Dahsur : A Journey towards Perfection

‘Rome was not built in a day’- so was not the epitome of perfections, the Pyramids. In Giza, Pyramids touched the zenith of human marvels but it started its journey much earlier from the unshaped mounds called mastabas, then to step pyramids and to the perfect pyramids. Thus the royal necropolis of Dahsur plays an important role in history, as here the experimentation for transitioning from step-sided to smooth-sided pyramids took place by trial & error method, followed by the successful construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Before visiting Giza, we thought that it would be wise to acquire some idea on man’s journey towards perfection, so we arrived at Dahsur.

Evolution of Pyramids

Bent Pyramid

After entering the pyramid complex of Dahsur, first we saw Red Pyramid on the left, but we continued our journey 1 km further and stopped near Bent Pyramid, as we were keen to visit pyramids on the order of their making. We had already been to the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser on Saqqara, which is the predecessor of all pyramids. Here, Pharaoh Sneferu attempted for world’s first smooth-sided pyramid. Along with another step pyramid in Meidum, the wish of Sneferu was started to be structured. But the sudden collapse of Meidum’s pyramid made the architects of Dahsur  think over the slope of their construction to pre-empt similar mishap and therefore, after reaching at a certain height, the angel of slope which was 54 degree previously was changed to 43 degree, resulting it’s bent shape. Though, some Egyptologists believe that lack of time or money might be the reason behind this deliberate fault, but the subsequent making of Red Pyramid did not imply this shortage theory!

The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu (The Black Pyramid is seen on the horizon)

Whatever be the reason, Bent Pyramid is unique in it’s shape and also unparalleled for it’s mostly preserved outer-casing of lime-stone.

Black Pyramid

Far away from Bent Pyramid, a massive mound of mud was seen. That was Black pyramid, built during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. We could not go there, as it lied on army area. It had been collapsed to a large extent due to the use of fragile mud-bricks as well as it’s architectural deficit.

Red Pyramid

Sneferu was probably not happy with the abnormally bent shape of his afterlife refuge, so he continued his trial and ordered for another pyramid and finally his constant craving for perfection led him to absolute accomplishment. This Red Pyramid is world’s first built ‘true’ smooth-sided pyramid. And after Khufu and Khafre’s ones, this is the 3rd largest Pyramid of the World.

The Red Pyramid of Sneferu

Inside Red Pyramid

It was surprising when I came to know that termite mounds are not only piles of mud & soil but tiny chambers connected to each other by narrow tunnels are also within there. Same goes with Egyptian pyramids! The amazing brain working behind these engineering marvels is something inexplicable! A venture inside in solitude was cardinal to cherish the thrill, so we chose the Red Pyramid of Dahsur, unlike others who usually go inside the pyramids of Giza, packed with visitors.

The entrance was located on more than half the height of Red Pyramid. Reaching at there was like climbing a 20-storied building. Steps were built over the stones of the pyramid. During our climb under mid-day sun, we were comforting ourselves with the hope of a shadowed and downward journey thereafter.

Passage leading towards burial chambers (Photographed from outside)

But, when we made our way inside the pyramid, it seemed far strenuous than before. The passage leading towards the burial chambers was so narrow, that we had to crawl entire way! Railing for hand-support and wooden bars on floors for preventing from being slipped down were there for our safety. Our exhaustion came to an end, when this inclined alley met a short horizontal passage which opened to the first burial chamber. Finally we got a chance to stretch our spinal cord and engage our muscles to perform their normal tasks!

Two identical chambers, (chamber is a misnomer, it’s much bigger than any standard room) connected to each other through a small doorway were constructed side by side. The roof of each room was corbelled with 11 steps. The edges of all stone blocks were so smooth and sharp, that they looked like machine-cut!  Everything was unimaginably neat, accurate and on proper alignment. I was standing in a room built on almost 4500 years ago, but wherever I was gazing it made me feel that everything was build just a month before.

A Rough Sketch of an Inner Chamber of the Pyramid (Photography is prohibited inside the pyramid)

The second room lies just below the apex of the pyramid. There exists a third room whose floor is high above and it is connected through a doorway to the upper corner of the second room. A wooden staircase had been made for visitors’ convenience. We climbed there, but could not proceed as the uneven floor and broken stone blocks lying haphazardly came on our way.

Red pyramid, being much less touristy gave us the opportunity to feel the inside of the pyramid up close and personal. Standing inside those dimly lit, surprisingly airy chambers with ambient temperature gave us goose bumps! Romance of walking inside a pyramid, natural air-conditioning inside, scorching heat outside & mostly the thought of crawling up that spine bending path kept us long inside there in complete solitude. Finally when we heard voices of other tourists coming down the path, we started to climb up to accommodate them. Though it felt easier than crawling down, muscle ache that persisted for next three days reminded us again and again about the inside chambers which is now residing in our permanent memory.

Useful tips

  • Dahsur is located some 37 kms south of Cairo. To reach there, one can hire cab from Cairo or take a day trip with any tour operator that includes the visit of Saqqara, Dahsur, Memphis and Giza.
  • There is only one single ticket for entering inside the common complex of Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid, which also includes the visit of their inner chambers.
  • You have to buy separate and expensive tickets to enter inside the pyramids of Giza. As the inner structures of all pyramids are similar in nature, therefore, if you are a budget traveler you may try the Red pyramid of Dahsur for venturing inside, as it’s free of cost. This pyramid, being smaller in size than Khufu’s and Khafre’s ones is less strenuous to explore. More to this, this is least crowded. If solitude is your priority, then go for it.
  • People having lack of fitness and the claustrophobic ones are advised not enter inside any pyramid.
  • Being located in army area, the black pyramid is inaccessible for civilians and foreigners. Remember, your cab driver may try to be-fool you by telling the same story about the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. Don’t believe them. Buy your ticket and enter inside the complex by car. You can park your car 100 mts away from any of these pyramids. The distance between two pyramids is 1 km, and they are connected by a motor-able path. So there is no need to walk. Let your driver know that you have a clear idea about this place.
  • Outdoor photography is permitted and it is free of cost. You are not allowed to take photograph inside the pyramid, although the guards, in return of baksheesh may let you do so.


Related Posts

Saqqara : From Where the Journey Begins… …

Pyramids of Giza: Here We Come!!!

How to Handle the Tourist Scams while Visiting Egypt

10 Experiences You Must Have while Visiting Cairo