Romance of the Pyramid
Our path took us downwards about 60 feet then upwards to emerge into the aptly named Grand Gallery. Just enough light had been strategically placed to enhance the effect of this magnificent gallery on our senses. The sight was breathtaking. Stopping to take in this imposing view our eyes were drawn upwards to the gabled ceiling 28 feet over our heads, then to the end of the gallery 154 feet ahead. We were surrounded by huge blocks of rock, each weighing several tons, expertly cut and placed so that each block extended a couple of inches beyond the blocks it rested on to form the gabled sides and ceiling. Steps had been built for the convenience of the many thousands of tourists before us to enable the climb up the gallery to the pharaoh’s chamber. Directed to these steps by our guide we proceeded upwards. Our guide, an attractive Egyptian women with an advanced degree in Egyptology, led us to the entrance of the Great Pyramid. Our group of travel agents was, at the invitation of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, to enter the Great Pyramid of Giza. The original entrance is some forty-seven feet up the side. The entrance we are directed to was cut in the face by tomb robbers in the 9th Century. Entering, we found a narrow tunnel leading downwards with guide rails to hold on each side. The tunnel width was just wide enough for a single file. I had to bend over as the ceiling of rock was only about 4 feet from the cut rock floor. Though many tourists have traveled into the pyramid the path is not for the faint-hearted or any who are fearful of closed spaces.
It was a wonder and a thrill. We are in the monument built for a pharaoh more than 3,500 years ago who ruled a nation of ancient times, and a people we are still learning about.
At last, entering through a vestibule, deep in the center of the pyramid, we were in the King’s Chamber. I don’t remember its size, perhaps 20 by 12 feet, but well remember the huge sarcophagus at one end. It was empty and had no lid. It was meant, it is said, for the resting place of the mummy of the Pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops. Pointing to the ceiling our guide told us that the roof consisted of nine granite slaps totaling about 400 tons. We were in a chamber with 400 tons directly overhead, and thousands of tons over that. She said that 100,000 workmen took 20 years working during a three-month season to build this mighty monument to their king. It was a public works project of awesome size.
Our guide, cautioning no one to move from where they stood, turned off the light. We were immediately embraced by a darkness so completely dense you felt you could feel it. There was no light of any kind. Holding my hand in front of my face yielded nothing to see, absolutely nothing! I felt a sense of relief when a few minutes later the light came back to reveal the chamber and the empty, if there ever was an occupant, sarcophagus.
Turning back to the entrance to the King’s Chamber we once again entered the Grand Gallery. Descending, I felt both relief and reluctance for I had just been where no one was meant to be once the pyramid was finished, the Pharaoh laid to rest, and the overlaying smooth slabs of polished limestone concealed the entrance for eternity.
Following my visit to Giza I visited Luxor and Karnak and trod the Valley of the Kings. I entered many of the tombs and marveled at the work and art of these ancient people. All are enshrined in my memory and still elicit wonder, admiration and a bit of mystery. The memory of being in the Great Pyramid though, is the greatest thrill.