I have to say here that the Egyptians are suffering horribly from a massive drop in tourism after their revolution 3 years ago and while its awful to see and talk to them about it, it actually make our whole trip so much better for us. No crowds, no lining up, no pushy shovey - just a nice morning strolling around learning about the site and the monuments.
The whole "how did they do it" seems kind of irrelevant once you are there. Yes they are HUGE blocks and the pyramids are amazingly tall, however up close it seems not totally impossible to have built it with only man power. Especially when you find out how much man power they actually had.
The pyramids themselves are actually stepped and its only the final plastering (for want of a better word) that covered the inclines and made them a finished smooth surface. That has mostly been eroded away so the pyramids now are huge stone steps and I imagine you could still (probably with the help of a step ladder) scale them to the top.
There is of course the usual "you buy, you buy" but tourist face on hand, we didn't have any real trouble. I am of course always terribly disturbed at how animals are treated outside the western culture and I may have gotten into with with some idiot who hit his horse across the head with a stick but that's another story I guess.
We did take the camel ride around the back of the pyramids so Cairo was in the distance which seems solely for a photo op once you get there. I have to admit that while it seemed like a good idea at the time, if I could have jumped off and stayed in one piece I would have. I was frigging shitting myself. Camels are tall! Really tall. It's a long way down. Not to mention aforementioned camel is controlled by a 6 year old kid who spent the entire 25 mins arguing with his brother and ignoring the camel. At one point it started to trot but rest assured my "I'm in a SAW movie" screaming did bring the kid back and I did eventually survive the 40 mins atop a grumpy, badly behaved Cairo Camel.
Some interesting facts on the pyramids:
And on to the Sphinx, via a boat shed...
The Khufu boat is a full-size intact ship that was built for King Cheops to use in the afterlife. It is described as the worlds oldest intact ship and if it was launched today would not only float, its design would mean it would be capable of being sailed safely and at speed. It was built, disassembled and then placed piece by piece in a pit beside the pyramid for use in his afterlife.
The museum is very well controlled and once we had left our bags and donned our shoe covers, we are able to go in and wander freely. The story of the discovery and how the boat was rebuilt is pretty amazing. They even have some rope that was found with the hull that is still intact today.
Estimations are that the boat (along with everything in that area) was created around 2589 - 2566 BC. That is pretty cool that it not only survived that long but was capable of being fully rebuilt.
The boat is suspended in a lengthy building to enable you to walk all around it on a platform so you can see just how amazingly built it is.
With all our technology we still have challenges getting things right and to see a 2500 year old wooden boat intact, assembled exactly as it would have been in its day is pretty cool.
No-one really knows when the Sphinx was built or by whom, however the view held by modern Egyptology is that it was built around 2500 BC for the pharaoh Khafra, who was the builder of the second pyramid to be constructed at Giza.
Between 1925 and 1936, French engineer Emile Baraize of the Antiquities Service excavated the Sphinx exposing it to the elements. As the statue was built of such soft sandstone, the fact that it remained buried for so long actually preserved it for modern man to appreciate.
Today the wind, humidity and the smog from Cairo are having an effect and the already damaged monument is open to the effects of erosion. The Egyptians are making a huge effort to ensure the statue remains for many centuries to come and while we were there, scaffolding was in place around the facial area. Very disappointing photo wise but if it saves it for everyone else, I'm OK with that. Does the world really need another Sphinx photo? I think not...
In saying that here is one I prepared earlier....