Great Pyramid of Khufu

Egypt’s Ancient Wonders: Day Trip Guide to the Pyramids of Giza and Egyptian Museum


A visit to the Pyramids of Giza is one of the adventures of a lifetime. Doing so will see you immersing yourself in one of the most iconic and ancient civilizations in the world. No trip to the city of Cairo can be complete without making a stop here. It’s a bucket list item I was lucky enough to check off earlier rather than later in life, especially since I was able to go to Egypt thanks to my job.

Sadly, I didn’t get to explore as much of the city of Cairo as I had hoped but I did manage to carve out enough time on my last day to see these wonders of the ancient world and still had time to take a detour to the Egyptian Museum to gain a bit more knowledge.

Pyramids of Giza

Egypt Pyramid
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

You have 3 pyramids in the Giza Plateau, otherwise known as the Giza Necropolis; the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. The Great Pyramid is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the oldest on the list. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated Northeast of the Great Pyramid is the colossal statue of the Sphinx. The mythological creature is significant in Egyptian culture mainly as a symbol

Each one was only a part of the entire funerary complex in ancient Egypt. Other buildings lost over time included smaller pyramids for the Egyptian queens, other family members, and officials of the pharaoh’s ruling government. There were also valley and funerary temples belonging to each pyramid, and causeways that were constructed across the different pyramids.

Sphinx
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

How to Get to the Pyramids

The pyramid complex is located in Giza, the neighboring city to Cairo. Many of the tour companies that operate in Cairo offer bus or van transportation to the site, usually with a guide who will give the history of the area and make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of by the local peddlers.

If you are going solo, the best way is by taking a rideshare service. Uber is mostly used in Cairo and is the safest way to travel in the city if you are by yourself. Taking a regular taxi to anywhere in the city means you might get overcharged on the meter, or they may not take you to your destination and drop you off a few blocks away if it makes their life easier. It’s best to use a service you are already familiar with.

Egypt Pyramids
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

There are two main entrances. The one you will most likely be dropped off at is near the Great Pyramid of Khufu, while the other one is located at the other end near the Sphinx. You will see the ticketing booth and entry checkpoint. Note that the ticketing booth will only take a credit card and not cash.

What You Need for the Pyramids

There are some essential items you want to have on you when you are visiting the pyramids and the rest of Cairo, along with being considerate of the place, people, and new culture you are going to be interacting with. Just keep in mind you are in a conservative country so what is deemed acceptable in other countries may be the opposite here.

Sun Protection and Hydration – It’s a pretty obvious given, but make sure to wear plenty of sun screen while you are out, no matter the time of day. Also, stay constantly hydrated with bottled water. It’s not recommended to drink from the tap so purchase a reusable bottle or a few smaller ones to put into your backpack.

Wear Comfortable Clothes – You should be wearing light and loose clothing along with comfortable walking shoes as the ground can be slightly uneven except for the paved roads. Be aware that in the culture you are expected to dress moderately. Men are usually expected to wear pants with a t-shirt or dress shirt while women can wear long dresses or jeans as well. Women should cover their shoulders too so low-cut tops are frowned upon. The locals have become accustomed to the male tourists wearing shorts but you shouldn’t get used to it in most other areas.

What to Watch Out for While You Are at the Pyramids

Pyramid Camel Ride

Pyramid Guided Camels
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

One of the add-on activities you can do here is taking a guided camel tour of the pyramid. You’ll be asked every time you pass by them one if you want to ride one of these animals for an hour or more, which can be a bit annoying. Exploring the pyramids is a memorable experience; you will want to take many iconic photos of yourself on a camel with the panoramic views of the pyramids in the background. But this might turn out to be an ethical dilemma for you.

It sounds like a lot of fun but this is similar to how elephants are ridden in some parts of Thailand. You don’t know how reputable the guides will be or how the animals are being treated. You also have to determine the price. Once you get on a camel, they will expect you to pay a dismount charge as well. There are government signs stating the official price of camel rides but it doesn’t seem like it is really enforced. Part of this may require negotiating the price of the services without offending someone and even with the currency exchange it still be more than what you think it is worth.

Also, make sure they understand you will be paying in the local currency. Sometimes they will try to have you pay in a stronger currency such as USD or Euros to make a huge profit. Yes, it’s a good story to tell but it’s not necessary. Everything is within easy walking distance, so this will come down to your personal preferences.

Tipping in Egypt

You will learn pretty quickly that tipping in Egypt is customary. Most expect you to tip 10%-15% as a general rule when it comes to standard services such as restaurants, hotel services, rideshare and taxi services, and guided tours. But there are some things like unofficial bathroom attendants hoarding the toilet paper and paper towels in public restrooms, handing single sheets in exchange for tipping doesn’t seem fair.

These are common practices here. You may notice at some public locations such as museums markets and malls that the people doing this aren’t official employees. They are just locals looking to make an income in tipping from us foreign travelers and have been allowed entry. So if you’re able to possibly plan a bathroom schedule, go when you are in private bathroom areas and this won’t be necessary.

Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum of Cairo ( EMC) should be your next stop to see all the artifacts recovered from the pyramids and other archaeological digs throughout Egypt. The results of decades of Egyptian conservation and restoration have given thousands of ancient antiquities to see and learn the history through the ages. It’s also the biggest museum in all of Africa.

It’s located in El-Tahrir Square, less than 30 minutes from the pyramids and easy to get to. If you happen to be staying at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, it’s actually right next door. The Egyptian government has a larger archaeological museum currently under construction and has been making plans to move all these exhibits and items to this new location once its completed. This would include new exhibitions with never before seen artifacts, along with new virtual screens and a children museum.

Follow the Egyptian Timeline

The museum is going to have you learning about 5,000 years of culture and history in such a short amount of time it can get a bit confusing. It’s been historically divided into 9 time periods, each one containing multiple dynasties, kings and pharaohs, cultural development, and influences from other neighboring cultures such as the Greeks and Romans.

  • Predynastic (1st-2nd dynasties)
  • Old Kingdom (3rd-8th dynasties)
  • First Intermediate Period (9th-11th dynasties)
  • Middle Kingdom (11th-13th dynasties)
  • Second Intermediate Period (14th-17th dynasties)
  • New Kingdom (18th-20th dynasties)
  • Third Intermediate Period (21st-25th dynasties)
  • Late Period (26th-30th dynasties)
  • Greco-Roman Period (End of the dynasties)

You will get to see the many different coffins (sarcophagi) of the Egyptian Pharaohs and others on the first floor, carefully constructed and designed with numerous artistic images of the afterlife. Intersected with them are the giant statues and various sculptures built in their likenesses that represented the qualities each had during their rule.

The second floor contains the smaller artifacts that were discovered. The special exhibits are also on the second floor, including the gallery of King Tutankhamun. These are extremely rare gold pieces of jewelry and accessories of the Egyptian nobility. Photos are prohibited though while in the exhibit room to maintain and preserve each of the items. You also have the Amarna collection of artifacts that pertain to the famous Egyptian women of those times.

Buy a Souvenir at the Museum Market

After you have exited the museum, the path is going to take you through the museum market. It’s almost like a mini bazaar with dozens of different souvenirs. You have magnets, statues of the different pharaohs and mythological deities, jewelry, scarab beetles, clothing, and perfumes and spices. Luckily you don’t need to barter prices here as the prices are pretty standard. It’s a good place to pick up something to remember your time in Egypt.

Conclusion

I had an absolutely great experience seeing all these things for the first time and had a good time in Egypt overall. And I guarantee so will you. It’s a fascinating adventure that may be different than what you are used to in culture but there is so much history here to make it worthwhile. Even if you are here for a short period like I was, plan ahead so you can really enjoy these ancient goodies and not feel rushed. You will not regret it one bit.

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