There’s a way to truly experience the awe and majesty of the Pyramids of Giza and a way to wholly miss that experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen clients and other visitors miss out of the full experience of their first approach to the Pyramids, and it always kills me on the inside to see that experience slip away from them because of a lack of patience.
Most people will only travel to Egypt and visit the Pyramids once in their lives, but even those who visit multiple times will still see the Pyramids for the first time only once. So I beg you with every fiber of my being – listen up and consider taking my advice on how to get the most out of your one and only first encounter with the Pyramids of Giza.
Your first glimpse of these magnificent monuments will likely come from afar. As you leave Cairo and are driven across the sprawl of Giza on the west bank of the Nile toward the edge of civilization and the beginning of the great Sahara, you’ll eventually begin to see the limestone crown of the Great Pyramid peering at you over the urban concrete jungle topped with unfinished roofs and endless satellite dishes. As you get closer, its large triangular shape will start to appear below the crown and you’ll begin to make out traces of individuals stones, which says a lot about their size given how far away your’ll still be.
As you keep driving, a second Pyramid will begin to come into view too. About then, without fail, what were previously starry eyed explorers finally laying eyes on the last remaining wonder of the ancient world suddenly turn into obsessive modern tourists. Out come the phones and cameras and the focus of their eyes and brains quickly turns from these majestic monuments coming into view to the tiny liquid crystal display screens in front of them as they click and tap away. And for the next 15 minutes as we’re making our way up to the compounds’s gates and across the plateau, the pattern sadly continues.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with taking pictures. You want to. You have to. And you will – hundreds of them. But what always gets me is that first-time visitors to the Pyramids spend the first 20 minutes in the presence of these ancient behemoths glued to a phone or camera screen instead of being present in the experience of their first encounter.
Centuries ago when explorers and travelers used to come upon such sites, they later wrote of the awe they felt as they gazed upwards and took in the approach. They could richly describe the full experience because they actually fully experienced it. They absorbed every second of amazement and, therefore, had incredible scenes, sensations, and memories seared into their minds forever.
Its those accounts that form the basis of the expectations everyone has about the experience today. That’s why I always recommend that tourists make a conscious effort not to reach for their phones and cameras as they first approach the Pyramids and instead just enjoy and take in the experience of their first encounter with them. Trust me – the pictures from far away and from outside the gates are going to be crappy anyway. You should not rob yourself of that full incredible first experience for the sake of some crappy pictures that you’ll just end up deleting or scrolling past later in favor of the much better ones that you’ll soon get from much better vantage points.
Guides, tour leaders, and local friends showing you around all know that photos of the pyramids are must-haves. So don’t worry, you’ll get those. Billions of them. You’ll get photos of each Pyramid; of the three main Pyramids; of all nine Pyramids, of you “touching” the top of the Pyramids, of you looking like you’re leaning against the Pyramids, holding the Pyramids in the palm of your hand, pushing the Pyramids, eating the Pyramids, and so on. You get the picture.
What I like to do with friends and tour clients I’m showing the Pyramids for the first time is let them have the classic unencumbered “approach experience” when we first get there, much the same way that their fellow explorer predecessors did for centuries and millennia. Then I like to drive them up to the scenic overlook area back behind the Pyramids where they can take all sorts of shots like those described above for as long as they want. After they’re all snapped and tapped out, we’ll ride back down to the base of the Pyramids and walk around each one talking about their history, the mechanics and mysteries of their construction, and the lives of the Pharaohs who built them.
From here you can also get many more good shots of the stones up close as well as shots looking up the massive angled walls. Many want to go inside of a Pyramid, which is also a neat experience that you can do. Unlike the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings down in Luxor, which you’ll hopefully also see on your trip to Egypt, the interiors of the Pyramids are rather barren and sterile. But it’s still an out-of-this-world experience to know that you’re standing in the heart of the Great Pyramid and let that moment sink in, since you’re prohibited take pictures inside of the Pyramids.
In the end, you’ll literally have hundreds of photos of the Pyramids. But if you follow my advice too, you’ll also have something much more important that cannot be re-done – the classic scenes and memories seared into your mind of being fully present and taking in these massive ancient monuments for the first time as they come over the horizon and grow bigger and bigger until they’re standing there before you in all their ancient glory and majesty as they have for thousands and thousands of years.