Pyramidal Posting


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Africa » Egypt » Lower Egypt » Saqqara
April 26th 2011
Published: May 2nd 2011
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When I returned from my year abroad in Cairo, way back in 1995, I was bursting to explain my life-changing experience to anyone who wanted to listen. I had had all these amazing moments in Egypt, and was sure others would be excited to hear about them. However, I quickly realized the only thing most people wanted to know: had I seen the pyramids?

I guess the pyramids do sorta trump most things. Even life-changing experiences...

One of course can't visit Cairo without seeing the pyramids. The most famous, those at Giza, are basically in the city - the suburb of Giza laps at the very base of these "wonders of the ancient world". On a clear day, you can even see them from various points in the city proper.

As part of our Easter weekend in Cairo, Danni and I opted to take the grand, chronological pyramid tour. After an early breakfast at the Windsor, we headed off to Saqqara where we beheld the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the first major stone construction of ancient Egypt - sort of the prototype of what was going to come. Actually, this pyramid is one of the oldest monumental constructions of finished stone in the world.

A little south of Saqqara, at Dahshur, there is a clutch of pyramids that were built a little later. The most striking of the Dahshur pyramids is one that is called "bent" - for an obvious reason: its base is at a different pitch than the top. This was because the builders discovered, during the building process, that they were making it too steep and had to shift gears halfway through the construction. Originally, this was intended to be the first "true" pyramid, meaning that it would be smooth-sided and of all the same angle! Snofru, the pharaoh who presided over the building of the Bent Pyramid, decided that his people should try again. The result is the nearby "red" pyramid that is the first true pyramid to be completed - and the third largest in Egypt. The great part of visiting Dahshur is that the crowds that flock to Giza are non-existent (there were maybe six tourists, including us, traipsing about)...yet the Dahshur pyramids are extremely impressive in their own right. Plus, you can crawl into the Red Pyramid without paying a separate fee, unlike at Giza (going inside the Great Pyramid costs 100 Egyptian Pounds a pop!). It's what Giza must have felt like in the 19th century.

Or maybe Giza always stole the show...

We couldn't not go to Giza. If anything, we had to see the culmination of the development of the Egyptian pyramids. From stepped, to bent, to smooth sided....to smooth sided AND gigantic. The Great Pyramid of Giza was built for the son of Snofru, Khufu (better known to the "West" as Cheops) - trying to one-up his old man, it would seem. There would never be a pyramid as big. (While the adjacent Pyramid of Khafre, Khufu's son and successor, might appear larger from some angles, it is actually physically a bit smaller - it's just built at higher elevation! Again, father-son rivalry.)

When I lived in Egypt, I never got the chance to see all these pyramids in one day and definitely not in chronological order. I am glad I had the opportunity to play tourist again in my old home.

Now, can I tell you about how living in Egypt changed my life?


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