top of page

January 2023

“That was from the third dynasty, and that one, the fifth and that, the sixth”

Zeinab repeated for the 4th time as she pointed to each of the three pyramids. My travel partner was having difficulty remembering the numbers (of the dynasty), despite working in finance.

Everyone knows the famous pyramids of Giza but when travellers research or visit Cairo, they suddenly realise that there are actually three main important sites that contain ancient pyramids: Saqqara, Dashur and Giza.

We were standing in Saqqara, as our guide, Dr Zeinab, gave us an express course of ancient Egypt. My travel friend attempted to remember the dynasties as Dr Zeinab continued on with her wealth of knowledge. It was the first stop on our day at the pyramids, which we’d both scheduled into our Egypt itineraries.


Pyramid of Djoser (AKA the Step Pyramid)

Out of the three main sites we visited, Saqqara was furthest from Giza, and is actually the country’s largest archaeological site.

Facing all three pyramids we could see the famous Pyramid of Djoser (AKA the Step Pyramid) from the third dynasty, the Pyramid of Userkaf from the fifth dynasty and the Pyramid of Unas from the sixth dynasty. I’ve managed to remember this well after Dr Zeinab’s 5th repetition!

Now, I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on ancient Egyptian history but I will highlight some interesting facts I learnt during our express course!

The West relates to death and the after-life

As with all tombs in Egypt, Saqqara is located on the West side of the River Nile. Ancient Egyptians associated the West with death as that’s where the sun set. Saqqara was the ancient burial ground for more than 3,500 years, so, unsurprising archaeologists are still discovering tombs today. In fact, no more than a couple of weeks after my return from Egypt, I saw on TV that they’d discovered a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside its sarcophagus, right there in Saqqara!

Why Mummify?

Egyptians believed that life did not stop once your body stopped functioning. The after-life awaited those whose bodies were prepared correctly on earth. In order to send people or animals off into the after-life, their bodies were preserved by preparing the body, and then wrapping it in linen bandages. For a detailed, but quick, (and cute!) description of mummy preparation, click here.

The Pyramids of Saqqara

  • The Step Pyramid is the world’s oldest stone monument.

  • The Pyramid of Userkaf is now just a pyramid-shaped pile of rubble because it was made with stones and rubble, which collapsed when the limestone casing was stolen.

  • The Pyramid of Unas was also made with poorly chosen materials, hence why the pyramid you see today is just a pile of sand. However, remains of the original outer casing can still be seen at the base.

The Serapeum

The Serapeum is a museum often overlooked but, arguably, it ought to be part of the Wonder of the World, in my opinion! It’s a tomb that holds many mysteries that no one has been able to resolve. Dedicated to Apis the bull, the Serapeum contains tombs cut into the earth, which house gigantic sarcophagi. The coffins were cut out of one piece of granite and weigh around 40 tonnes! With a mummified bull inside, it would have weighed even more.

However, when the tomb was discovered, all of the coffins were empty!

How did these huge, heavy, stone sarcophagi get in there?

They’re way too heavy for humans to carry.

How did they cut the coffins from one piece of giant granite?

Modern day companies with today’s technology have been asked to re-create the coffins and none of them said that they could do it.

And why are they all empty?

To this day, no one knows.


A short drive from Saqqara, is the archaeological site of Dashur where the famous Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid are located.

The Red Pyramid is named after the colour of its surface after the limestone casing was removed.

The Bent Pyramid is named after the shape that makes it look, well, bent!

The reason why it’s this shape, is because the Egyptians started building this pyramid with a very large angle at the base. After realising that the construction of the pyramid would not hold, they had to change the angle, so that the sides of the structure would meet in the middle at the top, creating a, well, pyramid.

As recommended by Zeinab, we paid for a ticket to enter the Bent Pyramid, which recently opened for visitors in 2019. It’s not for the faint hearted.

In order to see the bat-filled chambers, you have to climb several flights of stairs to reach the pyramid’s entrance. Then, the entrance tunnel is long (79m), steep, and small. Wooden planks create the path down through the tunnel, with thin wooden sticks acting as stairs or stoppers to stop you sliding down, and also, to give you something to grip on the way up and down.

Yes, there’s only one way in, and it's the same way out! We found that the best way to descend was to go down backward, as if you were climbing down a mountain. We climbed down for what seemed like a very long time! It was also hot in the tunnel, with little airflow, so be prepared to sweat!


Last but definitely not least, we rounded off the day at Giza.

The crowds were plentiful and the sun was setting. There was a mad rush to enter the gates before they closed. We ran in, first to take a closer look at the Pyramid of Khufu - the largest Egyptian pyramid and Wonder of the world.

This pyramid used to be the tallest man-made structure for thousands of years before its tip was worn down from harsh weather.

If you want to look inside the pyramid, you will need to buy an extra ticket.

If you have time, you can also take a closer look at Pyramids Khafre and Menkaure, which are the other two pyramids in those famous photos you've seen! In addition, there are the Queen’s Pyramids, next to Pyramid Khufu, which is an interesting site, despite being worn down by wear and tear.

For the famous pyramid photos, our driver took us to the Panoramic Point, which is a platform where you have a clear view of all three pyramids in the complex. For a price, camels are available for photos, or a ride.

The Great Sphinx of Giza

Our final stop was to see the Sphinx. Though it is missing its nose and beard, it’s still beautiful, especially in the evening light.

The name ‘sphinx’ comes from the Greeks, who believed that the statue resembled a sphinx in Greek mythology - a creature with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. However, this sculpture in Giza carries the head of a man. Some said that the face resembled that of the pharaoh Khafre, as other sphinxes carry resemblances to the pharaohs whose tombs they guard. However, there’s evidence to suggest otherwise and perhaps we will never know what the sphinx’s real name is!

And with that, we finished our day at the pyramids, just as the guards were kicking us out!

It’s definitely a lot to squeeze into one day but definitely feasible, if you are short on time. I’d highly recommend a guide if you can afford one, as it’ll really enhance your experience. Dr Zeinab at Nobatia Tours was a brilliant guide and extremely knowledgeable. She is currently working on excavation projects with the government but is available to share her knowledge with you if you book via her website here.

Just make sure you let her know that Amy sent you ;o)


Tour or Explore

Verdict: Explore

I’d definitely encourage you to visit the pyramids of Saqqara, Dashur, and Giza, without a big group tour if possible. A good guide will ensure that you walk away with more than just great photos. And, make sure your guide includes a car if you’re short on time, as the treks within the complexes are long, and far, as are the distances between the sites.

1 Comment

Mar 27, 2023

Um ein erfolgreiches Marketingunternehmen zu führen, muss man ständig lernen und sich anpassen. Dieser Artikel ist eine gute Möglichkeit, sich über Branchentrends auf dem Laufenden zu halten und neue Erkenntnisse zu gewinnen, während Sie sich gleichzeitig etwas Zeit zum Entspannen und Erholen nehmen.

bottom of page