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The Pyramids of Saqqara & Dahshur

  • Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 28 April, 2024

Just 20 miles south of Cairo, the lesser-visited Dahshur and Saqqara (also spelt Sakkara) are home to some of the world’s best-preserved ancient sites. With far fewer crowds.

Dahshur is home to pyramids even older than those in Giza – the first ever pyramids built by the Egyptians. The most famous is the Bent Pyramid – so named because of its irregular pyramid shape – built between 2613 and 2589 BC by King Sneferu.

It was followed by a second pyramid, The Red Pyramid, named after the red limestone used in its construction. The Red Pyramid is the 3rd largest in Egypt. The two biggest – Khufu and Khafre – were built at Giza by King Sneferu successor, his son Khufu.

Saqqara was the necropolis for the ancient city of Memphis, the first capital city of Egypt. The area is home to multiple smaller pyramids and a number of tombs of nobles and generals. The highlight here is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, built in around 2700 BC for Pharoah Djoser. It’s the oldest stone building in the world. Surrounding the Step Pyramid is an interesting funerary complex.

The city of Memphis itself is estimated to have been founded in 6000 BC. There’s not a lot left – just remnant ruins in an open-air museum – though the giant statue of Ramesses II makes this worth a stop.

There’s an excellent documentary on Netflix about one such tomb discovered in Saqqara. Worth a watch before you go (or even if you’re not).

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

This is definitely a place to visit on an organised tour, where informative guides will explain the history and significance of the buildings and bring the ancient sites to life. A half-day tour is usually sufficient to see all three sites.

You can climb steps up the Red and Bent Pyramids and then venture down into the inner chambers via cramped tunnels. Don’t attempt it if you’re even remotely claustrophobic. (There’s not a lot to see inside anyway).

When to do it

The sites are open all year round, seven days a week.

As will all sightseeing in Egypt, April is sandstorm season; July and August unbearably hot. Spring and autumn are best for weather and optimal light.

Who to go with: organised tours

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