Some things you hear about so much that they are never going to live up to your expectations. The pyramids at Giza were even better than I could have imagined from photographs or scenes from movies. The Great Sphinx of Giza, on the other hand, we found oddly disappointing. 

It had nothing to do with the hordes of souvenir touts or the fact that the Great Sphinx monument is in poor condition.

The Sphinx at the Pyramids of Giza

The pyramids’ size relative to the Sphinx

Having seen the Disney movie Aladdin, I knew that the Sphinx lost his nose when Aladdin and Jasmine flew by on their magic carpet.  No surprises there.

So why exactly did I find the Great Sphinx of Giza disappointing? After all, the Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the world’s oldest and largest monuments.

  • The Sphinx itself is not that big. I assumed it was huge but it is dwarfed by the pyramids. The photographs I have seen clearly used a wide angle lens.
  • The area around the Sphinx itself is closed off to prevent further deterioration. So the viewing platform area is swarming with tourists. You don’t actually feel any sense of majesty when tourists are climbing all over each other to take selfies.
  • It’s hard to visualise how the Sphinx would have looked in its heyday.  Disney lied!!  It was only supposed to be the tip of the nose that was missing.
The Sphinx at the Pyramids of Giza

That’s more than the tip of the nose gone!

  • The front of the Sphinx is cordoned off with seats for the nightly light and sound show.  It felt Disneyesque to me. See point 2 about missing some undefinable air of majesty or mystery.
  • Taking up valuable space, there is a mini-market leading up to the Sphinx.  The stalls are selling the usual made in China tourist tat. More visual clutter.
  • The Sphinx faces pretty much straight onto American fast food restaurants and souvenir stores.
The Sphinx

Image: Mitch Altman

I can summarise my disappointment down to one key fact. I don’t believe this monument is getting the space it needs to appreciate it.

So, there you have it.  I expect the Sphinx were he alive would be sorely disappointed by the position he finds himself in today.  Never mind, what pharaoh Khafra whose face is supposed to be on the Sphinx would have thought.  I’d be mightily annoyed that having built a monument to myself proclaiming my power for all eternity, my view was not of awe-struck plebs but a Pizza Hut.

 

Have you been to see the Great Sphinx of Giza?  What was your opinion?