The Pyramids are impressive. Best bits include the restored solar barge, the quite moderate levels of hassle, and most especially going inside the pyramid of Khufu (Cheops). The great gallery is truly breath-taking, the sensation of height and space being the more impressive after the narrow entrance tunnel. It’s always remarked upon, but the quality of the stonework is amazing, far superior to almost everything that has followed (some South American sites excepted). Sadly the lower chambers aren’t open (but the access would be pretty dangerous), and from inside the King’s chamber the roof vaulting isn’t visible, but the overall experience is still special. At one point I had the entire place to myself – just me, a sarcophagus, and a zillion tons of stone.

Photography is verboten, but it’s no loss – trying to convey the sense of the place would be futile, I think.

The restored funerary boat (‘solar barge’) is amazing on several levels. For one thing, it was found in a pit about five metres beside the pyramid of Khufu, which demonstrates that pretty much anything could still be lurking under the sand, no matter how visited a site is. The most impressive aspect for me, however, is the boat’s construction – it’s all held together with ropes; where a regular ship would have ribs, knees and rowlocks, the Egyptians just used (lots of) rope. I imagine this makes for a very forgiving, ‘plastic’ vessel, good for use in river of unpredictable draught, and certain kinds of repair will be simpler, but a rebuild might be required at regular intervals.

Posted Monday, April 14th, 2008 under history, travel.

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