exactly how they were made, especially in a time of such relatively primitive technology (they are estimated to have been constructed around 4 to 5 thousand years ago).
To stand at the foot of these things and look up at them, and to imagine all the thousands of years they have stood exactly the same, it is an incredible thing.
Be sure to save some time to just walk around and get lost a little way out in the desert. To just go out there and sit, and to imagine.
How to Get There
The pyramids are in Giza, a smaller city technically distinct from Cairo but for all practical purposes the same. I was lucky enough to have a hotel within walking distance of the Pyramids.
You can find them on any map, and either point it out to a taxi (taxis are incredibly cheap in Egypt, by Western standards) or simply take a microbus headed that direction (more on microbuses later). Even if you don’t have a map, you can usually communicate your destination to any driver by simply making an inverted “V” with your hands. They will know what you mean.
How Much Time
Personally, at least four hours, just to really walk around and absorb the entire site (it’s quite big); if you prefer to take things slow. However, two hours, or perhaps three, would be sufficient.
Without a doubt one of the most iconic Egypt experiences is riding a camel at the Great Pyramids. Aside from the simple and awesome joy of riding a camel, it allows you to go out into the desert quickly and see the full view of all three pyramids from afar.
Before you even enter the grounds, you will be assailed on all sides by touts offering rides on camels, horses, or perhaps their neighbor’s goat if they think it can make them money. The first thing any traveler must be confident in while traveling in Egypt is bargaining. Some locals may offer rides for 200 Egyptian Pounds apiece, for 30 minutes, but if you’re good at it you may be able to bargain down to 50 Pounds apiece for 45 minutes to an hour.
Keep in mind the culture is much different, in some cases if you ask them to leave you alone, they may not listen unless you are firm. You must learn that politeness is not your friend. Even simple eye contact can result in an episode of tiresome harassment.
The experience really is amazing, so don’t be discouraged. It’s all part of the joy!
Currently, the price is 80 Egyptian Pounds for entry to the general Pyramid plateau, and 100 more if you wanted to enter the Great Pyramid itself.
On the way up, some will try to convince you that you are only legally permitted to see the pyramids if you take a camel ride up. Don’t believe them.
They will also try to sidetrack you into the stables, assuring you that is the proper way to go. Don’t believe them.
People will point out a patch of ground to you and tell you there is a great photo from there. They will then ask you for money, in return for such helpful advice.
People will tell you it takes hours to walk out to the sphinx or the third pyramid, and the only way to see them is to take a camel ride. It takes all of two minutes to walk from the Sphinx to the Great Pyramid. The third pyramid is a little farther out, but still easily accessible.