We only had about a week of travel, and wanted to see as much as we could, so we planned two nights in Giza, with the major goal to see the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx.
Arrival in Cairo and Visa on Arrival
One of the things we learned about Egypt prior to our trip was that you need a tourist visa to travel within Egypt. Instead of getting an online eVisa, we opted to get a visa on arrival. We arrived at Cairo airport and went to one of the banks and presented our passports and paid $25 cash in U.S. dollars, and got an Egypt visa stamp in our passports.
We took Uber for the roughly 55 minute ride to the Panorama Pyramids Inn in Giza for 205 Egyptian pounds. I found the hotel on booking.com and chose it basically for it’s location. For only $45 per night, which included breakfast, I was thrilled.
The view from the rooftop terrace of our hotel was so amazing, all we did the first afternoon and evening was sit on the terrace and enjoy the view.
Giza Light and Sound Show
Tickets at the gate are 150 Egyptian pounds. Tours, with hotel pickup are at least 500 Egyptian pounds. We sat on the rooftop terrace of our hotel and watched it for free.
After seeing it, I would rename it the Giza Sound and a Little Bit of Light Show. I expected a lot more light.
Also, the show is dated. It’s the same show that you see in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.
But it’s the thing to do in Giza at night. How often do you get to see The Pyramids?
Giza is in the desert. Deserts are dry arid places with lots of sand. Sand, sand, everywhere. Sand because it doesn’t rain. So can you picture a desert?
I want to emphasize this view of a desert because when you have your scheduled tour of the Pyramids at Giza, you don’t expect it to be raining when you wake up.
Admission to the Giza Complex 160 EGP
Entrance to the Great Pyramid 360 EGP
Entrance to the other Giza Pyramids 100 EGP
Since our time was so short, we booked a day tour through our hotel. It seems pretty standard to be approached by your hotel to book a tour through them.
We had 7 a.m. breakfast on our rain-soaked rooftop terrace and commenced the tour at 8 a.m. Fortunately it stopped raining by the time the tour started.
The Great Pyramid
We were driven to the main entrance of the Giza plateau and started at the Great Pyramid.
We received a brief history of the Great Pyramid, took a few pictures and our guide tried to hurry us back to the car to get to the next thing. At this point I started regretting a little having paid for a tour. The guide seemed to want to give his few talking points and move on as soon as possible.
Some facts about the pyramids are hard for me to swallow.
I asked our guide about the capstone of the Great Pyramid. He said he would show it to me (see the picture above). He said it was knocked off during a big storm. Seriously? The wind just blew those stones off?
Also after hearing him give the usual story about this being Khufu’s pyramid, I have to say something here.
It is commonly accepted that the Great Pyramid has 2.3 million stones, averaging about 6,000 pounds each. Khufu supposedly reigned for 23 years.
Do the math. If Egyptians worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for 23 years, they would have to place a 6,000 pound stone approximately every five minutes. Recent evidence suggests that Khufu may have reigned longer than 23 years. Even if he reigned 46 years, a stone would have to be placed every 10 minutes for 46 years.
That’s hard for me to believe. I’m not saying I support theories like aliens building the Giza pyramids. But what I am saying is that I find it hard to accept the accepted theory that the Great Pyramid was built solely during the reign of Khufu.
When the commonly accepted theory doesn’t make a lot of sense, people can and do create crazy theories to fill the void.
The Second Pyramid
I talked the guide out of getting back in the car and asked if we could walk to the second pyramid
I actually got to go inside this one. We walked straight to the entrance and handed our ticket that was part of our paid tour. There was a cramped tunnel where I had to squat down while climbing for a good minute. It then opened up where I could stand up and stretch. Then there was a cramped ascending tunnel on the other side which opened into a chamber 14 x 5 meters. There was what looked like a sarcophagus on one end and some graffitti by the guy who discovered it (I’m not saying the name because I don’t want to promote someone like that) and that’s about it.
When I exited the pyramid, our guide motioned us back to the car. Again I had to stop him and ask if we could walk around a little and take pictures. He seemed in such a hurry to move on to the next thing.
Our tour didn’t even bother with the third pyramid. I was a bit disappointed, but what can you do?
Our guide then drove us to what is known as the Panorama where you can get a view of all three pyramids. It’s a nice photo opp, but we didn’t want to stay long because people bothered us trying to get a tip for showing us the great photo. Gee, I could have never figured out to take this picture on my own.
After about five minutes, we got back in the car and were driven down to the Sphinx complex. We got a great view of the sphinx from outside the complex.
Then we went through the Sphinx Temple and got a closer view inside.
Here is another one of my side rants. Seeing this in person, it looks pretty obvious that the body (which was buried in the sand for centuries), is much more weathered than the head. How can that be? Shouldn’t the head be more weathered and the body less weathered since it was buried in the sand, out of the elements? It’s almost as if the head was recarved at a later date.
After the brief visit to the Sphinx complex, we drove down to what is left of the ancient city of Memphis. Admission is 80 EGP.
There is not much left of Memphis. We saw the second largest known sphinx.
I expected the second largest sphynx in the world to be bigger. This one was maybe 10 feet tall.
There are also two very nice statues of Ramses II.
We saw everything in about 15 minutes. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t spend the time or money to see Memphis.
We then drove down the road to Saqqara. I thought it was just a pyramid, but there are other sites there too. There is a temple
and some tombs.
We didn’t get to go to Dashur, but from Saqqara we could see the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid off in the distance.
Sunset over the Pyramids
After a long day of sightseeing, it was nice to go back to our rooftop terrace and watch the sunset over the pyramids.
My Personal Tour The Next Day
We had an afternoon flight the next day. I didn’t want to sit around the hotel room, so bought another Giza Complex ticket at the secondary entrance near our hotel.
It doesn’t look like much, and there are no signs, but you can get a ticket from the window on the left and enter through the door to the right of it.
From this direction my first stop was the Sphinx complex.
Next, I cut through the Sphinx temple and was alone while taking pictures. It was so much better early in the morning as opposed to having to fight the crowds yesterday.
If you get lucky you may even see Egypt’s most famous personality.
The Second Pyramid
From the Sphinx complex I walked up the causeway toward the second pyramid
The Third Pyramid
Unlike my tour yesterday I actually got to visit the third Pyramid.
The Great Pyramid
I worked my way back to the Great Pyramid
This time I climbed as high as allowed.
I learned that you can actually go inside one of the three small pyramids located next to the Great Pyramid. This is included with with Giza entrance ticket but I feel very few people know.
It wasn’t anything fancy, but still cool to climb down into the pyramid. No pictures of the inside because I didn’t want to get in trouble.
I didn’t know it until I went over by this area but there are a lot of ruins.
Look around. You can find some cool things that most people never take the time to see.
Summary: Two Nights in Giza
Seeing the Pyramids in person was amazing. There were times when I would think to myself and smile, I can’t believe I am actually here.
Staying at a hotel walking distance to one of the entrances was a huge plus. A bonus was the amazing rooftop view that we could get when we woke up and at the end of each day. If I go back some day I wouldn’t stay anywhere else.
I actually enjoyed touring the Giza complex on my own the second day much more than I did with the paid guide on the first day.
You will get pestered pretty constantly. Just be aware of it and don’t let it distract you too much from the amazing sights. And be careful for falling for any of the local scams.