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Bent Pyramid

Experimenting with ways to create a true, smooth-sided pyramid, Sneferu's architects began with the same steep angle and inward-leaning courses of stone they used to create step pyramids. When this began to show signs of stress and instability around halfway up its eventual 105 m height, they had little choice but to reduce the angle from 54 degrees to 43 degrees and begin to lay the stones in horizontal layers. This explains why the structure has the unusual shape that gives it its name.

Most of its outer casing is still intact, and inside (closed to visitors) are two burial chambers, the highest of which retains its original ancient scaffolding of great cedar beams to counteract internal instability. There is also a small subsidiary pyramid to the south as well as the remains of a small funerary temple to the east. About halfway towards the cultivation to the east are the ruins of Sneferu's valley temple, which yielded some interesting reliefs.

Black Pyramid

Of the three Middle Kingdom pyramid complexes built by Amenemhat II (1922-1878 BC), Sesostris III (1874-1855 BC) and his son Amenemhat III (1855-1808 BC), only the oddly shaped Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III is worth a look. The tower-like structure appears to have completely collapsed due to the pilfering of its limestone outer casing in medieval times, but the mud-brick remains contain a maze of corridors and rooms designed to deceive tomb robbers.

Thieves did manage to penetrate the burial chambers, but left behind a number of precious funerary artefacts that were discovered in 1993.

Great Pyramid of Khufu

The oldest pyramid in Giza and the largest in Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Khufu stood 146 m high when it was completed around 2570 BC. After 46 centuries, its height has been reduced by 9 m. About 2.3 million limestone blocks, reckoned to weigh about 2.5 tonnes each, were used in the construction.

Pyramids of Djedkare, Merenre & Pepi I

Known as the 'Pyramid of the Sentinel', the 25m-high Djedkare pyramid contains the remains of the last ruler of the fifth dynasty, and can be penetrated from the north side. The pyramids of Merenre and Pepi I are little more than slowly collapsing piles of rock, though the latter is significant as 'Memphis' appears in one of its names.

Pyramid of Khafre

Southwest of the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre seems larger than that of his father, Khufu. At just 136 m high, it’s not, but it stands on higher ground and its peak is still capped with a limestone casing. Originally all three pyramids were totally encased with polished white stone, which would have made them gleam in the sun. Over the centuries, this casing has been stripped for use in palaces and mosques, exposing the softer inner-core stones to the elements.

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