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At the end of February 2015 I spend 10 days in Cairo with the family and from there we explored the northern part of the country. Read all about my route in the Egypt Itinerary. In this first day trip report I write about my experience during the classic pyramids day tour from Cairo. This should be on everyone’s schedule if visiting Egypt.
Most people, if asked about pyramids, will tell you that they are at Giza. Those are the most famous, the tallest and the easiest visited of all. In total Egypt counts over 100 different pyramids at various places. Pyramids are the tombs of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt and build from bricks. There are various types of pyramids to see and do not forget to descent into one of them. The most important pyramids including the remains of the old capital Memphis are a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur.
Safety in Egypt
Maybe you think Egypt is unsafe these days because the media tells you? Do not trust the media! Egypt is totally safe to travel to: as a group, a family or solo. This also applies for women like my daughter of nine with long blonde hair. Do use common sense of course and check possible areas to avoid as in any country.
EGYPT- Top 7 day trips in and from Cairo; a 9 day Egypt itinerary
Ok, I can imagine that you get scared of the traffic! This also is not as bad as many say and it should be possible to drive. I, however, do recommend getting a driver and an Egyptian Sidekick if you want to travel in an efficient way. The students from Egyptian Sidekick are affordable (no tips at all!), fast, flexible and know the way so you don’t get lost and get the most out of your travel.
Do not trust everything the media says! Egypt is totally safe to travel to if you use common sense.
The classic pyramids day tour
Get up early and make sure you are on your way around 08:00 AM to make sure you will be able to see all the places. Sites close around 5 PM so take just a small lunch and make sure to see everything. It’s a long day this trip. The first stop is at the Dahshur pyramid field, then the old Memphis capital remains and Saqqara pyramids and last the Great Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. Due to the news people read in the media they stay away from Egypt which is totally unnecessary as it’s totally safe. One advantage: At the first two stops we did not see any tourists and even at Giza it was only a few bus loads! If you only want to see the pyramids at Giza check my budget tip on flying cheap in business class from Cairo while visiting the pyramids.
Pyramids at Dahshur
Almost 50 kilometers south of Cairo on the west bank of the Nile you will find the pyramids of Dahshur. With over 4500 years of age they are amongst the oldest pyramids in Egypt. Here you find the bend pyramid which is not a fully true pyramid (see photo above). On the outside of this pyramid you can see remains of the smooth surface most pyramids had when first build. This pyramid is said to be a failure of the pharaoh Sneferu and he build a new one next to it called the Red Pyramid.
The entrance ticket includes a descent into the Red Pyramid. Make sure you do this lifetime experience! First climb to the entrance a dozen or so meters up the pyramid. From here you descent through a small tunnel to a chamber about 16 meters deep. This chamber gives access to another chamber and if you climb the stairs you will see another chamber. Each is rectangular of shape with a kind of roof structure. The ventilation is very bad making the rooms smell and you will want to get out quickly after seeing it. Unless you want to say “I have been inside the Great Pyramids at Giza” descent into the Red Pyramid only and avoid paying a huge fee to descent into the Great Pyramids as it will look similar.
After you finish your descent do not walk around this pyramid but rather go to the bend pyramid and walk around that one. There are some smaller pyramids too and the one closest to the bend pyramid we were allowed to climb by the guards for a small baksheesh (tip). Although a small one we can say “we climbed a pyramid!”. I did climb Chichen Itza (read my Mexico Yucatan itinerary), which is a pyramid in Mexico. When you finish here head to the next stop:The remains of the old capital Memphis and Saqqara pyramids.
EGYPT- Top 7 day trips in and from Cairo; a 9 day Egypt itinerary
Memphis and the Saqqara pyramids
There is a small open air museum not far from the Saqqara pyramids displaying artifacts from the old Memphis capital. Have a short look there (30 minutes tops) and head to the Saqqara pyramid field. Here you find the famous step pyramid of Djoser. Start with a walk around the pyramid and admire it’s unique shape.
Directly south of the pyramid you will find a smaller pyramid with around it various old and new tombs. At various spots you will be able to see parts of the underground tunnels linking burial chambers. Here you will get a good impression of how everything was built.
although a small one we can say “we climbed a pyramid!”
Once you have seen all head to the Great Pyramids at Giza. Make sure you leave Saqqara around 2 PM to leave enough time at the Giza pyramid field.
The Sphinx and Great Pyramids at Giza
Once you arrive at the entrance of the Great Pyramids make sure to avoid the touts. This is the only place we found them really annoying. Start at the far side of the site to get the overview with all three big pyramids in line. The touts will try to tell you that you can only get there by taking a camel or horse: this is NOT true. Make sure your driver gets you to the most far parking spot inside the gates and then walk your way into the desert. It will take you maybe 30-45 minutes to walk back to the smallest pyramid.
At the first two stops we did not see any tourists and even at Giza it was only a few bus loads!
From the desert you can admire the last surviving member of the old seven wonders of the world in its full glory. Now, walk back towards the smallest pyramid or the middle one. At the top of one of the pyramids you can see the remains of the smooth surface pyramids once were totally covered with. The tallest pyramid is the pyramid of pharaoh Khufu. If you want you can descent into one of them but as said earlier it’s pricy and looks the same as the Red Pyramid. When you finish exploring the pyramids, the tombs and other structures head down to the Sphinx for your last stop of today. It’s the largest monolith structure in the world and said to represent the face of pharaoh Khafra.
Do not worry if you get too late at the Sphinx and cannot get close to it. The beauty you can admire best from a small distance as close by you only see the sandstone. Now go for a great Egyptian dinner in some local restaurant; don’t go to subway just across the street! Check my article about food & restaurants in Cairo and for now, enjoy the gallery below with some more photo’s. In my Egypt itinerary report you can read about what I did the other days.
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Did you visit the Pyramids in Egypt too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Gallery Pyramids Day Tour
Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.