Located 5 km from Cairo, the Giza Necropolis was the official burial ground for the pharaohs of Memphis, capital of Egypt in the Old Kingdom.
Nearly 5,000 years ago, Giza became the royal burial ground (necropolis) for Memphis, capital of Egypt. In less than 100 years, the ancient Egyptians built the three pyramid complexes to serve as the tombs for their dead kings.
After the king’s death, his body was brought by boat to the valley temple for preparation before being taken up the causeway and buried under, and in some cases within, the pyramid. The mortuary temples were maintained for many years afterwards with priests making daily offerings to the dead god-king. The king’s close family and the royal court were buried in satellite pyramids and stone tombs called mastaba nearby, seeking to share in the king’s power in death, as they had in life.
Star Attractions at Giza Necropolis
The star sights at the Giza Necropolis are the Egyptian Pyramids and the Sphinx.
The three main pyramids here were built by three successive generations during the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC). The most popular of the three pyramids is the Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, as it is the oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt (2589-66 BC). The other two are the Pyramid of Khafre, Khufu’s son and the Pyramid of Menkaure, the smallest of the three pyramids.
Each pyramid had a funerary complex which included the main pyramid, covered in white limestone, various satellite pyramids and a mortuary temple joined by a causeway to a valley temple.
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Great Sphinx of Giza
Guardian of the Giza Plateau, the leonine Sphinx is known to the Arabs as Abu-al-Hol, the “father of terror”. Standing guard at the approach to the Pyramid of Khafre, the Great Sphinx of Giza is the earliest known monumental sculpture of ancient Egypt. Archaeologists date it to around 2500 BC, crediting Khafre as the inspiration. It stands 20 m (66 ft) high with an elongated body, outstretched paws and a royal headdress framing a fleshy face possibly that of the king himself. It is carved from an outcrop of natural rock, augmented by shaped blocks around the base, added during repeated renovations from the 18th Dynasty onwards.
Directly in front of the statue are the remains of the Sphinx Temple, closed to the public. Access to the area around the Sphinx is gained via the adjacent Valley Temple of Khafre, one of the oldest surviving temples in Egypt.
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Solar Boat Museum
On the south side of the Great Pyramid of Giza sits the pod-shaped Solar Boat Museum. This holds a full-sized ancient Egyptian boat discovered in pieces in 1954, lying in a pit besides the pyramid. Experts spent 14 years putting its 1200 pieces together again using only ancient Egyptian materials of wooden pegs and grass rope.
It is called a solar boat by archaeologists because it resembles the vessels seen in tomb paintings in which the sun-god makes his daily trip across the heavens. It is not clear whether the boat was buried for the sun-god or for the pharaoh’s own journey across the heavens. Marks on the wood suggest that the boat had been sailed before being buried. It could be that it served as a funerary barque, carrying the body of Khufu from Memphis to his tomb at Giza. A second similar boat was located in a nearby pit but remains unexcavated.