The pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx are among the most popular touristic destinations in the world, and indeed already were even in Roman times. Each of these spectacular structures served as the final resting place of a king of the 4th Dynasty (c.2613–2494 BC). The Great Pyramid of Giza was built for king Khufu (c.2589–2566 BC), and the other two for Khafre and Menkaure, his son and grandson. Khufu’s pyramid is both the oldest and largest of the three, and the first building to exceed it in height would not be built for another 3,800 years!
Although the three pyramids dominate the plateau, they are in fact surrounded by many other monuments. Every king’s pyramid was just one element—albeit the most important—of a larger complex that included smaller, subsidiary, queens’ pyramids; an additional one that acted as a second, symbolic, tomb for the king, called a satellite pyramid; mastaba tombs for nobility and other family members; burials of actual and/or symbolic boats; and a pair of temples linked by a richly decorated causeway. One of these temples, called the valley temple, led into the pyramid complex, and was located on or near a body of water where boats could dock. The other, the funerary (or upper) temple, stood near the base of the pyramid. Priests maintained the mortuary cult of the deceased king in these temples, where his divine aspect was worshipped, and where rich and diverse offerings were presented to his soul so he could have a peaceful and luxurious afterlife.