Above the horizon, on the outskirts of Cairo, rise the most massive structure mankind has ever seen and the most intact among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Pyramids of Giza speak about the immortalization of Egypt’s great rulers (Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure)– one that the world will never forget.
What used to be a symbol of Egyptian wealth and power has eventually evolved into a testament of the nation’s rich history and culture. Visiting Cairo and Giza means amalgamating the wonders of the ancient realm with the pleasures and liveliness of the modern one–an experience truly worth having.
A Brief History
Located in Egypt’s El Giza province, the Pyramids of Giza are some of the few structures that can be seen from outer space. The biggest in the complex is the Pyramid of Khufu, which was built in 2540 BC in order to serve as the Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb. Although the Pyramid of Khufu was not the first pyramid built in Egypt, it is by far the largest and the most accurate in dimensions. Back in the ancient times, Khufu’s pyramid stood a towering 481 feet, making it the tallest man-made edifice for over three millennia. With the erosion and the time that past, the pyramid grew shorter. Currently, it is standing at 455 feet. The base of the pyramid remains at 756 feet. Located next to Khufu’s pyramid is the structure built by his son Khaefre in 2520 BC. Although it looks bigger than his father’s pyramid, it is actually smaller. The illusion of its size is attributed to the fact that it was built on a plateau 33 feet higher than Khufu’s tomb.
Best Time to Visit
Even though the Cairo area is classified to have a dry climate, it often experiences humidity due to its proximity to the Nile River. Very often, the months of March and April experience high winds and maelstroms of dust and sand. In the summer months, temperatures can reach above 100 degrees Fahrenheit but the lows drop can drop all the way to below 70 degrees. In the winter months, the temperatures cool off considerably. The temperatures usually range somewhere between 63 degrees and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the climate can seem a challenge, there are plenty of times where the area is beautiful and the temperatures are worthy of travel.
The most recommended time to visit this area is normally in the mid-spring, before the summer temperatures reach their highest but after the winter season which can have limited operating hours for a few tourist locations such as: the Pyramid complexes and horse or camel tours. The mid-spring is also the most popular time for everyone to visit as it is the most temperate in terms of climate.
Since Giza is an incredibly popular tourist attraction for millions of people all over the world, many scam-artists from all over the area also congregate there. Reporting any harassment to the Tourist Police and learning some polite Arabic phrases for “No Thank You” is advised. Though there is a possibility of being scammed, many workers are hoping to be helpful and so it is best not to let your entire vacation be ruined by being overly-cautious.
Getting To and Around
The Pyramids are among the world’s greatest attractions that you simply can’t dare to miss. And getting there and around is pretty easy. Here are some of the travel options to and around Giza, the last of which is sure to excite you!
The Cairo International Airport is the closest airport to the Giza area, since Giza has been incorporated as part of the greater Cairo area for a number of years. The two areas are connected by the Pyramids Road. When arriving to Egypt via plane travel, something common for most visitors, Cairo International Airport makes a terrific first impression for the beginning of your vacation.
Taxis are normally the fastest and easiest to find mode of transport in Cairo and Giza. The Pyramids Road is frequented by many automobiles both night and day. It is not often recommended to rent a car and drive on your own while travelling in Cairo as the streets can be both crowded and crazy. It is better to take a taxi but this would be more convenient in many ways as you are not in charge of navigating yourself and taxis are often plentiful but also inexpensive. Many people are surprised at the fact Giza and Cairo are so close together that driving is a practical and realistic option!
The metro in Cairo has a line that extends out to Giza though it does not take you as far as the pyramids. Though it is not as direct a route as a taxi, taking public transportation like the Metro can prove to be an interesting experience for those who want to see more of the local culture.
4) Walking Tours
When it comes to arriving at the pyramids and navigating in those complexes, walking is recommended. Make sure to take your most comfortable walking shoes as it is required to park and then walk around the pyramids. There is a great deal of walking involved in visiting the Giza Plateau but it is well worth it to experience these great antiquities.
Another great way to get to the Pyramids from the center of Cairo is by bus. There are large buses that have central air conditioning and are the preferred mode of travel by many tourists interested in visiting the ancient sites. These more luxurious modes of travel are still surprisingly affordable, thus making them so popular!
This is indubitably the most adventurous option to get around the pyramids. But do take note of the following tips, if you ever want to take this option:
- Bargain hard before you get on the camel.
- Don’t take a photo of the camel unless you are prepared to pay.
- Enjoy the ride, it is a once in a lifetime experience and worth a few bucks.
What to Do
Basking in the view of the Pyramids of Giza is a fun activity in itself, but this is not the only thing you can do in the premises. Here are several activities that can make your trip a fun and memorable one:
1) Join the Pyramid of Giza Tour
A popular way to see the famous pyramids at Giza is to join a Tour Company and follow their itinerary. Finding a good tour company takes a large portion of work out of planning your own trip and very often includes traveling in an air conditioned bus. For those who are interested in this option, it is important to research carefully and choose the best tour to suit your needs.
You can visit the interior of Pyramid of Khufu for just USD 23 (updated 2020). If you want to visit the smallest pyramid of Menkaure, you need to pay an extra USD 7 (updated 2020). For a tour to the Solar Barque Museum, the home of the solar boat that was buried with Pharaoh Khufu, you need to pay an additional USD 7 (updated 2020).
2) Camel- and Horse-Back Riding
Some travelers consider camel rides to be vastly over-rated but they are worth exploring if you are really after it. Camel rides are also offered in other locations around the Giza/Cairo area. Horse rides around the pyramids are considered a great way to experience the desert and the pyramids in iconic Egyptian style. Bargaining for the best price is recommended for most horse or camel rides in the area around the Pyramids of Giza; a fair price range is probably around $32 per person (updated 2020).
An incredibly famous art form in Cairo is belly-dancing. Several higher-end hotels offer belly-dancing performances in their restaurants featuring some of the most famous belly-dancers in Egypt. These dancers very often offer classes for nominal fees for guests who wish to have a more hands-on experience. The opportunity for learning about belly-dance and how to do some simple movements is certainly a unique one!
Shopping in a bazaar is not something to be missed on a vacation to Giza and Cairo. There is something for everyone as well as plenty of people-watching opportunities. Not only is just about everything for sale in a bazaar but bargaining for souvenirs is all part of the experience! The chaotic environment of the bazaar is a great way to get a look into the local culture.
5) Take up Cooking Lessons
The House of Cooking located at 29 Ezz El Din Taha Street, behind Genena Mall in Nasr City, Cairo offers authentic cooking lessons. This hands-on experience is a must-do for those interested in knowing more about the local cuisine and culture.
6) Pyramids Sound and Light Show
The Great Pyramid is a sight itself in the morning, but it boasts of even better views during nighttime. This impressive show starts with the narration of Egypt’s history through the eyes of the Sphinx, as multi-colored lights and lasers flood the Pyramids, Sphinx and the desert sand. VIP tickets cost USD 22.58, tickets for the other rows cost USD 19 (updated 2020).
7) Caliche Ride
Another way to roam around the Great Pyramid complex without tiring your legs out is by riding a caliche, or a horse-drawn carriage. You can hire a caliche driver to take you all around the premises for a price that you and the rider should agree upon beforehand.
While you may be fascinated by the sight of the Pyramids standing tall on arid desert grounds, never forget to take a peek of the attractions around them as well. Check out the list below.
1) The Great Sphinx
The Giza Plateau is home to the world-famous Pyramids at Giza. However, what some do not realize is, in addition to the three main pyramids, the great Sphinx is also located on the Plateau. Other ancient sites at Giza include various other temples and tombs built to house the remains of other members of the Egyptian nobility. It is advised to visit this site early in the day before it gets too crowded.
2) The Al-Tannoura Egyptian Heritage Dance Troupe
Their performances of this dance group has been lauded by most audience members and grant an exclusive look into more of the local culture. These talented dancers incorporate traditional costumes and dances that are wonderfully entertaining and delightfully colorful.
3) Gezira Island
This island is home to some of the more upscale hotels and restaurants between Cairo and Giza. The nightlife here is viewed as some of the best in Cairo and during the day, the gardens around the island are raved about as incredibly beautiful.
4) The Egyptian Antiquities Museum, Cairo
This attraction offers even more to the experience of ancient Egypt. A visit to the Pyramids is greatly enhanced and well-rounded by a visit to the museum, which houses the largest number of ancient Egyptian artifacts such as objects from the Tutankhamen collection and the royal mummy room.
5) The Mohammed Ali Mosque
This was built in the 1800s and is an iconic mosque in Egypt. It displays some beautiful Islamic artwork and showcases the style of the Ottoman Empire at its best.
6) Mastaba of Ti
Discovered in 1865, the Mastaba is the tomb of Ti, the overseer of the royal family’s stock and farms. Although relics inside the tomb were stolen, you can still enjoy the sights of the impressive replica of Ti’s statue. The original bust is kept in the Museum of Egypt.
Address: North East of Serapeum | Saqqara, Giza
7) Egypt Papyrus Museum
Learn more about the history of paper at this museum, located in El Haram, Giza. Here, you will be given a bird’s eye view of how the Papyrus plant is pealed, beaten and pressure to create paper for ancient Egypt’s scribes and monarchs.
Address: 98 Haram St. El Haram, Giza
Where to Eat
Egypt showcases the best cuisine within the Mediterranean region. Make sure to sample the country’s finest fares by dining at these great restaurants, most of them just stone’s throw away from the Pyramids of Giza:
1) Sehraya Café and Restaurant
When it comes to Middle Eastern specialties, nothing beats the Sehraya Café in Al Ahram, Giza. Apart from having the Pyramids as the backdrop for your meal, Sehraya takes the center stage with its sumptuous plates in family-style servings. House specialties include Hummus and Moist Grilled Chicken. With prices that range at USD 9 to USD 75 (updated 2020), it comes as no surprise why Sehraya is the top-rated restaurant in Giza.
Address: 60 Awel Alex. Desert Road, | End of Al Haram St., Hadayek Al Ahram
2) Khan El Khalili
Housed in Giza’s famous Mena House Oberoi Hotel is the Khan El Khalili restaurant, a bistro famous for its delectable Arabian delicacies. The prices are relatively cheap, since you only need to pay USD 10 to USD 15 for impressive Indian and Middle Eastern fares. Apart from its world-class food, one factor that makes Khan El Khalili a popular choice amongst tourists is its spectacular service and beautiful views of the Pyramids of Giza.
Address: Mena House Oberoi
Located 0.3 kilometers away from the Pyramid Complex is Sequoia, an amazing restaurant known for its riverside setting and fine gastronomic specialties. The bistro specializes in homegrown Egyptian fare, as well as Mediterranean and Lebanese treats. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dessert, Sequoia offers the best foods at cheap prices, ranging from a mere USD 5 to USD 20.
Address: 3 Abul Feda Street, Cairo
While the food is pricier compared to Egyptian standards (USD 20 to USD 25 range), your stomach will definitely love the treats of the Taboula restaurant. Specializing in Lebanese cuisine, Taboula is the best place for romantic dinners, even a night out with friends. Apart from its tasty Hummus and Shekaf Mashewya, a hit amongst Taboula clients is its numerous shisha offerings.
Address: 1 Latin America Street, Garden City, Cairo
5) Citadel View
A few walks away from the Pyramids of Giza is Citadel View, a great restaurant where you can enjoy Middle Eastern, African and European cuisine. Although its name is misleading (it is actually facing the Citadel,) you can’t go wrong with its tasty appetizers. A downside to this bistro is that it does not serve alcoholic beverages. Despite this limitation, Citadel View is almost always jam-packed with customers so make sure to call in for reservations.
Address: Salah Salem, Cairo
Where to Stay
While you might think of heading out to Giza or Cairo solely for the pyramids, there are some other sights around the area that you just can’t overlook– too many of them that may get your feet tired at the end of the day. Book a room at any of these luxurious hotels.
1) Mena House Oberoi Hotel
Located 0.61 kilometers from the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Mena House Oberoi Hotel is touted as the best place to stay in for travelers who wish to wake up to the views of the pyramids (nightly rate is USD 300.) Cheaper rooms available too, and here you can be treated an equally-magnificent sight of the hotel’s garden. The hotel features a superb swimming pool and an on-site golf course for tee lovers as well.
Address: Pyramids Road, Giza
2) Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel
If you are looking for 5-star hotel amenities that come with an affordable price, Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel, located 1.1 kilometers away from the Giza complex, is a fabulous choice. Apart from its wonderful views of the pyramids, the hotel also features lovely landscaped views – making it an oasis in the middle of the sandy desert. Room rates start at USD 220, which is considered a steal given the hotel’s world-class amenities.
Address: El Remaya Square, Pyramids, Giza
3) Moevenpick Resort Cairo Pyramids
The Moevenpick features novel amenities you can expect from a 5-star hotel, such as a sauna, gym, outdoor pool and massage parlor. Families with small kids will love Moevenpick, as it comes with a comprehensive playground for the young ones. Rooms start at USD 330 per night.
Address: 01 Cairo – Alexandria Road
4) Mercure Cairo Le Sphinx
Nestled at the foot of the Giza Pyramids is the magnificent Mercure Cairo Le Sphinx hotel. Located 1.4 kilometers from the pyramid complex, the Mercure is farther than other hotels, however, it offers spectacular services unlike any other. The hotel is set inside a lush palm garden, complete with an outdoor restaurant, open-air restaurant and an indoor hot tub. Rates start at USD 264.
Address: 1 Alexandria Desert Road Giza
5) Tiba Pyramids Hotel
For an affordable resting place near the Pyramids of Giza, your top choice should be the Tiba Pyramids Hotel. Situated a kilometer away from the Pyramid complex, Tiba offers affordable rates, starting at USD 134 per night. Despite its low rate, this 4-star hotel has the basic amenities you are looking for: air-conditioned rooms with private balconies, en-suite bathroom, satellite TV, and most importantly – stunning views of the Pyramids of Giza.
Address: 33 El Haram Street, Behind Abo Al Houal St, Cairo
How the Pyramids of Giza gained fame and glory is attributed to how they were built– with amazing precision and organization, exemplifying the Egyptians’ unparalleled, sophisticated architecture even with little tools or with the absence of technology thousands of years ago. Imagine how they could have possibly moved heavy blocks of stone as far as 500 mi and placed the blocks on top of one another so that the pyramid would reach 481ft tall. Such is a source of bewilderment among Egyptologists, locals, visitors, and of the world over.
Be that as it may, the Pyramids of Giza are seen to dissipate anytime soon, despite massive restorative efforts. With this possibility, how could you afford to miss such a chance in your lifetime? Make time to capture the beauty of the Pyramids of Giza – the last standing wonder of the ancient world – while it is still around.