Rising Towards the Sun - The Pyramids of Giza
There is no just way to capture the awe of Giza’s Great Pyramids. I will fall short. Forgive the hyperbolic language, the experience itself leaned into hyperbole. Hyper awake. When I first stood in front of the oldest wonder of the world I felt like my cells all remembered how to breathe. I felt a collective exhale as if I’d been trying to control or understand something I couldn’t, for far too long. I felt small, and I felt integral. I felt like it had been centuries since I’d been here.
Before I showed up in Giza, I didn’t know that there are actually a ton of pyramids in the Great Plateau. Okay, nine. The largest was commissioned by pharaoh Khufu, or Cheops, and built between 2580-2560 BC. We were about negative 4500 years old, give or take. Yet there it stood, robust and majestic. A real thing, created by human hands, or pulleys and levers made with hands, has lasted that long. Can memory carry that long, lifetime after lifetime? No matter what you believe, this place imprints like a ripple through time.
Inside each pyramid is a suite of caverns and specific rooms like the King and Queen’s Chambers. In Cheops’ pyramid archaeologists have also uncovered deep pits where Solar Boats lay in wait to deliver his soul to Ra, the sun god, and a life in eternity. Cheops’ son Kahfre, or Chephren, commissioned the second pyramid, built between 2558 and 2542 BC. Chephren told his father he would respect his memory, and make his own pyramid smaller. But Chephren was a trickster. After has father Cheops’ death, Chephren erected his own, smaller pyramid, but did so on a hill. From a distance, it actually looks larger. The third largest pyramid was build by Menkaure, after 2510 BC. It sits furthest south alongside what historians call the “Pyramids of the Queens.”
But how on earth did the Egyptians do this? The largest pyramid alone is made up of over two million stones, weighing an average of two tons each. Over eight thousand tons of granite were hauled up from Aswan for just this one. Scientists theorize a series of ramps and pulleys helped craftsmen hoist the stones from the Nile up the pyramid, but conspiracy theories abound. Aliens? Giants? Divine Intervention? Slaves? It’s easy to get lost. The layout on a map grid perfectly aligns the three largest pyramids with the constellation Orion. Why? And what technical miracle occurred so long ago that we would be hard pressed to repeat it today? In an age of smartphones and online dating, to create these now still seems impossible. The mystery around a challenge so great is only part of what inspires us.
When the pyramids were created, they were meant to intimidate. The stories we now call myths were truths in that day. Back in the BC 2500s, the sides of these monsters weren’t crumbled steps, they were sleek, 45 degree polished granite, perfect mirrors to reflect the light of the sun god Ra. On your approach, you knew the people behind these masterpieces were mighty, god-like beings. Don’t fuck with this king, they said. I want to be like that king.
But this doesn’t at all encapsulate the wonder of the site. It still intimidates. To stand in front of something so old, so massive, so riddled with unknowns is uncanny. I was simultaneously humbled in my small, frail human form, and expanded into the dry desert air that pulsed its heat into my skin. I was part of it. I was dangerous, desperate, bruised. I was mighty and reflective.
Before I even left to go to Egypt, I knew one thing; it was essential to go. A voice called me there with a directive clear and demanding. It was, and still is, important to listen to that voice, to discern this call from the myriad others that hijack my thoughts. The voice that called me to Egypt was undeniable and frightening like the king from eons ago, and each day I basked in the vision of the great pyramids, I felt right. From Katy Butler’s terrace, where I stayed the week before my tour, I looked out at the Giza Plateau each day. Before I left, I felt like everything and everyone was fucking with me, and here they couldn’t.
What if that voice meant to tell me I belonged here, I’d been here before? Maybe the soul is elastic, and stretches for as long as these pyramids through time? Each of us belongs to our history as much as to our present. My individual history is unique, but it's shared. Maybe the lessons learned here are still up for grabs, still important. Envision the afterlife. Listen to the wind. Look closely. Start at the bottom and ease your way up. Work together. All is possible with faith. It is towards the sun, and the sun god Ra that each pyramid rises. We still begin and end all our days by the light of the sun. Look up, see it?