Giza Pyramids • Museum • Khan al-Khalili
The Great Pyramid of Khufu…4,500 years old, the oldest and last remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world…the tallest building on the planet for 3,800 years…and, according to Napoleon, utilised enough stone to build a 3 metre high wall around France…what more is there to say? The countless volumes dedicated to this monument cannot hope to prepare you for its jaw dropping magnificence – you’ll just have to see it for yourself!
As if that wasn’t enough, the plateau is also home to the pyramids of Khafre, (Khufu’s son) Menkaure, (grandson) their queens and the enigmatic Sphinx and the Solar Boat museum which houses one of the five boats buried beside Khufu’s pyramid that provided transport for the king in the afterlife.
*Additional ticket required
Other optional extras at Giza include: the interior of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, 2nd/3rd pyramid and camel/horse and cart ride.
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
Barely altered since its establishment in 1902, the Egyptian museum is badly organised and its contents poorly displayed (and due to be replaced by the the Grand Egyptian Museum in 2020) but the sheer quantity and quality of unique ancient Egyptian artefacts make it a must see.
Every period of ancient Egypt (up to and including Graeco-Roman) is represented here and the 120,000+ relics include larger than life statuary, mummies*, tomb contents, sphinxes, sarcophagi and jewellery.
The real highlight though is the Tutankhamun exhibit: around 1700 items spread over several rooms display the stunning contents of this young and (until his burial site was discovered in 1922) insignificant king’s tomb. The huge gilded wooden shrines that fitted together like wooden dolls and housed the king’s sarcophagi, life-size statues, the king’s throne, jewellery, funerary couches, model ships, alabaster caskets and jars are mere appetizers for his wondrous death mask: 11kg of solid gold with eyes of obsidian and quartz and eyebrows drawn in lapis lazuli, this idealized portrait of the young king is worth the trip to Egypt alone. This room also houses the inner two of his three golden sarcophagi; the larger of the two is made of gilded wood while the smallest is cast in solid gold and decorated in the same style as his death mask. The boy king died at 19…what on earth did they place in the tombs of truly great pharaohs like Ramses II who reigned for 66 years?!
The Khan’s stallholders now trade with tourists rather than Ottoman merchants, but its 16th century layout, architecture and centuries of hustle and bustle make it an authentic Arabian souk. You can find just about anything in its twisting narrow alleys, from silver, gold, precious stones, perfume and spices to backgammon boards, plastic pyramids and stuffed camels. The sales patter (“look for free”, “no hassle” and “special price”) may jar at times but it’s all good natured and haggling is expected as well as being part of the fun.
Finish your shopping trip by putting your feet up at Fishawi’s coffee house, open 24 hours a day since Napoleon’s men supped here, it’s a great place to sip a mint tea and watch the Khan go by…and maybe buy a wallet/packet of tissues/watch…etc…etc from one of the roaming street vendors.