Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The FIRST "True" Pyramid

Day four - we depart the townhouse in our 4 by 4, which we needed to get out of the uncharacteristically muddy roads in Fayoum.

Later we switch to a van and the new driver is proud - it is brand new. Although it is just the two of us and Dalia, it is designed to hold up to 14 passengers - unfortunately it has no foot room in the second seat (where we want to sit in order to listen to Dalia whose narratives are wonderful) - worse than a plane!

On our way we pass through a newly built "City of the Dead," a hige modern cemetery that stretches for several miles along the highway. Families construct what look like small houses on their "plot," places family members can come of pay honor to the deceased. Beneath the :house" there will be two separate burial chambers, one for men and one for women. Fewer than half of these tombs are already actually in use, Dalia tells us, but most are already prepared to be ready should the need arise.

It continues to be cold, with fog and rain as we drive on east toward Meidum, what is thought to be the first effort to construct a "true" - that is, smooth-sided - pyramid, 4,600 years ago. As we reach the site, it is actually difficult to realize that the hill looming in the distance is actually the famous Meidum pyramid We stop at the administration building - there are no other tourists here today. We are off the tourist track for next three days, in "Middle Egypt". Through the fog we can barely see this distinctive and unique pyramid.

As we walk toward it, we realize It is really huge. It was 4,600 years ago that Sneferu, the founder of the 4th Dynasty, built a step pyramid like that of Djoser. Then he took the next step, filling in the steps with rubble and faced it with white limestone. He had in mind a perfect gleaming white pyramid, but probably it started to collapse even before it was completed. The burial chamber was never completed. Today there is rubble all around and limestone has long since been carted away.

The descending passage of Meidum (taken from the web)
The steep descending passage more than 170 feet long leads to a horizontal passage, just below the original ground level, that then leads to a vertical shaft about 30 feet high that leads to the corbelled burial chamber itself.

We also expamined the causeway toward the river which is being excavated right now, and briefly watched as the workers were removing sand that had completely filled it in.

We really loved this pyramid - such an accomplishment. From here on a clear day (which this not) you can see Sneferu's other two pyramids north in Dashur - the Bent Pyramid, another experiment, and finally the Red Pyramid, the first successful true pyramid. This was engineering by trial and error. Snerferu was determined and he was fortunate enough to live long enough to finally get it right. Ironically no one knows where he is - or was entombed.

Other pictures are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/eloise.hedbor/20110118?authkey=Gv1sRgCJeMoKCir8rSGQ#

Now it is a three-hour drive south into Middle Egypt. We had to stop at police checkpoints every10 miles or so – Dalia and the driver answer same questions each time and wait for permission to proceed. This kind of monitoting and control has been in place in Middle Egypt at least since 9/11 – maybe back to the time of an attack on tourists in the late 1990s.

We are going to El Minya and our schedule called for us to see the famous tombs at Beni Hasan tonight. Because we are running late, Dalia has a bag of food - probably enough for a dozen people! - Egyptian bread, several different kinds of cheese, etc. - delicious! Dalia takes such good care of us!

We arrive at El Minya, cross the Nile on a bridge and the driver gets lost repeatedly, stopping and asking help. The site is not important to local people and because it is in Middle Egypt it gets little tourist traffic .

Finally Dalia gave up for the evening and just has us check into the Nefertit Hotel. It’s a nice room (Dalia stays elsewhere for economy) overlooking the Nile.
From our room, overlooking the Nile

There is an almost full moon over the West Bank.

We could have gone out to eat, but we stay in the hotel, not being completely comfortable walking around on our own where tourists are a rarity, and little English is spoken. There are four choices for dinner, and we both opt for fish, which is all right but nothing special.

It's been another long day, and we are quite tired, so we will go to bed pretty early.

No comments:

Post a Comment