Our first day in Egypt was devoted entirely to the pyramids surrounding Cairo. Our hotel, Guardian Guest House, arranged a guide and driver for us so we could see not only the Giza Pyramids, but the older pyramids at Dahshur and Saqqara as well. These are some of the oldest structures in the world and have stood for millenia. And did you know you can actually go inside some of them?
The Red Pyramid
Our first stop was the Red pyramid at Dahshur. It is the third largest pyramid after the two at Giza, and one of the few pyramids you can go inside. Tourism in Egypt has taken a tumble due to recent events, so we ended up being the only visitors at Dahshur. We hope it recovers for them, but we still enjoyed having an entire pyramid to ourselves!
The long passage into the pyramid is only 3 feet tall, pitch black, and slopes 200 feet down into the main chamber, which was surprisingly small. We had as long as we wanted to marvel at the perfect interior construction, discuss theories on its use, and run our hands along the smooth stone. It was such a quiet and intimate experience. When we climbed out huffing and puffing, our guide, Haisam, congratulated us on our return from the land of the dead. Funny guy!
Djoser pyramid at Saqqara is the oldest standing pyramid, built in the 27th century BC by the great architect and vizier, Imhotep. The necropolis complex here at Saqqara was used by the ancient capital of Memphis and covers a couple square miles. Many interesting discoveries are still being made here, including the sarcophagi of the Apis bulls and 8 million dog mummies. If we ever get to visit Egypt again, we’ll definitely be spending more time at Saqqara!
We arrived in Egypt at night, so our first view of the pyramids was from the window of our hotel room at Guardian Guest House (with a view like that for $60, why would you stay anywhere else?!). As we drove around that day, we were continually spotting them in the distance. We knew they were big—I mean, they’re the pyramids—but when we finally got up close, we were still surprised by the size. I hadn’t thought that I would barely reach the height of the first layer of stones!
Haisam then drove us to the “lookout point” to get a great view of all the pyramids together, and we ended our day with a camel ride on the Giza Plateau. I never imagined I would be crawling inside a pyramid, seeing the oldest pyramid, climbing the largest pyramid, and then topping it off with a camel ride in the desert—it was pretty much a perfect day!
When planning your trip to Cairo, carve out at least a whole day to see the pyramids. There’s so many more than we show here, so you can easily fill several days marveling at these magnificent structures. Looking back, we even feel like we cut our time short at the Giza Pyramids and wish we could have spent at least half the day there.
Current events may have you thinking twice about visiting Egypt, but if you decide to go, you can see the pyramids with few other tourists around you. It’ll definitely be an experience you’ll never forget! Are you planning an Egypt trip? Are there any questions we can help you answer? Comment below and let us know!
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I love all your Egypt posts! We are going in a few months and your photos have made me even more excited. I’d love some advice on money. Did you use dollars or Egyptian pounds? Do you need to take Egyptian pounds with you or just get them there? How did you know how much to tip?
Thanks for the comment! We always withdraw local currency from an ATM for the best rate. Be sure to get a back account that doesn’t charge ATM withdrawal fees, and better yet, get one that reimburses you for any ATM fees you incur, like the Schwab checking account. Tipping varies, if you’re with a guide they will advise you.
With the unrest in the area of Egypt, how did you decide if it was safe enough to go? Did you go through a travel agency or make your own plans? Is the one you recommend?
Personally, we have always found traveling to be just as dangerous as staying at home, so we don’t pay too much attention to the news. But we did research and book everything ourselves, and we decided to purposefully avoid the Sinai on this trip. Our visit was a few years ago, but unfortunately I believe this area is still not suitable for tourists. Cairo and the Nile still see lots of tourist traffic, and with tourism being such a large industry, they are keen to take very good care of travelers. I highly recommend booking a local guide through your hotel, as they are very in tune with the news and any dangerous areas, and they will shuttle you around to all the sites you want to visit. We definitely could not have navigated Cairo without our guide and driver and felt completely safe with them! Hope this helps a little, let me know if you have any other questions!