No matter how many pictures of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt you have encountered, they will not compare to seeing the perfect structures with your own eyes. While more than 100 pyramids in Egypt have been discovered, the largest and most famous are in Giza, outside of Cairo. Many of the Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for the revered pharaohs. (Before burying pharaohs in a great pyramid become customary, the kings were buried in an elaborate tomb carved into rock.) The shape of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt is theorized to symbolize rays of the sun. It was believed that pharaohs were carried to heaven on sunbeams.
When you first arrive in Egypt, usually via Cairo International airport, take a day or so to explore the winding streets, markets, and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities before heading south to Giza to see the Egyptian pyramids. Visitors are consistently shocked by how enormous the pyramids really are. From the time they were built, approximately 4,500 years ago, the pyramids of ancient Egypt were the tallest manmade structure in the world until the premier of the Eiffel tower in 1889. It must have been an even more stunning sight when it was enclosed in a shining shell of limestone upon its completion.
The great Pyramid at Giza is called Cheops or Khufu. It is made of more than 2 million stones that weigh an average of 2.5 tons each. This fact puts into perspective the unending labor that contributed to the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence. Of the three main Egyptian pyramids in Giza, only one, Khafre, has retained some of its original limestone casing, just at the top of the structure. Some visitors may think the Khafre is larger than the great pyramid of Khufu, but it is simply a higher elevation that provides this mirage. Khufu is the largest pyramid in the country by both volume and height.
There are other sights outside of Giza that also draw visitors to see the remaining pyramids of ancient Egypt. Zawyet el-Aryan has two unfinished pyramids, and further south Abu Sir has fourteen pyramids. These pyramids were built with materials inferior to those that make up the pyramids at Giza, and therefore haven't been as well preserved. For instance, Saqqara is another major attraction for visitors wishing to see the pyramids. Dahshur is also a popular attraction as one of the pyramids there has retained much of its original smooth casing. Seeing this visual for yourself can help to understand how the pyramids in Giza must have looked in their prime.
Pyramids developed over time in ancient Egypt. The first pyramids were step pyramids, such as the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, which were followed by the true pyramid shape that is so famous today. Throughout your tour of ancient Egyptian pyramids, you are sure to see both types of structures. The greatest pyramids symbolize a time in ancient Egyptian history when pharaohs ruled absolutely, and in turn, were buried in grand ways. This period didn’t last long, as suggested by the few numbers of these enormous structures. What visitors learn about ancient Egyptians from the pyramids, along with the vastness of the pyramids themselves, are sure to surprise.