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Dashur: The oldest pyramids in Egypt..and the world?

October 10, 2011

Egypt, Photos

Dashur Bent Pyramid

Thought the first and only pyramids in Egypt were those in Giza? Think again! In Dashur, located about 40 km south of Cairo, lie several pyramids, two of which are among the oldest not only in Egypt, but the world. In fact, in Dashur lies the first smooth-sided pyramid in the world!

To me, Dashur is one of Egypt’s best kept secrets, not only for the reason I just mentioned, but also because: a) Not many tourists know about it b) It is actually in the middle of nowhere (unlike Giza’s!), and c) I found the Dashur pyramids to be even more intriguing and imposing than those at Giza. Maybe it was due to the isolation, the secrecy, the history behind these pyramids that I left with such fascination…or maybe I just prefer to be left alone to enjoy the eeriness of a burial site. Either way, I would love to persuade you to feel the magic yourself!

Red Pyramid, Dashur

Red Pyramid, Dashur

The necropolis (aka burial ground) of Dashur took its modern name from the nearby villages Dashur and Minsat Dashur (and I use “nearby” loosely!). It is believed that the two most famous pyramids of the necropolis, the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid, were built between 2613-2589 BCE, under Pharaoh Snofru’s rule. Who’s Snofru?! He happens to be the father of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Cool huh?

Now that you know a little bit more about the background of the site, let me tell you more about each of the pyramids at Dashur, starting with the Bent Pyramid.

Bent Pyramid in Dashur

Bent Pyramid in Dashur, Egypt

The Bent Pyramid was actually a result of “an engineering disaster.” How so? Half-way through its construction, the Bent Pyramid could not hold upright due to a mathematical error (of sorts). Consequently, the top section of the pyramid had to be built at a shallower angle of 43 degrees (vs. 55-degree inclination of the bottom half), making it a “bent ” pyramid.

The Bent Pyramid’s best feature, however, is not its identifying bent, but its limestone casing. This happens to be one of a selected few of Egyptian pyramids (out of about 90!) with its polished, outer casing still remaining almost intact. I say impressive because through the centuries, travelers, dwellers, and passerby stole the limestone out of most Egyptian pyramids, the Great Pyramids of Giza suffering this fate. Indeed, it is fascinating to see the Bent Pyramid, then visiting Giza and imagining how that polished limestone once used to cover the Great Pyramids there as well. Try it yourself!

Dashur Red Pyramid

Dashur's Red Pyramid: The first smooth-sided pyramid in the world (Wiki)

The Red Pyramid is my favorite. When I first saw it, the butterflies in my tummy and awe were feelings I thought would rush through my body when I saw the Great Pyramid of Giza (instead, a sandstorm of disappointments took me by surprise). I believe that the isolation, eeriness and nothing but desert sands surrounding me really added to the experience here at Dashur. Personally, this is what I was expecting at Giza, but was received by touts, noisy traffic, and pollution of the nearby great city of Cairo instead. Anyway! No more ranting, promise =) So where were we? Ahh, yes…

An interesting fact about The Red Pyramid used to be covered by white Tura limestone, but as I explained previously on this post, it was taken away, specifically during the Middle Ages, to build around the city of Cairo. Thus, the red tone you see nowadays is the underlying reddish sandstone.

Climbing Dashur Red Pyramid

Climbing Dashur Red Pyramid! (Wiki)

My favorite thing about the Red Pyramid is inside, though! In my opinion, it is much better and way less overprice than its cousin at Giza. And like I said–the eerie factor is amplified, so I assure you your experience will be much better without all the tourists and noise around. My advice to you? Skip going inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, book a tour and step inside the Red Pyramid instead! I promise you–it’ll be more than worth it! So go ahead, book a guide through Tripadvisor.com (go to the Cairo forums, look around), pay your fair price, and have the spooky good time you perhaps didn’t have at Giza *wink* oh yes, I see what you’re thinking, but no: This time, I do not recommend you to just take a taxi/bus to Dashur. It is too isolated to take that “risk” of paying a cabby and hoping he’ll still be there once you are done exploring these pyramids in the middle of the desert. Mmkay? =)

inside Dashur Red Pyramid

Ceiling of Dashur Red Pyramid's main burial chamber (Wiki)

Have I persuaded you to visit Dashur? Or have you already been there? ;)

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6 Responses to “Dashur: The oldest pyramids in Egypt..and the world?”

  1. Katrina Says:

    I only had a quick week in Egypt, so we just saw the pyramids at Giza. I so wanted to see the bent pyramid, though! Thanks for posting. :D

    Reply

  2. Roland van Helven Says:

    the pyramids in Bosnia and China are way older, at least 12,000 years old. artefacts have been dated 34,000 years old.

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      My friend, two things:

      1. “Pyramids” In Bosnia are actually geological formations called “flatiron,” created by erosion. Not human-built pyramids.

      2. The “pyramids of China” might be older, but if you would have read the first paragraph of this post carefully enough, you would have noted that I clearly specified: “two of which are among the oldest not only in Egypt, but the world. In fact, in Dashur lies the first smooth-sided pyramid in the world.” Smooth-sided my friend, smooth-sided ;)

      Cheers!

      Reply

  3. Jaime Says:

    I’d have to agree with you… I love the Pyramids of Giza, but these sets of pyramids are so much better. I loved it for the same reasons you did. The isolation the mystery and the not many tourist… I have already visited the great pyramids twice I wanna visit these pyramids again too before leaving Egypt in 7 weeks.

    Reply

    • Maria Laborde Says:

      :D !! Aren’t they just lovely? I wish I could say the same about being in Egypt nowadays–have fun and make sure you make it to Dahab if you haven’t done so already! ;)

      Reply

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