Pyramids of Egypt
Bringing Egypt closer to you.
When you arrive in Egypt a tour of a pyramid is a must! The ancient Egyptians built more than 90 royal pyramids, from about 2630 BC until about 1530 BC. During that time, the pyramid form evolved from a series of stepped terraces that resembled the layers of a wedding cake to the better-known, sloped pyramidal shape. The first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, was constructed during the reign of King Djoser (2630 bc -2611 bc ). The largest pyramid is the one built for King Khufu , at the sight of modern Giza. Khufu's pyramid, known as the Great Pyramid, is the only one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World that still survives.
The shape of Egyptian pyramids is believed to represent the descending rays of the sun, and most of them were faced with polished, highly reflective white limestone, in order to give them a brilliant appearance when viewed from a distance. Pyramids were often also named in ways that made reference to solar luminescence.
Giza, on the southern outskirts of Cairo is the location of the Pyramid of Khufu (also known as the "Great Pyramid" and the "Pyramid of Cheops"), the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Kephren), and the relatively modest-sized Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinus), along with a number of smaller satellite edifices, known as "queens" pyramids, and the Sphinx. The Giza necropolis has arguably been the world's most popular tourist destination since antiquity, and was popularized in Hellenistic times when the Great Pyramid was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Today it is the only one of the ancient Wonders still in existence.
Major pyramids at Sakkara include the Step Pyramid of Djozer - the world's oldest monumental stone building - the Pyramid of Userkaf and the Pyramid of Teti. Also at Sakkara is the Pyramid of Unas , which retains a causeway that is amongst the best preserved in Egypt. This pyramid was also the subject of one of antiquities' earliest restoration attempts, conducted under the auspices of one of the sons of Ramses II. Sakkara is also the location of the incomplete step pyramid of Djozer's successor Sekhemkhet . Archaeologists believe that had this pyramid been completed it would have been larger than Djozer's.
There are a total of seven pyramids at this sight, which served as the main royal necropolis during the Fifth Dynasty. The quality of construction of the Abu Sir pyramids is inferior to those of the Fourth Dynasty - perhaps signaling a decrease in royal power or a less vibrant economy. They are smaller than their predecessors, and are built of low quality local limestone. The three major pyramids are those of Niuserre (which is also the most intact), Nferirkare and Sahure . The sight is also home to the incomplete Pyramid of Neferefre . All of the major pyramids at Abu Sir were built as step pyramids, although the largest of them - the Pyramid of Nferirkare - is believed to have originally been built as a step pyramid some 70 metres(230 feet) in height and then later transformed into a "true" pyramid by having its steps filled in with loose masonry.
Dashur is arguably the most important pyramid field in Egypt outside Giza and Sakkara, although until recently the sight was inaccessible due to its location within a military base, and hence was virtually unknown outside archaeological circles. The southern Pyramid of Sneferu , commonly known as the Bent Pyramid is believed to be the first (or by some accounts, second) attempt at creating a pyramid with smooth sides. In this it was only a partial - but nonetheless visually arresting - success; it remains the only Egyptian pyramid to retain a significant proportion of its original limestone casing, and serves as the best example of the luminous appearance common to all pyramids in their original state. The northern, or Red Pyramid built at the same location by Sneferu was later successfully completed as the world's first true smooth-sided pyramid. Despite its relative obscurity, the Red Pyramid is actually the third largest pyramid in Egypt - after the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre at Giza. Also at Dashur is the so-called Black Pyramid of Amenemhet III .
The pyramid at Meidun is one of three constructed during the reign of Sneferu , and is believed by some to have been commenced by that pharaoh's father and predecessor, Huni. Some archaelogists also suggest that the Meidun pyramid may have been the first unsuccessful attempt at the construction of a "true" or smooth-sided pyramid. Suffering a catastrophic collapse in antiquity, only the central parts of its stepped inner core remain standing, giving it an odd tower-like appearance that is unique among Egyptian pyramids. The hill that the pyramid sits atop is not a natural landscape feature - it is in fact the small mountain of debris created when the lower courses and outer casing of the pyramid gave way.
Amenemhet III was the last powerful ruler of the 12th Dynasty, and the pyramid he built at Hawarra, near Faiyum, is believed to post date the so called "Black Pyramid" built by the same ruler at Dashur. It is the Hawarra pyramid that is believed to have been Amenemhet's final resting place. The huge mortuary temple that originally stood adjacent to this pyramid is believed to have formed the basis of the labyrinth mentioned by such ancient historians as Herodotus, Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, and which is said to have been the model for the labyrinth built by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete to house the Minotaur.
Two major pyramids are known to have been built at Lisht - those of Amenemhat I and his son, Senusret I (Sesostris I). The latter is surrounded by the ruins of ten smaller subsidiary pyramids. The sight which is in the vicinity of the oasis of Fayyum, midway between Dashur and Meidun, and about 100 kilometres south of Cairo , is believed to be in the vicinity of the ancient city of Iti-tawi (the precise location of which remains unknown), which served as the capital of Egypt during the 12th Dynasty.
This sight, half way between Giza and Abu Sir, is the location for two unfinished Old Kingdom pyramids. The northern structure's owner is believed to be the Pharaoh Nebka, whilst the southern structure is attributed to the Third Dynasty Pharaoh Khaba, also known as Hudjefa, successor to Sekhemket. Khaba's four year tenure as pharaoh more than likely explains the similar premature truncation of his step pyramid. Today it is approximately 20 metres(65 feet) in height; had it been completed it is likely to have exceeded forty(130 feet).
Abu Rawash is the sight of Egypt's most northerly pyramid - the mostly ruined Pyramid of Djedefre, the son and successor of Khufu. Originally it was thought that this pyramid had never been completed, but the current archaelogicical consensus is that not only was it completed, but that it was originally about the same size as the Pyramid of Menkaure - the third largest of the Giza pyramids.
The pyramid of Senwosret II at Il Lahun is the southernmost pyramid structure in Egypt. Its builders reduced the amount of work necessary to construct it by ingeneously using as its foundation and core a 12 metre high natural limestone hill.
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