Dahshur is the last destination of my three post series on the Half-Day escape from the tourist crowd at The Pyramid Complex of Giza. Dahshur is also a UNSECO World Heritage Site listed under Memphis and its Necropolis. These pyramid fields, basically the burial sites of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs spread from The Pyramid Complex of Giza to Saqqara to Dahshur covering the area of about 164 square kms.
The story of the Egyptian Pharaohs and their pyramids started around 3000 years ago in the mighty capital of Memphis. Nearby desert area of Saqqara served as the largest necropolis (royal burial place) for that capital. Pharaoh Djoser, The Founder of The Third Dynasty, built the first ever stone pyramid, The Step Pyramid, at Saqqara. This was a transformation from the earlier tombs those were shaped like great brick rectangles, with the walls sloping inward and a flat roof, commonly referred to as mastabas. For the first time brick was replaced by the stone at The Step Pyramid.
After that, The Founder of The Fourth Dynasty, Pharaoh Snefru, also thought to built a grand structure like his predecessor. He continued the construction of The Rectangular Pyramid at Meidum, which was originally built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. That pyramid was designed like the step pyramid, but with more wide five rectangular steps. Because of some major errors in the design, that pyramid collapsed during the construction and only three steps survived after the collapse and finally that construction work was abandoned.
During the construction of that pyramid of Meidum, another desert area Dahshur, about 10 kms south of Saqqara, came in the picture. Later, Dahshur became a prominent site for the pyramids, having eleven pyramids in total, from which three pyramids, Bent Pyramid, Red Pyramid and Black Pyramid still exist there.
Bent Pyramid: Along-with the construction of The Pyramid of Meidum, the construction of this pyramid was also started in Dahshur. The outer wall of the pyramid was constructed at 54 degrees slope with the ground, but after reaching to some height, they suddenly bent to provide the slope of 43 degrees till the top. That sharp bended structure over the lower part of the pyramid giving its name Bent Pyramid. This pyramid was the first attempt to built the typical “pyramid” structure as we know it today. There are many theory behind that sharp change in the angle. Some people say that after the collapse of Pyramid at Meidum, Snefru’s architects bend it at more angle to avoid the same type of collapse. Some also believe that the sudden angle change was the result of financial saving. Another group of historians believe that they bend this pyramid to complete in hurry as Snefru was approaching towards his death. But this theory is not true as Snefru built another perfect pyramid, the Red Pyramid, near to this Bent Pyramid.
The Bent pyramid is also special in the sense that it is the only pyramid, where the outer casing of limestone is still preserved to a large extent. Earlier, people were not allowed to visit the burial chambers and interior of this pyramid, but now it is open to the tourists. Photography is not allowed inside the pyramid, however everything is possible in Egypt, if you offer some bakhsheesh (tips) to the security guards.
Note: No separate entry ticket required to visit the burial chambers. It is about 300 meters away from the parking area.
Red Pyramid: This is the largest among the three pyramids present at Dahshur. In fact, it is the third largest pyramid overall, only after the Pyramid of Khufu and Pyramid of Khafre at Giza. It was the oldest pyramid constructed ever to give us the exact shape that we expect by the word “pyramid” today. In fact, the shape of this pyramid inspired architects in the successive years to built massive and spectacular pyramids in Egypt, particularly at Giza Complex. In its original construction, this pyramid was fully covered by the white Tura limestone like other pyramids, but with the time, those limestone either eroded or taken away by influential people to built buildings in Cairo and now visible near the base only.
There are three chambers inside the Red Pyramid, which can be visited without any extra cost. The visit to the pyramid interior is recommended at Dahshur because those burial chambers are in most preserved state and very few tourists go there unlike the pyramid of Giza. Whatever is the weather condition outside, it is always very hot and suffocating inside the pyramids. Be cautious while descending down to pyramid chambers on those wooden steps. Photography inside the pyramid is not allowed officially, but the security guard at the entrance may allow you to click the pictures in the hope of some bakhsheesh (tips).
Note: It is located one km before the Bend Pyramid. Some taxi drivers may drop you near to this pyramid only by saying that Bend and Black pyramid is close due to the military area restrictions. Do insist to go near the Bend Pyramid, where you can easily go by taxi. No separate entry ticket required to visit the burial chambers of Red Pyramid. Vehicles can be park close to the pyramid about 100 meters away from the main entrance.
Black Pyramid: It is another pyramid in Dahshur desert, located about one km. beyond the Bent Pyramid. It is the only pyramid, which is having a burial chamber for both , the king and the queen. This pyramid is the oldest among the pyramids at Dahshur as well as at Giza, but, the burial chambers inside this pyramid is best preserved among all. Since this pyramid is in a military zone, nobody can go there (As reported by my driver as well as some local person). This pyramid was built by King Amenemhat III during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.
Today, this pyramid looks like a rumbled mound, since major portion has been already collapsed due to many structural deficits. The pyramid was built in the flood plain of Nile river, just 10 meters above the sea level. There are many underground sideways, tunnels and burial chambers inside the pyramid. Black pyramid was built on these hollow base with mud bricks, not the stones, that also led to the structural weakness and finally to the collapse of this pyramid.
Ticket Information: Ticket counter is located on the main road going to the desert, where these pyramids are situated, about 2 kms before the Red Pyramid. Ticket price to visit Dahshur Complex is 30 LE and also includes the visit of the burial chambers inside the Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid.
Originally, there were eleven pyramids built in Dahshur, but only three (two very small satellite pyramids are also there) are survived through the ravages of the history. While everyone flocks to Giza, Dahshur sits more quietly to the south, but with many exciting things to offer in a different way. The pyramids at Giza are immense in size, but everything I saw at Dahshur was immense in details, wonderfully preserved for a more intimate, hands-on encounter with the ancient world.
For me it was an excellent day in the world of legendary pyramids spreading from Giza to Dahshur. It was a dream come true for me that day, when I visited those mysterious world of pyramids at Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur.My taxi driver left me at a Metro Station in Cairo and I reached back to my hotel by 7 PM in the evening.
Important Tip: I visited all three places Giza, Saqqara, Dhashur plus Memphis in a single day, but to have a fair idea and memorable experience, I recommend it to visit in two days at least. Plan first day for Giza Complex and then the second day for Memphis, Saqqara and Dahshur. Those living pieces of history are massive in sizes and vast in details and required a complete attention from a tourist.
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