Egypt’s famous Bent Pyramid, a marvel of ancient geometry

The pyramid has been of importance in understanding the transition from the step-sided pyramids to smooth-sided constructions.
Saturday 27/07/2019
The Bent Pyramid marked a turning point from the step-sided pyramids to the smooth-sided ones. (Joan Carles Tarda)
The Bent Pyramid marked a turning point from the step-sided pyramids to the smooth-sided ones. (Joan Carles Tarda)

DAHSHUR - For the first time since 1965, Egypt has opened the Bent Pyramid, a structure considered a unique model of early pyramid development and a turning point in the evolution of this kind of construction in Egypt. It appears to be the first attempt at rising the structure in the shape of a geometric pyramid.

The first 49 metres of the Bent Pyramid rise from its base at an inclination of 54 degrees, while its top section is built on a 43-degree angle, giving to the structure its singular, curved character.

Archaeologists said the change in the angle may have been a decision of its architects because of instability the structure may have shown because of the steepness of its initial inclination.

For this reason, the pyramid has been of importance in understanding the transition from the step-sided pyramids to smooth-sided constructions. The Red Pyramid, built by the same pharaoh near the Bent Pyramid and immediately after it, adopted a pyramidal shape in a geometrical sense, with a 43-degree angle from its base.

“This is a very special pyramid because it is the only bent pyramid all over the world,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Visitors will be allowed to access the pyramid from its main entrance, on the northern side about 20 metres high and descend through a 79-metre tunnel to its first chamber, which is below ground level. From there, it will be possible to reach a second chamber, located at a greater height, as well as the passage that connects to the western entrance of the pyramid.

Mohamed al-Saeede, head of the SCA Scientific Office and in charge of the work at the Bent Pyramid, said the two entrances of the pyramid are another of its unusual characteristics.

The Bent Pyramid has preserved largely intact much of its original outer casing, built of polished limestone, which is rare in Egypt.

The pyramid was built some 4,600 years ago during the times of the founder of the Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt Pharaoh Sneferu, who introduced major innovations in pyramid construction. His son Khufu, also known as Cheops, is thought to have commissioned construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt’s most famous pyramid and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Bent Pyramid is at the royal necropolis of Dahshur, 40km south of Cairo, and is included on

UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It is on the southernmost fringe of the Memphis necropolis, which includes Giza and Saqqara.

The opening of the Bent Pyramid aims at boosting tourism in Dahshur, which remained closed to the public until the end of the 1990s and is a much less developed spot than Giza. This has helped Dahshur keep its tranquillity.

“Many tourists don’t go there because it is not one of the mainstream spots to visit in Cairo and it is quite far,” said Ahmed Alaa, a resident from Cairo who visited the Dahshur necropolis and its Red Pyramid before the opening of the Bent Pyramid. “Going from the Giza pyramids all the way to [Dahshur] is an experience itself. The place is peaceful and quiet.”

Besides the Bent Pyramid, visitors will be able to enter the so-called satellite pyramid, an 18-metre-high structure 55 metres south of the Bent Pyramid and thought to have been built for Hetepheres, Sneferu’s wife.

Saeede said the sites of the Bent Pyramid and its satellite structure have been repaired, restored and habilitated to make it suitable for tourists before its opening. “Now it is completely ready to receive visitors from all over the world,” he said.

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