x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Alternative pyramids

Is there a less stressful way to see Egypt's famous pyramids?

Q I'd like to go to Egypt to see the pyramids but friends tell me that Giza is overcrowded, expensive and full of touts. Is there a less stressful way to see Egypt's famous pyramids? A A trip to Giza can be as problematic as it is undoubtedly memorable. Luckily, there are almost 100 less well-known pyramids in Egypt awaiting your visit. Sakkara is a vast necropolis on the outskirts of Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom, and its 62m-high step pyramid of Djoser, which dates back to the 27th century BC, is thought to be the world's oldest large-scale stone monument. The structure is made up of six mastabas, or steps that decrease in size as they ascend, and features a burial area decorated with wall paintings depicting daily life.

Inexpensive buses leave regularly from Cairo to Memphis, 24km away, and Sakkara - only a few kilometres more - can be reached by taxi. While in Memphis, check out the museum, which contains a large, fallen statue of Ramses II. Admission is less than US$5 (Dh18) and the pyramid can be seen for less than $10 (Dh32). The sites in this corner of the Western Desert are visited far less than those closer to Cairo and lack the commercial feel of their counterparts at Giza.

From Sakkara, continue by taxi 10km to the south to Dahshur where you will find two of the largest pyramids in Egypt, the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. The Bent Pyramid is perhaps one of the more odd looking of these monuments because its triangular sides curve together to meet at the 101m-high apex. Archaeologists believe this appearance is due to a change in design halfway through construction. Currently, visitors are not allowed to enter the Bent Pyramid, but the government has announced that it will soon be open.

At 105m high, the nearby Red Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure on Earth when it was built a couple of generations after the pyramid of Djoser. The Red Pyramid, which can be explored for a fee of $3.50 (Dh13), is so-called because the white limestone slabs that once covered its surface were removed during the Middle Ages, revealing crimson-coloured stones beneath. The Red Pyramid is the first smooth-surfaced pyramid in Egypt and it is a marvel that visitors can enjoy without the inconveniences and hazards that can befall visitors to Giza.

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