Dahshur is the type of place that doesn’t always register on the list of things to do for first-timers to Egypt, yet is near the top of the pile for those who know the country and its attractions. Almost literally in the shadow of the Giza Pyramids (they’re about twenty miles away), Dahshur is a quieter, less-visited site that nonetheless includes some simply astounding examples of Egyptian pyramids. With structures here such as the memorable Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid, a visit to Dahshur Egypt can surprise those not prepared for just how impressive it truly is.
The most iconic structure at Dahshur has to be the Bent Pyramid, which marks an important phrase in the development of pyramid architecture, as it was the world’s first smooth-sided pyramid when it was constructed sometime around 2500 BC. Standing at an immense height of 100 meters (about 328 feet), the Bent Pyramid is primarily recognizable for its two-step structure: The pyramid walls leave the ground at an angle of 55 degrees, before changing to a gentler 43 degrees halfway up.
Theories abound as to why the pyramid takes the form it does. Some argue that the pyramid's builders realized the folly of their task (55 degrees being too steep an incline to maintain) and altered their plans accordingly halfway through, while others believe that the angle was changed to speed up the building process as Pharaoh Sneferu, for whom it was intended, died sooner than expected. The Bent Pyramid is connected to a small satellite pyramid by an 80-foot tunnel. The smaller structure was built to house Sneferu’s wife after her death, with the tunnel put in place so that they could meet in the afterlife.
The Red Pyramid presents a more perfect example of pyramid architecture than the Bent Pyramid. The third-largest pyramid in Egypt, it’s just taller than the Bent Pyramid, measuring 104 meters in height, or about 340 feet. This is a great site to visit, thanks largely to the relaxed regulations that hold sway here. Visitors to the Red Pyramid can, within reason, explore its interior by finding their way around its corridors and vaulted chambers. There are few experiences to match this while traveling in Egypt—or, for that matter, anywhere in the world.
Another site worth visiting at Dahshur is the Pyramid of Amenemhet III, which is located about a mile from the Bent Pyramid. A mud-and-limestone structure, it’s admittedly deteriorated significantly over the years, though it's still worth a visit.
Accessing Dahshur is easy thanks to its close proximity to Cairo. A handful of tours ply the route between the two destinations, while it’s also possible to rent a car and make your own way there and back within a day. As a result, most people make Dahshur a day trip while staying in Cairo, where there are plenty of hotels and top-notch things to do to keep just about any traveler happy. From the Giza Pyramids to the Citadel of Saladin and the Egyptian Museum, it's truly a wonderful city that demands days of exploration.