The Pyramids of Giza, along with the Sphinx, is the most recognisable icon of Egypt for the past four thousand years. They are part of the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur, which are inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 3rd session of the World Heritage Committee which met in Cairo and Luxor between the 22nd to the 26th of October, 1979.
The Giza Necropolis, where the pyramids are located, is about 25km southwest of Cairo city centre, and 8km outside the old town of Giza. Nevertheless, due to the continual growth of Cairo, housing development reaches right up to the desert bordering the pyramids. Since 1979, the Pyramids of Giza, as well as the ancient ruins in Memphis, Saqqara, Dahshur, Abu Ruwaysh and Abusir, were collectively inscribed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
Photo of Pyramids of Giza
Fighter jet flying over the Pyramids of Giza
Author: US Air Force Photo (public domain)
At Giza are three giant-size pyramids, and numerous smaller ones. The biggest of the three is the Pyramid of Khufu, also known as the Great Pyramid or the Pyramid of Cheops.
In the middle a few hundred metres to its southwest is the Pyramid of Khafre, or Chephren, who is one of Khufu's successors. The Pyramid of Khafre is the one with the Sphinx a short distance in front of it, and often appears in photographs with the Sphinx, which according to Egyptologists, was modelled after the Pharoah Khafre. It is often thought to be the largest of the pyramids, but it is not. Its large appearance is due in part to its position on a higher elevation.
A few hundred meters to the southwest of the Pyramid of Khafre is that of his successor, the Pharoah Menkaure. The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three great pyramids.
The three pyramids are lined up diagonally in a row, with the Pyramid of Menkaure slightly out of the alignment. Arrayed beside them are smaller satellite pyramids built for the queens. One of these contain the tomb of Hetepheres, Khufu's mother, who also happens to be the half-sister of his father, who founded the Fourth dynasty of Egypt and reigned from 2613BC to 2589BC.
The biggest as well as oldest of the three major pyramids is the Pyramid of Khufu. It is 230.4m (755.8ft) wide on each side, and has a current height of 138m. When it was built, it was 146.8 m tall (480.9ft) but erosion and theft of its topmost stone has somewhat reduced its height. It rises at an angle of 51 deg 50' 40".
The Pyramid of Khufu was built over a 20-year period, completed around 2560 BC. It entombs the Fourth dynasty pharoah Khufu. Also constructed with the pyramid were two mortuary temples in honour of Khufu. One of these is close to the pyramid while another near the Nile. A causeway links them as well as the three smaller pyramids for the pharoah's wife, boat pits, and tombs for the nobles.
The Pyramid of Khafre has a width of 215m (715ft) on each side. The pyramid rises at an angle of 53 deg 10', making it steeper than Khufu's pyramid. It reaches a height of 143.5m (471ft). It sits on bedrock 10m (33ft) higher than the Pyramid of Khufu, making it look taller.
The Pyramid of Menkaure has a base of 105m (344ft) on each side. Constructed of limestone and granite, it rises to a height of 62m (203ft) from an original height of 65.5m (215ft).
World Heritage Site Inscription Details
Location: N29 58 33.744 E31 7 49.476 in the Governorate of Giza, Egypt
Inscription Year: 1979
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: I, III, VI
Location Map of the Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza is No. 4 on the map of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Egypt.
View UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Egypt in a larger map
Visiting the Pyramids of Giza
You can go to the Pyramids of Giza (called "Al-Ahram" in Arabic) from Cairo by metro, taxi and bus. Metro Line 2 goes to Giza station. From there, take a mini bus for the remaining 10 km to the Pyramids. You can also take the taxi, but remember to bargain and reject any offers to be taken shopping. To go by bus, take the white, air-conditioned CTA (Cairo Transport Authority) Bus No. 355 or 357. The bus stops at the Abdel Menem Riyad Station next to the Egyptian Museum, from where you can ride to the Pyramids. It costs 2.00 Egyptian pounds.
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