An Egyptian pyramid is a masonry monument that narrows in size from the bottom and tapers at the top giving it a shape of a pyramid. It was only in the Old and Middle kingdoms of Egypt that the pharaohs and queens were buried in this unique structure making it their tombs. Until now, 138 pyramids are found in Egypt among which the most ancient is supposed to be the Pyramid of Djoser built from 2630 BCE to 2611 BCE during the third dynasty.
However, the Ancient Egyptian pyramids on the Giza plateau near Cairo are best known to the tourists where many pyramids are regarded as the largest structures.
During the early period of dynasty, those having enough funds were cremated in mastabas, which were appearing as bench. It was only when the architect Imhotep who planned the first pyramid for the pharaoh Djoser by perceiving it to be a stack of mastabas resulting into a monument of several steps narrowing towards its peak. This was called the Step Pyramid of Djoser — which he believed it to be giant flight of stairs for the deceased pharaoh’s soul to reach the heavens. Considered holy by the pharaohs, the actual pyramids that stand today were built during their rule.
The reason why all the Ancient Egyptian pyramids are on the west Nile is that west is the direction of setting sun that indicate the dead in pharaohs’ mythology. The shape of pyramids symbolizes the primordial mound from where the Earth was formed according to the Egyptians. Further, it represents the descending sun rays which were reflected for illumination due to the polished, white limestone for shining appearance.
The Egyptians were of the opinion that the dark regions of the night sky around the stars were the physical passage into the heavens. So, to take the deceased pharaoh’s soul to the heaven, a narrow shaft through the entire body from the burial chamber points towards the center of the sky.
I visited the different ancient Egyptian pyramids from north to south along the west bank, but could not cover all of them.
Here, the ruined Pyramid of Djedefre, the son and successor of Khufu stands that is made of stone. A small satellite pyramid is also seen, which is preserved well.
Do visit this famous site that is the home of the largest Great Pyramid of Khufu, second largest Pyramid of Khafre, and modest Pyramid of Menkaure plus many smaller satellite edifices – Queen’s pyramids and the Great Sphinx. The Great Pyramid is among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unlike this one, only Khafre’s pyramid has still preserved its actual polished limestone casing around its peak. An optical illusion makes one feels that this pyramid is the largest than its nearby Khufu pyramid, but this is not true and one is mislead only due to its elevated platform.
This is where can see the two incomplete Old Kingdom pyramids. The one in the north is that of the Pharaoh Nebka, while the southern structure is dedicated to the Third Dynasty Pharaoh Khaba, known as Hudjefa, the successor to Sekhemkhet.
This is the home of 14 pyramids that was the main royal necropolis in the Fifth Dynasty. Their quality of construction is of low grade as compared with the Fourth Dynasty might revealing a fall in economy. Smaller in size, low-quality local limestones compose the stepped structures. Visit the pyramids of Niuserre (most intact), Neferirkare Kakai, and Sahure along with the incomplete Pyramid of Neferefre. However, the Pyramid of Neferirkare Kakai is believed to have been converted into a True pyramid by filling its steps with loose stonework.
This site holds some major pyramids – the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the Pyramid of Merykare, the Pyramid of Userkaf, and the Pyramid of Teti along with the Pyramid of Unas that holds a well preserved pyramid causeway and the incomplete step pyramid of Djoser’s successor Sekhemkhet called the Buried Pyramid.
In the south, some later and smaller pyramids are of Pepi I, Isesi, Merenre, Ibi, and Pepi II. In addition, the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Shepseskaf’s tomb is also here called the Mastaba of Faraoun. A recently found pyramid here is of the Teti’s mother.
Inaccessible due to enclosing military base in the past, this is another vital land of pyramids after Giza and Saqqara. It is the home of the Pyramid of Snofru, the Bent Pyramid that is known to be the first Egyptian true pyramid having a smooth-sided structure. It is among those handful Egyptian pyramids to maintain its original limestone casing intact at its apex.
Many kilometeres to the north is the most but first successful smooth-sided pyramid of the three pyramids built while Snofru was there. This is called the Red Pyramid and is the third largest pyramid in Egypt. The Black Pyramid of Amenemhet III is also seen here.