Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “G” is for Great Pyramid of Giza

Undoubtedly, the highlight of our tour of Egypt was seeing the pyramids of Giza, and not just seeing them but actually going inside one of them!

Giza was Day 1 of our sightseeing tour, and what an eventful Day 1 it was! We touched the pyramids, we climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid and posed with the king, we rode camels, we kissed the Sphinx, I nearly died of heat stroke…

Click images for captions

To be fair, the weather wasn’t necessarily all that hot. We got there early in the morning (around 9AM) to beat the crowds and the heat. But even at nine in the morning, there were still quite a lot of people there.

A sea of buses!

It was also very windy, which meant sand was swirling everywhere and getting in our hair, our clothes, our eyes, our mouths. We all bought scarves for an added layer of protection.

Click images for captions

There are three main pyramids at Giza, each built for a king of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 to 2494 BC):

  • The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the largest of the three (and the largest pyramid in Egypt) and the oldest and only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World that’s still standing. And from the looks of it, it will be standing for millennia to come.
  • The Pyramid of Khafre (son of Khufu) is the middle pyramid and the second tallest of the three. The slope of the pyramid is a bit steeper than Khufu’s, and it sits on a hill, giving the illusion that it is the tallest pyramid. I think Khafre had something to prove and wanted to appear bigger and be perceived as greater than his father.
  • The Pyramid of Menkaure (son of Khafre and grandson of Khufu) is the smallest of the three pyramids. This pyramid is the only one with noticeable damage, in that there’s a large gash right down the center of one side of the pyramid. Apparently, this was from a late 12th-century attempt to destroy the pyramids. Fortunately, the Sultan at the time quickly discovered that it was just as arduous taking down the pyramids as it was to construct them, and he abandoned his plans. I’m sure we’re all thanking God for that!
Damage on Menkaure’s pyramid

We climbed the inside of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and I have to be honest, that was the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And it wasn’t necessarily the climbing part that was difficult, as even when out of shape, I’m pretty good at maintaining my endurance on a stair climber. However, there was only one way in and out of this pyramid. So while we were climbing up, there were people coming (and sometimes tumbling) down.

We also weren’t casually walking up evenly layered stairs. These were wooden boards at a 45-degree incline with little blocks fitted inside notches for steps. There was a rail on either side, and you basically had to hold on to keep your balance, and the higher we got, the narrower the path became. The ceiling dipped lower and lower to the point where we were crouching 75% of the way up.

And remember I said there were people coming down too? Yep, and on a path that was only about a person and a half wide. It was tight. It was hot. There was no air circulating, but then why would there be? This was a tomb built for the dead after all, not the living.

Also, while photos were allowed, videos were not. Supposedly there was a sign right outside the entrance that said this. I did not see this sign, even though it was right in front of me, and as soon as we got inside, I immediately started recording. The attendant inside was at least polite in telling me to stop though.

“My queen. No video.”

Click the images for captions

When we finally reached the King’s Chamber at the top, I realized that I had been wearing my sunglasses the entire time, and maybe that was the reason why I was having difficulty seeing (I’m blaming the heat for this brain lapse).

If you were wondering if there was any elaborate decoration inside the King’s Chamber—maybe a fancy gold sarcophagus—I hate to disappoint you, but it was pretty empty in there. Like I said in “Empty Tombs,” grave robbers and treasure hunters got into these pyramids long before we did. All that’s left now is a broken stone sarcophagus missing a lid and missing a mummy (though I think I’d probably be more disturbed if the mummy were still in there). The walls are smooth-faced granite with no inscriptions, a stark contrast to what we would see in the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings just two days later.

Standing next to the empty sarcophagus. Look how freaking sweaty we were!

Coming down was much easier than going up. We still had to duckwalk and squeeze past people panting and grimacing as they pulled themselves up in the other direction one step at a time.

On the way down, I glanced at some of the carvings on the walls made by people throughout history. Would you believe me if I told you one said “US Army Corps 1944”? I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough to take a picture. It was either get the hell out of this hot-ass pyramid as fast as possible or hold up the line of exhausted people behind me to take a picture of a rock. I chose the former, but I promise you it was there. Somehow seeing graffiti carved into the wall by a nearly 100-year-old soldier was just as fascinating to me as being inside a 4000-year-old tomb.

Or maybe I’m just a nerd.

Another etching I caught on the way up. The only word I can make out is “FALSE.” What do you think it says?

Emerging from the pyramid felt like entering a building with the air conditioning on blast! There was such a stark difference in temperature between the inside and outside. I don’t think I realized just how hot it was in that pyramid until we were back outside and the sweat nearly froze on my forehead.

Unfortunately, despite the much-needed rush of cool air, it seemed I was destined to overheat that day. About an hour later, I was dizzy, nauseous, and suffering from a headache that was literally splitting my head in two. Clearly heat stroke symptoms. But what did Brother say when he saw me in my torment?

“Why are you acting weird?”

Gotta love the concern of siblings.


“A” is for Arrival
“B” is for Buyer’s Remorse
“C” is for Cruisin’ the River Nile
“D” is for Delays, Delays, Delays
“E” is for Empty Tombs
“F” is for Fragrance

This April for the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing my experience of traveling to Egypt last month. These posts likely won’t be in chronological order, depending on what memory each letter strikes up, but if you’d like to follow me on this journey, subscribe below.

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