The enigmatic Sphinx measures 66 feet (20 m) in height, and 240 feet (73 m) in length from paw to tail, and represents a mystical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human man. Despite its name in Arabic, which translates as "The Father of Dread", the sphinx of Ancient Egyptian mythology is considered to have been a symbol of strength, intelligence and benevolence.
A marvellous mystery
The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the greatest mysteries of Ancient Egypt, as it is still unknown exactly when it was built, by whom, and for what reason... Most historians and archaeologists agree that it was probably built around 2500 BCE as part of Khafre's funerary complex - probably as a guardian of his tomb - and that the sphinx's face is therefore a likeness of the 4th dynasty Pharaoh.
Adding to the secrets that shroud the Sphinx is speculation on the disappearance of its nose. Visibly missing - it would have measured over three feet (1 m) wide - there are all sorts of theories as to who destroyed it. It was originally blamed on Napoleonic forces, although drawings made before the leader's birth show the sphinx in its noseless state, debunking that particular myth.
The Great Sphinx today
It may be missing a nose, a beard and no longer be decorated in the bright colours that once covered it; and its body may have been buried in the sand for centuries, but the Sphinx remains one of Egypt's most magnificent monuments and provides fascinating insight into the culture, history and architectural achievements of the ancient civilisation.
Visiting the Sphinx
Located next to the Valley Temple of Khafre, in front of the Pyramid of Khafre, visiting the Sphinx is included in the admission ticket to the Pyramids of the Giza Plateau. The monumental complex can be reached easily from Cairo for those who want to visit at their own pace, otherwise excursions with English-speaking expert tour guides are a great way to learn more about the historic sites:
Daily from 8 am to 4 pm.
Admission to Giza Plateau:
Adult: LE 160.
Student (with valid ID): LE 80.
- Taxis from Cairo shouldn't cost more than LE 50.
- Flag down a bus from various stops in Cairo city centre (including outside the Egyptian Museum) for a couple of pounds (not recommended for female solo travellers).
- Metro line 2 goes to Giza, from there you'll have to take a taxi to the pyramid complex.
- Guided tours include transport.