PHOTO: Great Pyramid of Giza, also Known as Pyramid of Khufu

Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as Pyramid of Khufu, just south of Cairo, Egypt

I’d long wanted to visit the Egyptian pyramids, but kept putting it off due to scheduling and concerns over safety in the region. Last fall, I finally made it. One of the biggest surprises for most travelers is the location of the pyramids. Photos show them surrounded by sand, as if they are solitary structures far out in the desert. In truth, they are located on the opposite side of a busy street that fronts the archeological park in Giza, the city located just across the river from Cairo.

From the balcony of my hotel I had a prime view of all three of the largest pyramids, but looking at them from afar is deceptive. To feel their enormity, one must stand right up against them, and this is where the next misconception comes in. With the exception of entrances where visitors are allowed go inside, I had expected the pyramids to be somewhat protected from human touch. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I made the long uphill walk to the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu) and walked right up to it. I made a complete circuit, stopping to sit on the giant limestone blocks whenever heat got the better of me. Even up close, the immense size of the Great Pyramid of Giza is difficult to grasp. Only the people at its base, who were dwarfed in comparison, provided an adequate reference. I returned to my starting point and headed for the other two pyramids to walk around them as well, then continued up to the observation point for an overview of the trio. From there, the city was invisible, blocked by sand dunes and a vast rock-strewn desert. It is from this spot that many photos are taken, giving the impression of remoteness.

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