“With their smooth surfaces and their pure, stark geometry, the pyramids, to the ancients, would not have radiated an air of antiquity, but rather one of some undreamed-of and inconceivable technology.” John Anthony West ‘The Travellers Key to Magical Egypt’
‘Pyramidiots’ is what John Anthony West named us. Whilst on my magical tour of Egypt with John we visited many pyramids. These immense structures, that still have not given their secrets up to us, are awesome to behold. Each one is unique, mysterious and rises up from the bedrock to take over the barren landscape.
From aliens to ancient civilisations, there are many theories as to who built them and why. The academic historical take is that they were tombs for pharaohs, but no actual body of a pharaoh has ever been found in them, in fact the pharaohs are buried in another part of Egypt, a special secret graveyard called ‘The Valley of the Kings’.
Though all are pyramidal shaped, each pyramid is different, none are the same size or dimensions, they all look out of the ordinary but each one is remarkable to behold.
We began the tour at the pyramid plateau of Giza and stood before the three famous monuments, where we were overwhelmed by their size, their prominence. We walked around them, amazed at the size of the blocks and the construction, all of us eagerly discussing theories as to how these pyramids could have been erected. Each block was tightly fitted next to its neighbour, you could not get a rizla paper between them. There is no concrete, no glue, no remains of any tools nor any report of who actually had them made, yet the Egyptologists attribute them to three pharaohs; Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus.
The plateau itself is also immense, the slabs of granite that are the walkway are again huge and must have had a purpose. I remember John telling me about the idea that the pyramids were giant sun dials and that the plateau extended out further in ancient times, perhaps enough for the shadow of the pyramid to fall to the floor which might have been set out in a dial that would be able to give the time. Regrettably, most of the plateau has been dug up over the centuries and the blocks used for buildings and so this idea cannot be tested or proven.
At the time of our visit it was not possible to visit the smaller pyramids that sit close by and are known as the Queens pyramids, instead we had to view them from afar. It was later in the week that I managed to hire a horse and go on a ride around the complex, I managed to ride up to these smaller pyramids but I was not allowed to dismount by them.
The first day we viewed the Giza plateau pyramids from the outside, it was to be the last two days of our trip that would allow us inside the Great Pyramid, more of that later.
It is in Saqqara that we saw the stepped pyramid that was built by King Zoser of the third dynasty. The complex is huge with tombs, temples and other smaller pyramids around it. We walked through a colonnade of obelisks that towered up around us that led into a great court with the pyramid rising up at the end of it.
As John said, “This is distinctive Architecture.” Nothing like this has been built since. The mighty blocks and colonnades made quite an impression on me and then to walk out to see the step pyramid just topped the whole experience. To be honest, I spent the whole of my time in Egypt with my jaw dropping as I continuously exclaimed “Wow!”
There are two pyramids at Dahshur, again both unique in their structure. They are attributed to Snefru, the father of Cheops, but again this has not been proven that he had them built.
The first we visited was in the south and is known as the bent pyramid. John explained to us that it has a rhomboidal shape. Halfway up the pyramid the angle of its shape changes, it seems to be a cross between a step pyramid and a smooth sided pyramid and one wonders why the builders did this. There seems to be no explanation. John wondered if it had a double angle to represent some kind of duality. Inside it has two chambers and it the only pyramid to have two entrances. What could be the significance of the number two with this pyramid?
The entrance to the chamber was small and we had to bend down to walk in but inside the chambers were large, high roofed and cold stone. John encouraged us to sing or chant in the chambers so that we could hear the acoustics and feel the air change as the sound moved around. Each pyramid is acoustically sound.
The second pyramid in Dahshur is the red pyramid, again attributed to Snefru and set in the north. It is called the red pyramid because it is encased in limestone that has a red tint to it. Inside this pyramid there are three chambers. The corridor to the chambers is narrow and steep and at one side there is a drop full of giant boulders. Again, we sang, this time into the pit of stone and as our voices bounced off the boulders we could feel the air change with the vibration of our singing. It felt sacred.
On our last full day in Egypt, we were given special permission to enter the great pyramid as a private tour. This meant just the group and John, no other tourists would be there. It was exciting to walk up the path and enter the pyramid, though John reminded us that this was not the true entrance, the original entrance was higher up.
Inside we looked up into the tall, narrow corridor and my breath was taken away; just how did they make this and why? The hot air inside added to the mystery as we climbed the narrow path upwards to the King’s chamber. The corridor walls were so smooth and as I touched them, I wished that they would transmit to me their history and secrets, but the stones stayed silent.
The chamber was again another awesome sight, I was transfixed by the giant rectangle stones that were the ceiling, how did they get put up there? We stood around the coffer, which I had expected to be in the centre of the room but was actually nearer to the back wall. I had seen photographs of it and now here I was seeing it with my own eyes and touching it with my own hands. It is rectangular in shape built in heavy stone but with one top corner damaged, by who and when is not known. John told us that he believed it was put there before the roof was put on, as there was no way it would have fitted through the small entrance into the chamber.
It had been planned that we would have a meditation in the pyramid for one hour and again I was thrilled to take part in this. We all sat around the chamber, backs against the wall, or lying flat on the ground, then the lights went out. It was pitch black, I had never been in a place where it was so dark, I could not see my hand in front of my face. There was no crevice for any light to creep in, no ray of sunshine, no artificial light, just deep blackness.
And so, we began to meditate, well some did, after a while some people began to snore. I don’t know who because it was too dark to see, but obviously not all of us were in a deep meditation, and some of us got fidgety. I decided along with another guy to crawl in the dark towards the coffer. I could feel its cold stone under my hands and my fellow companion climbed in it.
The hour went quick and my trying to contact the ancients in that time did not bring any results, my mind was too busy thinking about the pyramid and my heart was too excited at being there to be able to concentrate on anything.
When the lights came back on, I took my turn at sitting in the coffer. It was hot in the chamber so it was nice to lean my back against the cold stone of the sarcophagus, which I am sure was not really a burial place for a pharaoh but had some other great importance and use which has been lost with time.
The pyramids kept their secrets from me that day but I hope to return there and once again be in awe of these colossal monuments.