In modern times often considered to be a suburb of Cairo, Giza is home to the legendary Pyramids that sit on the Giza Plateau. About twelve and a half miles (20 kilometers) from the ruins of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, the Giza Necropolis that contains the tombs of some of Ancient Egypt's greatest pharaohs and their queens remains a major draw for tourists from all over the world. Far more than the home of the breathtaking pyramids, Giza has immensely benefited from its neighbor Cairo to become a bustling city in its own right with museums, shops, restaurants and hotels.
Fashioned after the likeness of Ancient Egyptian sun god Re-Horakhty, or "Horus of the Horizon", the Sphinx and its accompanying temple may look minuscule against the towering pyramids but still holds its own powerful appeal. This iconic monument, carved from an enormous block of sandstone, is referred to locally as Abu el-Hol ("Father of Terror") and received the name it is best known by from when Egypt was part of the Ancient Grecian empire. The Greek word sphinx ("strangler") stems from legends of the Sphinx riddling travelers wishing to visit the ancient city of Thebes, strangling and devouring those unable to correctly answer its riddles. Despite the rather gruesome origin of its name, this breathtaking monument is rightfully a legend of its own, silently greeting you as you approach the Giza Necropolis.
The pyramids in the necropolis, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu which was constructed from over two million huge blocks of limestone solely by the ingenuity of Ancient Egypt's most talented builders as well as legions of laborers, are awe-inspiring inside and out. With intricately carved hieroglyphics and murals on the walls and brilliantly designed inner chambers and passages, you won't help but be amazed by both the handiwork of the artists and how advanced the Ancient Egyptians truly were to build such marvelous structures in honor of their Pharaohs. While at any given time one of the three major pyramids are closed to interior tours for renovation purposes, you can easily spend a full day walking or riding on horseback or camel through the necropolis touring the pyramids and the surrounding cemeteries. By riding out about half an hour into the desert, you can capture amazing pictures of the pyramids grouped within one frame. It is important to remember that, for your own safety as well as the continued preservation of the pyramids, climbing the exteriors of the pyramids is extremely dangerous and illegal.
Immediately to the south of the Great Pyramid is the Solar Barque Museum, which showcases the excavated and reconstructed felucca that was buried beside Khufu's final resting place for the resurrected Pharaoh to join sun god Ra in his daily journey across the sky. Amazingly, despite being over four thousand years old, it is said that this massive ancient barge, with a length of 143 feet (43.6 meters) and width of 19.5 feet (5.9 meters), is still water-worthy. For a glimpse at the daily lives of Ancient Egyptian commoners, check out Dr. Ragab's Pharaonic Village, created by Egyptologist Dr. Ahmed Ragab. As the tour boat glides down the Nile for the first part of your tour, you will see common activities such as harvesting crops, glass-making and papyrus paper-making reenacted by live actors. The remainder of the tour is a walk through the rest of the village, offering insights on fascinating rituals of the Ancient Egyptians such as the mummification process, and a chance to tour the miniature museums at the village.
In addition to the shopping opportunities in nearby Cairo, there are quite a few shopping opportunities in Giza. There are several bazaars that carry handmade items from a wide variety of materials, perfume shops, jewelry shops, and modern shopping malls that carry premium brands from all over the world. Whether you're gearing up for a day in the necropolis or ending a day of shopping, Giza is truly a food-lover's paradise with nearly two thousand restaurants to choose from. If you find yourself feeling ravenous after a day exploring the pyramids, there are several Western fast food restaurants located almost immediately across from the necropolis for a meal that is quick and familiar. There are also a wide range of restaurants offering European, Italian, Asian, Mediterranean, and Indian food as well as vegetarian fare in addition to a wide range of restaurants serving wonderful traditional Egyptian foods for a plethora of choices to start your day or end your day with a delicious meal.
A spectacular way to end your day is by viewing the Pyramids Sound and Light Show, where the Sphinx "narrates" the history of the Giza Plateau as historical scenes are displayed against the pyramids with laser lights. If you are on an extremely tight budget, you can watch the show from the rooftops of restaurants near the necropolis while dining at the establishment for a nominal baksheesh (tip). However, for the best viewing experience, purchasing tickets to have a proper seat at the show is highly recommended. English-language shows are available six days a week. After viewing the show, you can relax and people watch at a cafe while enjoying a cup of coffee or catch a movie at the local theater.
Trekking through the desert while exploring the necropolis can be tiring, especially if you're unaccustomed to the heat. With several hotels in Giza and hostels near the necropolis it is easy to find a hotel with clean, accommodating rooms and friendly English-speaking staff that suits your personal tastes and budget from inexpensive lodging to all-inclusive hotels in Giza. Many of the best cheap hotels in Giza are located mere minutes from the pyramids and offer free Wi-Fi. You can either order food from the in-establishment restaurants or make your own meals in the shared kitchens and enjoy your meal on the rooftop terraces. These establishments also offer free coffee or tea at any time of day or night. The furnishing in these budget hotels is simple yet contemporary and several rooms offer views of the pyramids as well as the Sphinx.
Located slightly farther from the necropolis but an equally short trip to the pyramids as well as the heart of neighboring Cairo, 3 star hotels in Giza offer contemporary rooms with on-site shops and laundry service. If the desert heat begins to become unbearable for you, an afternoon swim in the outdoor pools will provide ample relief. In-establishment bars provide a nice way to relax after a day out and about before dining at the hotel's restaurant, and should you find your enjoyment of the cuisine negatively affecting your waistline, you can work the delicious food off in the gym or sweat it out in the sauna.
Spacious, luxurious, and modernly furnished rooms await you should you choose one of the 4 star hotels in Giza. Beautifully decorated outdoor terraces surrounding large pools provide a tranquil area to enjoy a swim or just relax. After enjoying a delicious, filling breakfast, you can get assistance and suggestions from the hotel's tour desk or request a taxi at the 24-hour front desk. For a day of relaxation and pampering, you can get a massage and spa treatment at the in-establishment spa before enjoying a few rounds of golf at the nearby golf course or reading a wide variety of literature at the hotel's library and finishing the day off enjoying music and dancing at the hotel's nightclub.
Surrounded by acres of lush gardens and breathtaking views of the pyramids from private balconies, 5 star hotels in Giza provide close proximity to the necropolis and ultimate relaxation throughout your stay. Dine on gourmet cuisine in the elegantly designed hotel restaurants or beside massive pools before retreating to your luxurious hotel room to rest amid understated elegance. luxury hotels in Giza have soundproofed rooms to ensure a peaceful night's sleep and room service at any time of day or night. Unwind with a few games in your hotel's game room or enjoy a few rounds of poker in a hotel casino. There are also babysitting services and children's activities at these hotels to keep your children safe and entertained while you and your spouse enjoy a date night on the town.
With close proximity to where the ancient capital of Memphis once stood and immediately by one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, Giza is a prime spot to delve into the history of Egypt's antiquities or to take a guided horseback ride through the desert as the sun rises above or sinks behind the pyramids. Increasingly popular with travelers who wish to lodge near the necropolis, this city awaits with open arms and legendary Egyptian hospitality for your arrival. Whether it is the pyramids or the plethora of dining and shopping options that draws you to Giza, a stay in the third-largest city in Egypt will provide you with a wonderful mix of history and modern comfort.