Photos from on top of the Great Pyramid

The Pyramids of Giza close to tourists at 4:00 pm. Recently, a group of Russians managed to hide out at the site after closing time and scramble up the Great Pyramid of Cheops in the fading light. Naturally, they took photos. (Because if there is one thing the Internet has taught me about Russians, it's that they like to climb to dangerous heights and then take photos.)

These shots are kind of fabulous, not just for the thrill of "yeah, somebody broke the rules!", but because of the perspective you get from on high that isn't visible in the many ground-level shots I've seen. From on top of the Pyramid, you can see how the stone is pockmarked and carved — it really looks like something humans cut out of the Earth. You can also see the graffiti left by generations of tourists in multiple languages; English, Arabic, French, and more. And you can see the edge of the modern city, shimmering just at the horizon. I don't think I'd previously had such a profound sense of how closely modern Egyptians lived and worked to the Great Pyramid, before. What a fascinating view!

Thanks to Steve Silberman for the link!



    1. I once took a flight that got into Cairo about dawn. I didn’t see the pyramids themselves (I think I was looking in the right general direction but the pollution was terrible), but going up the Nile at night was incredible. Quite a few lights were on on either side of the Nile and a short distance in each direction, but other than that it was just black as far as you could see.

  1. Oh please. This isn’t edgy or thrilling. Climbing the pyramids is a colonial cliche. For centuries Europeans did whatever they wanted with the monuments they found in Africa and the MIddle East with no regard to what the local populations thought. “The Rules” in this case are eminently reasonable and designed to protect  these monuments of Egyptian culture for posterity. There’s nothing new in these photographs; all I see is a very old sense of entitlement manifest once again in a bunch of ignorant tourists with no sense of history.  

    1. I have to agree with this. I wandered around there in 2000 and was approached by a local who offered to help me do this very thing, but thought it was a bit crass (as well as dangerous). A bit like climbing up into Abe Lincoln’s lap (the memorial sculpture) if no one was looking.

      1. Thinking about stuff is so stupid. I guess what I meant was: “Ooh! aah! Pretty lights in picture so pretty.” 

        1. Sorry, but your first comment was just a little too damn uptight for something that is really not that big a deal.

    2. Either wss233 just did a great send-up of Pretentious Hipster Archaeologist, or s/he really *does* need a valium…

      1. Can you explain exactly what you mean by the use of the word “hipster” in this context? I am interested in how this word keeps evolving (or, frequently, is just used to disparage someone without really caring what the word means).

        1. Disdain + Dismissal + ‘Knowing’ Judgment.
          “Oh please. This isn’t edgy or thrilling. [That thing you like] is a [smartypants reference] cliche.”

    3. It is, however, the first time I’ve seen photos taken by someone standing on top of a pyramid. As someone who will probably never visit Egypt and certainly wouldn’t try to sneak my way atop a pyramid, it’s pretty cool to see the photos.

      So I’ll give these guys a pass. Some of them are pretty darn good landscapes, so that helps too. If they had gone all that way and taken cell phone pictures, I’d have been a lot less impressed.

    4. To their credit, they do reference Nicholas II:)
      Incidentally, some of the original limestone casing of the Great Pyramid is in the British Museum.

    5. “Hey, someone’s selfish sense of entitlement let them abuse archeological treasures, YEAH, exxxtreme!  Maybe next they can play frisbee with the Rosetta Stone, TO THE MAX!”

    6. To be honest many of the ancient monuments were just as likely to be stolen by ancient civilizations (Rome stole Egyptian monuments) as they were to be looted by local civilizations.  When I was in Turkey I  saw old Christian churches with their walls studded with old pagan temple stones.

      1. . . . and in Greece, the same crazy Christanos razed temples and used the pieces to build tacky churches.

      2. Where do you think the Vatican got pretty much all their materials from particularly all the marble? I found it to be disgusting and abhorrent. They basically intentionally destroyed history. The wealth was sick.

    7. As beautiful as the shots are, that was my first thought.  You can see the state of the site, it’s crumbling.  I don’t know about clumping Europeans into on big pot of t**ts, but it is pretty selfish on these peoples part.

    8. My feelings exactly. The pyramids are crumbling, a trend exacerbated by dozens of foreign jerks climbing them all the damn time. The rules are there for a reason. As a real life, modern day Egyptian, I find this actually really offensive.

    1. I always thought the TR level where Lara climbed the pyramid and you had to figure out where to jump or you’d slide all the way back down was one the best – which game was that? I can barely remember my old PSX titles.

  2.  The first thing tourists notice is the KFC sign you have to work around when taking photos, to maintain the illusion that this historic site is “out in the desert somewhere”.  I’ll see if I can dig out a photo I took of a LEO on camelback in the foreground with that sign in the background.

    1. Oh, so uncomfortable.  I can’t imagine how anyone came up with the idea to ride these things.  It’s like sitting on a way-too-large butt plug that’s covered in flies.

        1. I have yet to encounter a traffic cone that spits at me and tries to bite my leg.

      1.  Having different assemblage of equipment, the ride doesn’t seem so bad to me.  The speed (or rather, lack thereof) is the killer for me.

    2. I was there in the mid-80s.  You’re out in the middle of the photogenically empty desert, then you walk around the other side of the pyramid to the parking lot, down to the busy street, and you’re in town.  (At least at that time, it was still the edge of the town, but the big hotel is there.)

      I went jogging up there one night, and found the place was closed, but there’s a guard and an old guide.  The guard’s job is to make sure you absolutely can’t go in there because it’s closed, unless you hire the old guy to take you around.  I had some cash and it was absolutely worth it, even though some of the rooms are hard to see by cigarette-lighter. 

      On the other hand, even back then they were serious about not letting you climb up the big pyramid, because the stone is fairly soft and it can’t handle a lot of people climbing on it.

  3. You can’t get within a quarter mile of the Great Pyramid without some official asking for a bribe to take you to the top.  It’s not all that transgressive.

  4. Now that I have a little more time, my favorite set-in-Egypt, Americans-can-be-self-centered-jackasses story:

    Got to the tomb room in Khufu’s pyramid.  It’s very dark, with close, fetid, almost unbreathable air.  Walk over to the open tomb and look inside….there’s a guy lying there, 4 feet down.  Yes, that’s right….people are climbing all over the outside of the pyramids, OK fine, but INSIDE the friggin’ coffin, for Ra’s sake?  So I start alerting the children of the situation so they don’t have the same heart attack I did when they look inside….and a woman, clearly the guy’s partner-in-weirdness, comes over and shushes me, explaining how important it is that he not be disturbed while he’s absorbing the spirit from his former life (because of course everyone was a king or pharaoh in a past life….no one was ever the laborer, dontyaknow?).  I look at our guide and she nods sadly.  Apparently it’s a common problem.

    1. I once spoke to an American who had just come back from Bagan in Myanmar. Of course he climbed the pagodas and accidentally knocked the top off one of them…

      1. One of my yoga students visited the statues on Easter Island a couple of hours after that Finnish idiot broke off an ear.  I gather that there was much yelling and flailing of arms.

  5. Uh, ya. Not really that big a deal to climb up to the top. When I visited the first time 30 years ago people were doing this all the time. At that time you could also go inside, along a very steep passage to the chamber where the sarcophagus had been. As neat as it was to go in, it was depressing to see literally every square inch of the interior carved with graffiti in all languages.

    And camels are the worst transport ever. Definitely.

    1.  You can still go in (or could in 2008) down the long scary nightmare inducing tunnel into the fetid chamber. My wife made it all the way (to find the room packed with Japanese! Who knew?!) but I only made it halfway before the claustrophobia kicked in and I realized, “No one is making me do this but myself.”

      1.  I brought an extra kid in with me because his adults made the same realization halfway up, but he was still eager to go.

      2. I thought the inside of the Great Pyramid was just fine; it’s pretty big and roomy.  The pyramid at Chichen Itza, though, is much more cramped, and it’s a lot more humid, claustrophobic, and smelly. 

    2. The Great Wall is the same. In some places, every square inch is a testimony that someone from around the world (China, more often than not) was there.

    3.  There is graffiti in the Galapagos (one of the most protected sites in the world); however, it’s many hundreds of years old so it’s not quite as offensive to witness.  The US wasn’t a country when those scrawls were etched, so I don’t have to be embarrassed that “one of us” did it.

      1. The Acropolis in Greece has graffiti from Lord Byron on it.  (Of course, its more serious problem is that it was used for ammo storage during one of the Greek-Turkish wars in the mid 1800s and got blown up; it wasn’t really a “ruin” until then.)

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