On my 2nd day in Egypt, I woke up, had a quick breakfast, and headed for the lobby of the hotel. Bishoy, my guide for the day, introduced himself and escorted me to a decrepit old van. The driver was great, but the fumes from the van were making me a little sick.
Our first stop was the UNESCO World Heritage listed archaeological site of Dahshur. Dahshur sits in the desert off the west bank of the Nile River just under an hour south of Cairo. There are many pyramids on the site, some that haven’t been excavated, but two pyramids in particular draw the attention of visitors – the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid.
Our first stop was the Red Pyramid, which is known as the first true pyramid. It’s an Old Kingdom pyramid built by 4th Dynasty king Sneferu (~2600 BC), father of Khufu (builder of the Great Pyramid). Sneferu built this pyramid because he wasn’t happy with the other pyramid nearby, the Bent Pyramid. It’s the 2nd biggest pyramid in size only to the Great Pyramid.
I snapped a few pictures and decided to climb up to the shaft and inside. It was pretty difficult to climb down. I had to bend my knees and kind of go down sideways because I was too tall. The angle was a little steep as well.
Once I was at the bottom, I was in a large hall with a vaulted ceiling. It smelled so bad it stung my nostrils. To get to the actual burial chamber, I had to climb up a wooden stairway and through a small path. Once inside, there was nothing but rocks. Not spectacular at all, but at least I can say I went into a pyramid. Now I just wanted to get back to fresh air as quickly as possible.
I made my way out of the pyramid and had a quick chat with the “guard”. I say “guard” because he’s not supposed to be there. It’s just a local guy trying to collect tips. In my case, he said he wouldn’t tell anyone that I took pictures inside, which is supposedly forbidden. We joked a bit, I gave him a few pounds, admired the view of the desert, and headed back to the van.
The next stop was the Bent Pyramid. It’s considered Egypt’s first proper pyramid, but the architects made a mistake, and that’s why it’s not a TRUE pyramid like the Red Pyramid. It was also built by Sneferu, and as I mentioned, it was built before the Red Pyramid.
The pyramid is bent because the angle of construction made it too unstable once it reached a certain point, so it had to be continued at a shallower slope. It’s also famous because most of its outer limestone casing is still intact, giving it a smoother appearance than other pyramids.
The Bent Pyramid wasn’t open but it has a nice platform near the entrance. Getting up close and seeing the smooth limestone covering was very interesting. After examining the exterior, I climbed up the platform for some good views of the surrounding area, including the dilapidated Black Pyramid, which had lots of structural defects and problems with Nile flooding.
From Dahshur it was off to Memphis, the former capitol of Egypt during the Old Kingdom and most of the Pharaonic period. It was founded around 3100 BC by Menes, and was still important well into the Ptolemaic period. The city was completely destroyed by invaders and the ruins were buried under mud from the Nile floods. Whatever was found sits in the small museum in the village of Mit Rahina. An interesting note – Alexander the Great was crowned Pharaoh there in 332 BC. Memphis is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listing for all of the pyramids.
At the museum, Bishoy gave me a small lecture about Memphis and then some free time to wander around. There were some statues, a sphinx, a mummification bed, and a few other artifacts.
The most impressive piece was a colossus of Ramses II, probably the most powerful leader in Egyptian history. The statue was massive and I couldn’t imagine how intimidating it would look standing upright.
Finally, we headed to an authentic Egyptian restaurant where we had – wait for it – authentic Egyptian food. Bishoy and I talked about my life in Turkey and his life as a guide, and we had an interesting conversation about how to win over Egyptian women. After lunch, it was off to the hotel. I got out of the van smelling of gas and exhaust, so I washed off and enjoyed the afternoon by the pool.