The Old Kingdom

The Old Kingdom – STT 103

Today is a day to experience a number of Old Kingdom sites and the earliest of pyramids to better understand how the true pyramid developed. The sites you will visit today will be a little quieter than Giza and you can enjoy a more private experience.

Your ONE DAY tour will visit one of the “forgotten” sites of Egypt at Meidum with its massive step pyramid and then see the Bent and Red pyramids at Dahshur (where the first, perfect, complete pyramid in history was built). You will also visit the complex at Saqqara and Egypt’s oldest capital – Memphis. On the way to Saqqara you will call in at Abu Sir, rarely visited by tourists.

Pyramid at Meidum

The pyramid at Meidum with desert on one side and cultivated fields on the other is an amazing sight as you drive towards Beni Suef. Located about 100 km south of Cairo the site has this collapsed pyramid and several mud brick mastabas.

Meidum, the site of the so-called “collapsed” pyramid (because from afar it looks like a tall tower surrounded by a pile of rubble) has yet to be fully excavated and so most likely holds many secrets yet to be discovered. The last king of the III Dynasty, King Huni, probably built the pyramid at Meidum as a step pyramid – 8 steps high and much steeper and higher than the pyramid at Saqqara. It seems likely that Huni left his pyramid unfinished and it was completed for him by his successor, Snefru. Other Egyptologists think that the pyramid was built for Snefru from the outset.

Sign at one of the mud brick mastabas at Meidum

Located nearby is a mud brick mastaba of an unknown noble, the burial chamber of which can be entered via a robber's tunnel. This tunnel is steep, extremely narrow and confined. Once traversed however, the chamber and hallway are relatively spacious, and contain the first example of a red granite sarcophagus known in antiquity.

At Dahshur the first pyramid was built by Snefru (Snofru, Sneferu) in the south-western corner of the area. This pyramid was started at one angle but about halfway, the angle was changed to a steeper one. This bend in the sides of the pyramid has given it its modern-day name: the Bent Pyramid. Perhaps because the change of angle did not suit, Snefru started a second pyramid, about 2 km to the north of the Bent Pyramid.

The Bent Pyramid at Dahshur

The Bent Pyramid at Dahshur with some of its limestone casing intact

This new pyramid is often called the Red Pyramid because of its reddish appearance and because of the red stone used to build the burial chamber. The angle of the Red Pyramid is the same as the top part of the Bent Pyramid. This pyramid was the first complete pyramid built and became a “blueprint” for later designs. The first notable building activity in the area after Snefru is dated to the reign of Amenemhat II of the 12th Dynasty, who chose to build his pyramid near the cluster of Old Kingdom tombs where Kanefer was buried. His example would be followed by Sesostris III, who moved slightly to the north and Amenemhat III, more to the south.

Pyramids at Abu Sir, south of Giza

Pyramids at Abu Sir, south of Giza

On the way from Dahshur we will quickly look at the field of Abu Sir, often called the burial site of the forgotten kings of the 5th Dynasty. Despite the size of their monuments, these kings do not have the fame of their predecessors from the 4th Dynasty. Abu Sir is famous for a number of significant papyri found there, administrative records which gave great insight into the daily life of this period of ancient Egypt. This site is not always open but you will visit and be able to see from the vehicle if it is not open.

Pyramid and tomb of Nyuserre at Abu Sir

Pyramid and tomb of Nyuserre at Abu Sir

Visit Saqqara, the site of the step pyramid of King Djoser (Zoser). Designed by his architect Imhotep, this pyramid is considered the forerunner of the true (smooth-sided) pyramids. This site is still being excavated with new finds being made constantly.

Memphis was the ancient capital of a united Egypt from which the first pharaohs ruled and although little remains you can see the awesome fallen colossal statue of Ramesses II as well as a beautifully intact alabaster sphinx possibly of Queen Hatshepsut and other granite relics in the open air museum.

Head of the beautiful alabaster sphinx at Memphis open air museum

Head of the beautiful alabaster sphinx at Memphis open air museum

As well you will have the opportunity to do a little shopping on the way back to Cairo when we stop at a papyrus institute and you can both see papyrus paintings and come to understand how this amazing plant is used to make paper.

Location: Southwest of Cairo, Meidum is around 65 km to the south of Saqqara (100 km from Cairo), while Dahshur is located further to the southwest of Memphis, 10 kilometres to the south of Saqqara. Abu Sir is close by Saqqara.

How will you get there: By modern air-conditioned vehicle from anywhere in Greater Cairo

10 hours approx. (will vary a little dependent on how long you might like to linger as well as the Cairo traffic). You will be collected from your hotel at approximately 8.00 am. Hotel pickups may commence prior to this time, exact pickup time will be advised on reconfirmation. The tour operates daily at all times of the year.

A registered English-speaking Egyptologist guide for the day to make sure you don’t miss anything
Transport in an air-conditioned vehicle with accommodation pick-up and drop-off
Entrance fees at Meidum and Dahshur (a visit inside the Meidum pyramid and the Red Pyramid at Dahshur is included) and at Abu Sir (if open), Saqqara and Memphis
Children 3 and under are free

Imhotep Museum visit at Saqqara

Tips (recommended)
Food and drink unless specified
Other optional activities
Anything not mentioned in this programme

Things to note
These sites have uneven surfaces and sensible footwear is advised. Care should also be taken when accessing the sites.
Sunscreen, a hat and water are important. Most of our drivers have cold water on board that you can purchase at a small price.
There are souvenir salesmen at many sites, be polite but firm if you are not interested in purchasing. Ask your guide for assistance if necessary.
A visit inside the pyramids is not an easy matter and not for the faint-hearted, the unfit or the claustrophobic. Corridors are narrow, low-roofed and often steep, requiring good knees and backs. They are also often hot and stuffy and the Red Pyramid has a strong ammonia smell.
If required, wheelchair accessibility should be discussed when booking. A vehicle with wheelchair accessibility can be made available but these sites in particular are not easy, or in some parts even possible with a chair or for people with walking difficulties. Saqqara has some slatted wooden walkways over the sand but other sites have a longish walk over uneven and sandy ground. However Dahshur and Meidum are quiet and vehicles can park quite close to the pyramids.
Don’t forget your camera!!! Bring a spare battery and card – you’ll take lots of pictures to capture your memories and help you remember this special day.
We’d really like your feedback so please let us know what you think of all aspects of your tour.

A confirmation sheet will be sent to you upon booking with all details, including local telephone numbers for enquiries.

1 person – US$130 per person
2 – 4 people – US$90 per person
5 – 8 people – US$68 per person
9 -15 people – US$63 per person
Request a quote for 16+ people
Reduced costs for children 4-12, children 3 and under free

Prices are a guide based on current currency conversion rates and set entrance fees. While we do not expect significant change, we can give you an exact quote at the time of booking.

If you wish to book this tour please quote STT103. You may contact us by email at or phone +2017 333 8800. We hope you enjoy your tour.


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