Great Sphinx

Travel tips you can trust


Why the
Great Sphinx
in Giza, Egypt
is special

The Sphinx has one of the world's most recognized faces and has been - along with its neighboring Pyramids - an icon of Egypt for thousands of years. Yet, no one knows for certain when it was built - and why and by whom.

Great Sphinx
tips and insights

Physical description

The Sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh or god. It's in a relaxed crouching position with outstretched legs.


It was sculpted out of a large, monolithic limestone outcropping.


It measures 20 meters (65 feet) in height and 73 meters (240 feet) in length.


Most experts date it to Pharaoh Khafra's reign (26th century BC). Some believe the Sphinx was sculpted much earlier. Others argue later.

Missing nose

Theories abound. They include destruction by an irate religious zealot and, less likely, by Napoleonic or Turkish military canon fire.

Burried in sand

For most of its multi-thousand-year lifespan, the Sphinx has been shrouded in wind-driven desert sand, sometimes up to its shoulders. Major sand clearing projects occurred at various times. The last was in the early 20th century.

Recent damage

An ill-advised restoration in the 1980s caused structural deterioration. The current major threat is acute smog from nearby Cairo.

Location in Egypt

Read about each of Egypt's top 7

Pyramids of Egypt at Giza
Karnak Temple
Nile River Cruise
Egyptian Museum
Valley of the Kings
Abu Simbel
Luxor Temple


Photo by Nina Hale - CC BY 2.0



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