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Unquestionably the most iconic symbol of Egypt throughout history is the pyramid. The masonry structures with a pyramid design are symbolic and significant in Egyptian culture, and today they are among the top attractions in the entire country. Currently, historians have identified over 100 pyramids throughout Egypt, most of which date to the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom periods of Egyptian history.The largest and best known of the Egyptian pyramids are found in Giza, which is located just outside of Egypt’s capital city, Cairo. However, the Giza Plateau isn’t the only place where you can spot historic pyramids. These ancient structures can be found across Egypt, and many visitors aim to see as many of them as possible during their stay.
Along with the widely known Great Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khufu, which most tourists will photograph during their visit to Egypt, take a closer look at some of the lesser known, but no less incredible, pyramids in the country.
12. Pyramid of Lahun.
The Pyramid of Lahun, also known as el-Lahun, was constructed under the rule of Senusret II of the 12th Dynasty around 1180 BC. El-Lahun means Mouth of the Canal, and it was indeed situated next to the water. This pyramid is now in ruin, and the causeways and passages within are largely destroyed and inaccessible. Even in the 1840s, when explorers were eager to discover and document as many Egyptian pyramids as possible, the British archeologist Sir Flinders Petrie took months to simply find the entrance to the pyramid itself.The entrance to the Pyramid of Lahun was hidden in the courtyard on the south side of the structure, despite the north side being the typical entrance for religious reasons. The Pyramid of Lahun is one of the first pyramids in Egypt where protecting the contents, and providing security to the tomb, was regarded as even more important than following historic protocol.Although there are no remnants, the exterior of the Pyramid of Lahun is believed to have been covered in decorated granite. Natural limestone already in place was used as an efficient base for the pyramid, making construction easier than normal. A smaller black granite pyramid was likely placed at the top of the structure to form its apex.
11. Pyramid of Userkaf.
One of the pyramids found in Saqqara is the Pyramid of Userkaf, built between 2494–2487 BC under the rule of Userkaf, a pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty. Far from poetic, the local name of the pyramid, El-Haram el-Maharbish, translates directly as Heap of Stone. Userkaf does actually have a core of rubble, and the remaining materials were dressed stone. Today, the Pyramid of Userkaf is in ruin, and it looks more like a conical hill made of sand than a true pyramid.The Pyramid of Userkaf was a structure that differed from the Fourth Dynasty pyramids, and in many ways it inspired the later Fifth Dynasty pyramids. Userkaf did retain the traditional high wall around the complex and the causeway linking one tomb to the main pyramid. However, it also introduced new ideas like a north-south axis orientation and the inclusion of a small chapel outside, rather than inside, the pyramid.More than 1,5000 years after construction, the Pyramid of Userkaf was restored and used by Rameses II as a cemetery. In more modern history, the entrance to the pyramid was discovered in 1831, but no one actually entered the pyramid until 1839, when a tunnel was discovered that was likely dug by tomb robbers and afforded easy access to the interior.
10. Pyramid of Hawara.
A three-hour drive south of Cairo is the Pyramid of Hawara, which was constructed by the sixth Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty, Amenmehat III. Historians put the construction of the Pyramid of Hawara around 1850 BC, making it approximately 3,865 years old today. The Pyramid of Hawara is often called the Black Pyramid because it looks much darker than other Egyptian pyramids from the same time period. The pyramid was built from brick stones and then covered in limestone, giving it a dark appearance.When first built, the Pyramid of Hawara was nearly 60 meters (200 feet) tall, although erosion and desert sands have slightly reduced the height over time. Hawara was not the first pyramid commissioned by Pharaoh Amenmehat III. His first, called Dashur, was not successful and collapsed shortly after construction. As a result, the Pyramid of Hawara is built with a lower angle to prevent a collapse. But today even this second pyramid is little more than an eroded, vaguely pyramidal mountain of mud brick.An interesting note to make about the Pyramid of Hawara, which still stands but doesn’t have a sharp apex anymore, is how it began to acknowledge and try to deceive tomb thieves. The Pyramid of Hawara featured passageways in a labyrinth pattern to try to confuse and frustrate potential robbers in ancient Egypt.
9. Pyramid of Teti.
The Pyramid of Teti is another of the important structures located in the pyramid fields of Saqqara. Built between 2345 and 2333 BC in the Sixth Dynasty, Teti was just the second of the Egyptian pyramids to contain Pyramid Texts, or magic spells written or carved into the walls of the tombs. Upon excavation and exploration in the late 19th century, it was revealed that the Pyramid of Teti is made up of one main pyramid for the burial of the king, a funerary temple and two smaller pyramids likely intended for the queens of the Pharaoh Teti.From above ground, the Pyramid of Teti looks like it is completely ruined, and it could even be mistaken for a small hill rather than a pyramid structure. Thankfully, the corridors and chambers located underground are in much better condition and have been amazingly preserved over time. Although the valley temple is lost, you can still see the Teti’s Room of the Greats, the interior chapel containing five different statues of the Pharaoh Teti, the long descending hallway that leads to the burial chamber, the funerary apartments for the pharaoh and the Pyramid Texts inscribed on the walls.
8. Pyramid of Unas.
Found in the region of Saqqara is the Pyramid of Unas. Erected in the 24th century BC, the Pyramid of Unas was built for the Pharaoh Unas, who served as the final ruler in the Fifth Dynasty. Although the Pyramid of Unas was originally 43 meters (141 feet) tall, the pyramid is largely ruined today.The Pyramid of Unas is significant in large part because it was the first of its kind to include what is now known as Pyramid Texts. The pharaoh had magical texts carved right into the walls that were designed to protect him in the afterlife. Several pharaohs after Unas did the same thing, starting a common trend among Egyptian kings. In fact, it is believed that the Pyramid Texts were the inspiration for the later Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead.Made of limestone, the Pyramid of Unas was rediscovered by Western explorers in the 19th century, and a mummy was found in the tomb at that time. However, historians can’t be sure that the remains were in fact Unas, as they could have been from a later noble.
7. Pyramid of Meidum.
Approximately 100 km (60 miles) south of Cairo is Meidum, a pyramid that stands almost as high as the Pyramid of Menkaurein in Giza. Meidum was constructed during Egypt’s Third Dynasty, which means that it is older than the Pyramids of Giza. Meidum was designed for Huni, the very last of the Third Dynasty pharaohs. You can clearly see that at this stage, construction of pyramids was not yet a science. Instead of smooth sides, Meidum was originally built as a step pyramid, where there were terraces to make construction easier for each level. The outer layer also used sand, rather than stone, which may have led to the pyramid’s collapse over time.Today, Meidum has three steps, or levels, that are clearly visible. It does not have a steep apex at the top, which is why many Egyptians call it a el-heram el-kaddaab, or pseudo pyramid. However, the Pyramid of Meidum is still absolutely worth a visit. As you enter, you’ll walk down a passageway which has been structurally supported by wooden beams, and you can enter the unfinished burial chamber. Surrounding the pyramid itself is a collection of mastabas, or tombs, that are made from mud bricks. These smaller tombs resemble the very base of a pyramid, and many of them have tunnels that robbers in centuries past used to steal from the tombs.
6. Pyramid of Menkaure.
When people speak of the Pyramids of Giza, they are referring primarily to three distinct structures: the Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Of the three, the Pyramid of Menkaure is by far the smallest. However, it has a definite place in the layout of Giza, and it is absolutely worth a visit when you’re in the area.Built in 2510 BC for the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Menkaure, this pyramid stands at a total height of 65 meters (213 feet). This puts the Pyramid of Menkaure at roughly half the height of its neighboring pyramids. The materials used in the construction of the Pyramid of Menkaure were red granite, used in the bottom portion of the pyramid, and limestone, used toward the top. Parts of the granite in the pyramid were left rough, wh