Egypt Travel Guide – The Pyramids of Dahshour

The Pyramids of Dahshour always evoke in me a great part of the history of Ancient Egypt. Although this area is not a major tourist site, like the Giza Plateau, it seems to me like a wonderful book, which tells us great, glorious, events of Ancient Egyptian History.

Dahshour is one of the most important cemeteries, which belonged to the vast necropolis of the great Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.
Located about 30Km to the south of the Giza Pyramids, and in the southern wing of Saqqara, this area contains Pyramids of the IV and the XII Dynasties. Here you will find the Pyramid of Amenemhat II, and the Pyramid of Amenemhat III, called the Black Pyramid.

In fact the great King Snefru (2680-2656 B.C), the founder of the IV Dynasty, was the first to choose the area to build his royal tomb, as it was close to the capital, Memphis.

He first built the southern Pyramid, or what we call today the Bent Pyramid. The architect actually made a mistake when building this Pyramid, not realising it until the height reached about 48m (with an angle of 54 degrees). He changed his original plans to make it safer (hoping to prevent what had happened at Meidum), and finished it by modifying the angle to just 43 degrees! And that is the reason behind the strange shape of this Pyramid and why, today, it is called the Rhomboid or Bent Pyramid. Analysing the reason behind the change, Egyptologists think that the angle of 54 degrees was going to result in a very huge and high Pyramid, which would have been very unstable, especially when cracks started to appear, which were later filled with gypsum.

The Pyramids of Dahshur

The Southern (Bent) Pyramid of Dashur was built of local limestone and cased with fine, Turah limestone. It is about 101m in height while the length of each side is 188.6m. The original entrance of the Pyramid is on the northern face as usual, but Professor Ahmed Fakhry (1905–1973), during his works in 1951, discovered another entrance on its western side. One of the most remarkable features about the Pyramid is the existence of cedar beams, which had probably been imported from Lebanon. At the east of the Pyramid is a small Mortuary Temple consisting of a small shrine. A small subsidiary Pyramid lies to the south of the Pyramid, cleared in 1947 by the Egyptologist Abd El-Salam Hussein.

About 2Km away to the north of the Southern Pyramid, another Pyramid was built for King Snefru. This time his architect avoided all the previous mistakes by following the same angle from bottom to top – 43 degrees, and in doing so created the first, perfect, complete Pyramid in history. This became the “blueprint” for all the Pyramids, which appeared during the IV, V, and VI Dynasties. It is known as the Northern Pyramid because of its location, and the Red Pyramid, as the builders had used a very special kind of rosette limestone to built the inner burial chamber. It is 99m in height, and each side of the base is 220m in length.

28m above the ground, on the northern face of the Pyramid, you will find the entrance to the inside. A steep, 60m long, passage leads down to the 1st chamber, which is in turn connected to the 2nd chamber by a low, rectangular passageway. Both of these chambers are about the same size, with high walls, and a corbelled ceiling. At the far end of the 2nd chamber is the entrance to the burial chamber; a wooden ladder takes you up to the entrance, which is about 8m above the floor level, and a wooden bridge spans the burial chamber itself. About 16m above you is the high, corbelled ceiling (Useful tip – A flashlight will enable you to see everything here, the illumination is very poor!)

On the eastern side of the Pyramid, is the mortuary Temple of King Snefru. Though totally ruined, you can still see how it was originally laid out, and you will also be able to see some of the original fine, Turah limestone casing stones. Also situated here is what is thought to have been the capstone of the Pyramid, though many dispute it, as the angle of slope is different to that of the Pyramid. The cemetery of Dahshour contains other Pyramids, smaller in scale, built out of mud bricks, and dating back to the XII Dynasty. These belonged to Amenemhat II, Senusert III, and Amenemhat III. Inside the Pyramid of King Senusert III, a very precious collection of jewels and gold were found, and now they are in display in many museums, all over the world, especially the collection that belonged to some of the Princesses of the XII Dynasty. Many tombs have been discovered in the area of the Pyramids, but were either in very bad condition, or not even completed.

back to travel guide