In Search of the Pharaoh's Daughter - V

A Hot & Hazy Afternoon Before the Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre in Giza, Egypt (LEO Design)


Why shouldn't Egypt be hot?  It's 90% desert.  And it's August.  Nevertheless, the sights are worth every drop of sweat.

Today we travelled to Giza, the site of magical, mysterious and iconic sights.  Even a person who has never been here before might feel as though s/he knows it .  The images already are ingrained in every curious mind.

We had been here once before, ten years ago, and are impressed with how the Egyptian government, the Ministry of Antiquities, has improved the visitor areas around the sites since then—all for the improvement of protection, scholarship and public education.

But it's still hot and dusty.  Occasional breezes will blow fine limestone sand into one's hair, upon one's moist skin and into one's camera crevices.


Stepped Pyramid of the Pharaoh Djoser in Giza-Egypt (LEO Design)


The Stepped Pyramid of Saqqara, shown above, was the tomb of the Pharaoh Djoser (constructed 2670-2650 BC).  Besides being a remarkable site, it was a marvelous feat of engineering and construction—the earliest colossal stone buildings to remain standing.  It's remarkable to stand before it and think, "This is the oldest stone building on Earth."  And it is the first (known) Egyptian pyramid.

It was built as part of a mortuary complex for the pharaoh by the ingenious architect (and chancellor and priest) Imhotep.  Prior to this cutting-edge building, pharaohs and aristocrats were buried beneath flat mud brick "slabs" called "mastabas."  Imhotep's genius was to stack six graduated mastabas—but made of stone, not mud—one atop the other.  It was certainly impressive—befitting a Pharaoh who was considered to be God.


Paintings Within the Tomb of Kagemni in Saqqara, Egypt (LEO Design)


Nearby, an aristocrat named Kagemni, Chief Justice and Vizier to the Pharaoh Teti, is buried in a traditional mastaba.  He must have been favored (and rich) to be permitted burial so near to the pharaoh.  His burial chamber was hidden under sand for centuries, and many of the wall carvings and paintings (like the one shown above, circa 2345-2323 BC) still are in remarkable condition, thanks to the dry desert air and the fact that the tomb had been protected from light and looters.


The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (LEO Design)


The Giza Necropolis, shown above, is a complex of pyramids, dominated by The Great Pyramid of Khufu (the largest Egyptian pyramid), the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure.  (See the Journal entry for 25 August to see sculptures of Khafre and Menkaure.)  In the photo above, one can see modern Cairo in the background.


The Great Sphinx of Egypt (LEO Design)


The Great Sphinx of Giza was associated with the Pharaoh Khafre—and it is his face which was carved upon the sculpture.  At one time, there were two sphinxes, one on the East Bank of the Nile, and another which remains on the West Bank of the Nile.  In the Medieval Period, a rather zealous Islamic king set-about destroying the Eastern Sphinx—as he did not approve of idolatry and false gods.  The king succeeded in the first half of his mission but was stopped by the Egyptians before he could destroy the second Sphinx.  I am told that this king, himself, was eventually killed by the Egyptians.

The sphinx is carved from a single, gigantic block of limestone.  For centuries, most of the Sphinx's body was buried, protected beneath the sand.  Only the face rose-out of the sand (thus it was exposed to more weathering).  It is not true that Napoleon fired a canon at the Sphinx, breaking his nose.  On the contrary, Napoleon was reportedly enchanted by the sculpture—indeed all of the aesthetic and engineering marvels of Egypt.  He and his squad of artists and historians were responsible for sharing Egypt's amazing art and culture with the Western world in the early Nineteenth Century.  The Empire Style took off throughout Europe and, in time, America.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248