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Beautiful boxes inlaid with mother of pearl are a popular souvenir from our mystery country, and just one of countless items to be browsed in the streets of Khan el Khalili Bazaar. We recommend visiting with a guide and exploring beyond the touristy areas (where many products are made in China). A guide will help navigate the maze of small streets for a more authentic experience in this historical market and make sure you get what you pay for.

 

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the Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt

the Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt

the Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt

About 25 miles south of Cairo, Dahshur is a necropolis of ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom and site of some of the very first pyramids in Egypt. The so-called Bent Pyramid was the first try at a smooth-sided pyramid in the evolution from the Step Pyramid to the true pyramid form that we are familiar with. For reasons not entirely clear, construction of the Bent Pyramid began at a 52-degree angle of inclination but changed partway up to a more gradual 43-degree incline. Structural and foundation issues were most likely the reason for that. Whatever the reason, the Bent Pyramid preserves evidence of the development of architecture and engineering in ancient Egypt.

Despite the angle miscalculation, builders of the Bent Pyramid successfully encased the monument in polished limestone, a major step forward in pyramid construction and a  standard element in later pyramids. More than four thousand years later, it is the only pyramid in Egypt with most of its outer limestone casing intact.

The Bent Pyramid was built for the pharaoh Sneferu, but it is doubtful he was buried there. He was reportedly not pleased with the imperfection and ordered another pyramid nearby. Now known as the Red Pyramid, it is the first known true pyramid.
Between the two pyramids, it’s more likely he was buried in the latter, but there’s no conclusive evidence either way. The chambers of both pyramids are empty, surely looted by grave robbers thousands of years ago. Sneferu was the first pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty and father of Khufu, for whom the Great Pyramid at Giza was built.

See the Pyramids Along the Nile, sort of

the Giza Pyramids, Egypt

the Giza Pyramids, Egypt

They’re not exactly along the Nile; not to be nitpicky, but if you’re looking for them, you should know. The Giza pyramids, by far the most famous of some 120 pyramids discovered to date in Egypt, are about 5 miles from the Nile and about 15 miles from the center of Cairo. The pyramids are part of the Giza Necropolis, the burial grounds of 3 4th Dynasty pharaohs, among others.

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This is the Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple. It consists of 134 columns in an area of over 50,000 square feet. Most of the columns are 50 feet tall, but two rows of 6 columns flanking the central aisle are 80 feet tall and 30 feet in circumference. (!)
The hall was built around the 13th century BCE, an addition to the existing temple. Originally, a roof covered the hall, but it is long since open to the sky. (In architectural terms, a hypostyle indicates a space covered by a roof supported by columns.)

 

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Mummification Museum, Luxor, Egypt

a cat mummy at Luxor's Mummification Museum

a cat mummy at Luxor’s Mummification Museum

For those interested in mummies and/or ancient Egyptian religion, the Mummification Museum in Luxor is well worth a visit. Most of the mummies on display are animals (currently there is just one human mummy), which gives insight into the reverence ancient Egyptians held for animals. The museum is dedicated to the process of mummification and the belief system behind it. Exhibits are well organized and include beautiful examples of mummification tools, sarcophagi and canopic jars, which held organs removed from the embalmed body. Thirty to forty minutes is plenty of time to see everything and leave with a good understanding of ancient Egyptian mummification. The museum is right on the Nile Corniche in the center of Luxor, just north of the Luxor Temple.