Digging into the Past in Dahshur
Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
331Trip End Ongoing
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What I did
Dahshur is located about 45 minutes south of Cairo, taking us from the skyscrapers and sprawl of the city into the fertile farmland of the surrounding country. The drive gave us an opportunity to get to know the lovely Yasri a bit. Speaking with him highlighted once again how amazingly well Egyptians speak English. No matter what profession, class, or religion they belong to, it seems like Egyptians on the whole speak English exceedingly well. Tourism is huge in Egypt, and about 12% of the country's workforce are employed in the tourism industry, so I suppose I shouldn't have been terribly surprised, but it was definitely something that stood out and that made our travels much, much easier
The conversation with Yasri made the drive go by quickly and before we knew it we were turning off the main road and stopping at the gates of Dahshur. Yasri's exchange with the guards taught us our second most valuable Egypt travel tidbit: rather than tell people we were Americans, we would tell them that we were Turkish. We took his advice for the rest of the trip and, not only did it surely save us money, but it also made us many friends along the way -- Egyptians clearly love Turks.
After clearing the gate and paying for our tickets, we drove towards the pyramids. The Red Pyramid and its predecessor the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur are both from the Old Kingdom, and were built by Pharoah Sneferu (2613-2589 BC), the founder of the 4th dynasty. The Bent Pyramid was Sneferu's first attempt at a smooth-sided pyramid. Halfway through, they realized the pyramid was getting unstable and they had to change the angle, which gave it the "bent" look it retains to this day.
The Red Pyramid was Sneferu's second crack at a smooth-sided pyramid, and this time it was a success: the world's oldest true pyramid. The Red Pyramid was our first stop at Dahshur, and we had timed it so that we were the first people there
We made it to the bottom without slipping or hitting our heads, and suddenly we were inside the world's oldest pyramid. The space wasn't as big as I'd imagined it to be, and there weren't any hieroglyphics adorning the walls like I'd expected, but it was easy to appreciate the architecture of the smooth sloping ceilings, rising up to form a point above us. It was a bit stifling inside the pyramid, and it didn't smell all the great, so we decided to carry on and made our way through a series of chambers and into a room at the back of the structure. We assumed this was the final resting place of its entombed. We took a look around and then worked our way back to the entrance and then up the "ladder" and out into the sunshine once again
From there it was back into the car to drive over to the Bent Pyramid, the Red's older sister. We couldn't go inside of this one because it hadn't weathered the storm as well as its less bent sibling, so we walked around the outside, making trails in the sand as we went. We were alone again, save the security guards on camelback who repeatedly offered us rides as we circled around (in hindsight, we should have taken them up on it, but we didn't).
Both spots were extremely quiet and peaceful, making them an excellent introduction to the pyramids, and they remained one of my favorite spots throughout our travels around Egypt. We'd seen all we needed to, so buckled back up and started driving back towards Cairo, on our way to the next lot of pyramids: Saqqara.