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Cairo Sights

Dahshur (Red Pyramid)

  • Archaeological Site/Ruins

Fodor's Review

HDahshur is one of the most tranquil and awe-inspiring pyramid sites. It contains five pyramids dating from the Old and Middle Kingdoms, of which three are obvious; only one—the Red Pyramid—can be entered. A suggested itinerary for the site is to drive to the first pyramid on the left of the entrance. After you take it in, drive over to the Bent Pyramid. You can walk around this, then over to the Black Pyramid (this is optional and takes about half an hour or so),

and then return to the car.

At this writing, the site is undergoing active restoration supported by both the Egyptian government, the United Nations Development Program, the World Trade Organization, and UNESCO. At this writing, the plan is to have the Dahshur pyramids sufficiently supported so that their interiors can be reopened to the public. The Bent Pyramid could be open before the end of 2010, while the two Middle Kingdom pyramids could reopen by 2011. There is no information available at this writing regarding whether or not ticket prices will rise upon the completion of the restoration work.

Named for the pinkish limestone of which it is made, the North Pyramid belonged to the 4th-Dynasty pharaoh Sneferu (2575–2551 bc), father of Khufu. It is 721 square feet and was originally 341 feet tall—just a little smaller than Khufu's Great Pyramid. It marks the first successful attempt at building a true pyramid. This is the second of Sneferu's two pyramids. The other is the Bent Pyramid. Why he commissioned two pyramids is unknown; some scholars believe that Sneferu built this pyramid after the Bent Pyramid because he feared the latter would collapse. The North Pyramid contains three chambers with corbeled roofs and a plethora of 19th-century graffiti. Tomb robbers battered the floor of the topmost chamber in search of treasure they never found.

Built for Sneferu, the Bent Pyramid is obviously named for its unique shape, which seems to demonstrate the transition between the step and the true pyramid. It is 599 feet square, and its original height was 344 feet, although it was intended to be 421 feet. It retains much of its limestone cladding.

This was the first pyramid to have been planned as a true pyramid, as opposed to a step pyramid. Its unusual bent angle seems to have occurred because the builders felt that the initial angle was too steep, and that the pyramid would collapse if they did not adjust it. This pyramid is also unusual in that it has two entrances: the typical north-face entrance, and a second in the west face that is just visible above the change in the angle.

Although the pyramid itself was undecorated, its valley temple is among the earliest to be adorned. (None of the decorated portions are at the site; the temple is a bit of a walk to the northeast, and it isn't very rewarding to visit.) The pyramid contains two chambers with corbeled ceilings. A passage from the north entrance leads to the chambers. To the south stands a subsidiary pyramid built of limestone, and on the east are the very ruined remains of a stone and mud-brick mortuary temple.

Built for Amenemhet III (1844–1797 BC), the Black Pyramid was constructed out of mud brick and faced with limestone. The limestone was plundered, leaving only the black mud brick that gives the pyramid its modern name. The pyramid measures 344 feet square and originally rose to 265 feet. The entrance to the burial chamber was not in the north face but outside the pyramid, in a courtyard opposite the southern corner of the east face. The top of the pyramid was crowned by a black basalt pyramidion, now in the Cairo Museum. Amenemhet, like Sneferu, had two pyramids; the other one is in Hawara in the Fayyum. The Black Pyramid is the southernmost of the Dahshur group of pyramids.

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Sight Information

Address:

Al-Haram Dahshur, Menshat Dahshur, Egypt

Phone:

/No phone

Sight Details:

  • E30
  • Daily 8–4

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