Saqqara and Dashur

The stepped pyramid at Saqqara

Travel to Saqqara and Dahshur – Saqqara and Dahshur

Many people are surprised to learn that that there are more than just 3 pyramids in Egypt. At Saqqara and Dahshur a few kilometres south of the Gizan trio lie several others, almost as impressive as their better-known neighbours.

Memphis, founded around 3100 BCE, is regarded as the oldest imperial city in the world and lies some 30km south of Cairo. Its necropolis was Saqqara, where Djoser’s amazing Step Pyramid dominates the landscape. Further south at Dahshur there are more pyramids to see, the Bent and Red Pyramids. Make the journey out here and in all likelihood you’ll have them more or less to yourselves.

The Step Pyramid that dominates Saqqara is one of around 11 in various states of preservation at the site. Built for the pharaoh Djoser in 2650 BCE it importance is huge: this is the world’s first stone monument.

The pyramid rises in tiers to a height of 62.5m and marks the transition from mud-brick mastaba to true pyramid. A few kilometres south lies several more pyramids, two of which are very interesting: the Bent Pyramid is named because its sides slope first at 54° then 43° when it became obvious to the builders that the structure was becoming unstable.

Next in what seems a land of ‘firsts’ the Red Pyramid is the world’s first true pyramid, that is one with smooth sides. Named for the red limestone from which it is constructed it stands 101m high, some 40 metres taller than the smallest of Giza’s pyramids. As with the Gizan pyramids it can be entered, this time through a steep stone staircase and a 63m long passage – exciting, but not for the claustrophobic!

Take a half-day tour with a driver and guide if you intend visiting Saqqara and Dahshur from Cairo or include on a longer itinerary as you head south. A guide really is essential to appreciate them all fully.

Take time out to wander away from the other visitors and appreciate Saqqara’s desert setting. A short walk will give you space and a sense of quiet solitude and allow time for reflection on what is here at the site.

Travelling by taxi out to Saqqara is possible but a private guided tour will cost a similar amount and will in addition provide you with the services of an expert in the sites’ history.

  • See the world’s fist stone monument when you visit Saqqara’s Step Pyramid
  • Travel further south to see how the Bent Pyramid’s construction was changed half-way through
  • Explore the interior of the little-visited Red Pyramid, one of Egypt’s best-preserved


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