Sneferu (Pyramids and Tomb)

King Sneferu was an interesting fellow, obviously quite stubborn, and over the course of his life managed to build three pyramids (only one “true”), in all using more stone than any other pharaoh in history. Dahshur was home to two of Snef’s pyramids, the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid.

The Bent Pyramid, off at a distance from where we were, is exactly as the name suggests. While working on the pyramid, the planners discovered that if they continued at the angle they were building, the pyramid would collapse. Instead, they ordered a quick angle revision, and so now we have the pleasure of viewing one of history’s biggest blunders. The Red Pyramid, however, was finally the “true” pyramid that Sneferu obviously craved, and, fittingly, became his burial place.

Bent Pyramid

We were excited to see the Red Pyramid, because this was finally our chance to go inside one of these ancient tombs. Contrasting to Giza, Dahshur was relatively empty, and so we could easily descend into the pyramid without having to battle our way through hordes of other, obviously sweatier and smellier, tourists. Leaving my sister, who was quietly evaporating, behind, my parents and I started the steep climb up the side of the pyramid.

Reaching halfway up, we stood in front of the tiny black shaft that would lead us 60 metres into the middle of the pyramid, and we suddenly felt very unsure of the whole situation. Gallantly, in the name of exploration, we pushed on and started the backwards descent into the yawning abyss. As we moved deeper and deeper (and darker and darker, more and more humid, smellier and smellier), I couldn’t help feeling very eerie, especially when I contemplated the fact that, 4500 years before, the dead pharaoh was moved along this very passageway to his eternal resting place. If there had been room to shudder, I would have.

They all smiled at me with the sort of smile that only a group of humming, handholding French people inside a 4500 year old pyramid could give, and then continued their communal chant. Even more embarrassingly, I could hear my parents’ loud, excited murmurings as they reached the end of the shaft, blissfully unaware of the pyramid-cult we had managed to stumble upon. I was beginning to worry that these people required some sort of human sacrifice, but luckily they just seemed content to hum.

We quickly moved across the room to the next antechamber, relieved to be away, but also slightly anxious that the only way out of the pyramid was through the previous room. You can imagine how the aforementioned sense of eeriness had by this time erupted into full-blown creepiness, and the butterflies that inhabited my stomach were having a rather out-of-control rager. It was in this stage of heightened terror when suddenly, out of the stillness of the tomb, came the most blood-curdling scream I have ever heard.

This woman would have made Janet Leigh from Psycho jealous. Obviously if I had been any less of a man I would have fainted right then and there, images of a linen-trailing mummy and his magical curses flying through my mind. Of course there was no Curse of Sneferu; it turns out the woman, one of the cult-members, had suffered a deadly attack of claustrophobia, and was literally unable to move. Unfortunately for her she still needed to climb 60 metres up a dark, form-fitting shaft. I suppose the moral of this story is: “Don’t climb into the middle of a pyramid if you suffer from intense claustrophobia!” (Which in itself seems rather obvious, but who am I to say?). See Cartouche of King Sneferu here.

Note: You can travel to Giza and Dahshur by train or by bus.