Your culture fix in bites you can swallow
Let’s face it, tour guides can be dull.
No matter how excited you were, you’ll most likely find yourself in one of those persistent gazes, where although you’ve spent a good 5 minutes staring blankly at the same spot, you have no idea what you were looking at or how long you were gone for. Your wife gives you a swift nudge in the rib. You’re back. Embarrassing…
Arm yourself next time you’re in Cairo with these 10 facts about the ancient pyramids of Egypt that even the tour guide won’t know. Brownie points to you.
- There are actually 118 pyramids in Egypt. Imagine the reaction when you casually drop into conversation, “Well, if you take a look at Amenemhat III’s Black Pyramid of Dashur…”
- If you broke the Great pyramid into slabs 30cm thick, you could build up a 1m high wall that would stretch all the way around France. Or if you like, you could cut it into a 6cm thick rod that would reach a quarter of the way to the moon.
- Khufu’s Great Pyramid is around 4,600 years old. It includes 2.3 million limestone blocks and weighs 5.9 million tonnes.
- According to Herodotus, 100,000 people built Khufu’s Great Pyramid – more than the population of any city at the time.
- Even the builders of the pyramids had their own tombs: In 1990, an American tourist was thrown from her horse in Giza. The horse had stumbled on a stone that turned out to be the tip of an enormous builders’ necropolis. 600 similar tombs were later unearthed by Zahi Hawass, one of which, the ‘egg dome’, is now an attraction in its own right.
- One of King Sneferu’s 3 pyramids at the royal necropolis of Dashur is significantly bent. Some experts think it may have been done to strengthen the building. Others think it may have been hurried as Sneferu’s death was approaching. Today, it is known as The Bent Pyramid.
- All of the pyramids were robbed of their treasure within a couple of hundred years of the burials. The only tombs to escape theft (until recently, that is) were those dug into rock, not placed in pyramids e.g. Tutankhamun and Queen Heterpheres.
- What we think of today as the Pyramids are really just the exposed layers of their base; the original pyramids were lit up in a Times Square- like fashion.The original outer layer consisted of smooth, white limestone that hid the brickwork, giving the effect that a pyramid was one giant solid piece. That shell was then polished until almost blinding, reflecting light from the sun and moon. It was said that they could be seen from miles away, even at night.
- The Egyptians mummified more than just their Pharaohs; pets were buried with to keep them company, even in death.
- 10. Early tombs were actually flat and called Mastabas (the mud brick seat found outside Egyptian peasant homes). However, these were easily robbed. Eventually someone built a slightly smaller Mastaba on top of the first one, then another on top of that, then another until they ended up with a step pyramid.