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Step Pyramid

Step Pyramid

Step Pyramid

Step Pyramid (Saqqara – 30 km south of Cairo) — If you still have energy and time after wandering around Giza, head south to the Saqqara complex, dominated by the Step Pyramid of the 3rd Dynasty King Zoser. Built before the Pyramids of Giza, this Pyramid shows the evolution of design from the single stepped mastabas to the final smooth-sided Pyramid structures that would follow in the next dynasty. Other beautifully-inscribed tombs of noblemen and officials, as well as later dynasty Pyramids, are also open to visitors. The eerie Serapeum, a funerary catacomb built for the sacred Apis bulls, is currently closed for restoration.

South of Saqqara is the rarely visited site of Dahshur, where Khufu’s father Sneferu built the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. The latter’s unusual profile was caused by a change of building angle halfway through construction. The Red Pyramid gets pretty close to the architectural perfection of the Giza Pyramids, and you can explore the interior without the claustrophobic crush of the Giza crowds. In the distance is the unusually shaped mud and brick pyramid of Amenemhet III.

A word of advice: It is best to rent a car to visit Saqqara and Dahshur, as the sites are far from the main road, and transportation back into Cairo is not easy to find.