CAIRO — Day trips from Cairo

If you have several days in Cairo you may like to visit some of the other pyramids found in this part of the world. You will find them south of Cairo at Saqqara and Dashur. The best way to get to these two places is to book yourself on a day tour from your hotel or hire a taxi and driver for the day from your hotel or in the street. Be prepared to pay from 100 - 150LE to travel to Dashur via Saqqara (also known as Sakkara or Saqqarah).

Saqqara 1

Saqqara is just over 20 kilometres south of Cairo and is part of the great necropolis (cemetery) of Memphis, the Old Kingdom capital. It was a burial ground for over 3500 years and contains the burial sites of the kings of the 1st and 2nd Dynasty.

Saqqara 2

There have been three major discoveries made in recent times at Saqqara — a prime minister’s tomb, a queen’s pyramid, and the tomb of the son of a dynasty-founding king.

Saqqara Step Pyramid

Saqqara is best known for the Step Pyramid which is the the oldest known pyramid in Egypt. It was built for King Djoser (Zoser) of the 3rd Dynasty by the architect Imhotep, who designed it and its surrounding complex. Imhotep was the first to build stone tombs in honor of the Pharoah. He was known by lots of titles such as ‘Treasurer of the King of Lower Egypt’, ‘Administrator of the Great Palace’, and ‘Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vessels’. The step pyramid is the central feature of a huge mortuary complex in a large courtyard surrounded by a limestone wall. The wall is decorated with niches and there are 15 doorways but only one of these is real. You enter the complex through a vestibule and walk along a narrow corridor with columns and then into the hypostle hall. The walls have been restored but the roof is modern concrete and there are two huge stone doors carved in an open position.

Saqqara 3

The hypostle hall leads to the Great South Court which is a large open area along the south side of the pyramid.

Traveller's Tip

In front of the pyramid is a stone structure which has a slightly tilted wooden box with two holes that you can look through and see what looks like the face of Djoser. It is really a life-sized, painted statue of Djoser which is a copy of the original found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Directly behind this structure you will find the original entrance but the inside of the pyramid is closed to the public because it is unsafe.

You will find Dashur about 10 kilometres south of Saqqara. The two pyramids found here that remain intact were built by Snofru who was the founder of the 4th Dynasty and the father of Khufu. The first pyramid is the Bent Pyramid. It was named this because when it was built it started roughly at an angle of 54 degrees but halfway through this was changed to around 43 degrees because it was becoming unstable and this gave it a bend in the side of the pyramid. The other pyramid is known as the Red Pyramid because it has a reddish appearance. This is the world’s oldest true pyramid and is sometimes open to the public.