The Red Pyramid is the third largest pyramid in Egypt. It was built in the Dahshur Necropolis by Pharoah Sneferu, around 4,600 years ago. Visitors with a penchant for Egyptology will not be underwhelmed by this pyramid, which is rich in history, architecture, and mystery.
The Red Pyramid is the largest structure in Dahshur and also the most accessible. There is a $7 fee to enter the Dahshur complex. Once inside, it's free to enter the Red Pyramid. For entering most other pyramids, there are additional fees on top of the site entrance tickets.
The name refers to the color of the stones, which are reddish and rusty. Contrary to the name and current appearance, the Red Pyramid was not always red. When it was first built, the color was a shiny, pristine white. In fact, all the pyramids in Egypt used to be white as the stones were cased in special limestone from Tura, a famous quarry near Cairo that served as that primary source of limestone in Ancient Egypt.
The largest and most famous pyramid in Egypt is the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was built a generation after the Red Pyramid. While the Red Pyramid is not the biggest, the Pharoah who had it built, Sneferu, can still be credited as the inspiration for the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was built by his son, Khufu.
At the time that the pyramids were built, Egypt was not the same arid desert that it is today. The Nile River was a lot more active and flooded every year, which means that the strip of habitable land surrounding the river was a lot wider. Today, Dahshur is a part of the desert, which gives the impression that the pyramids were specifically built on dry sand. However, back when it was built, the land surrounding it was highly fertile. According to some sources, the environment was more akin to a savannah, and full of wildlife.
There is mounting evidence that the Egyptian pyramids were built according to celestial patterns, objects, and events. The Red Pyramid perfectly aligns with the movement of the sun on the annual fall equinox. If one places a stick in the ground on the day of the equinox and marks the movement of the tip of the shadow throughout the day, the resulting line will be aligned in the east-west direction. There is an imperfection in the line due to the tilt of the Earth, which the pyramid reflects as well.
- Fun fact: The Fall (or Autumnal) Equinox marks the time of the year when the day and night are equal in length. It also signals the beginning of the harvest season, which precedes winter. For the ancient Egyptians, this equilibrium of light and dark marks the transient balancing of the underworld and heaven
The First Chamber Of The Red Pyramid
The entrance to the Red Pyramid is high up on the northern face. From that vantage point, the ancient Egyptians could look to the horizon over the lush kingdom.
Upon entering, there is a small passageway that gradually descends at a 27-degree angle into the guts of the structure. The passageway is only 3-feet tall so most adults will have to crouch or crawl in. It proceeds in a southward direction and leads to a chamber with a corbelled roof. This is the first chamber, and possibly a dummy. The roof is 40 feet (12m) high and rises in eleven corbelled steps. The long axis of the room is aligned along the north-south line.
The Burial Chamber Of The Red Pyramid
At the southern end of the first chamber, but offset to the west, is another passageway that leads to the second chamber. The offset slightly obscures the passageway, suggesting that it was intentionally designed that way to confuse robbers.
The second chamber is identical to the first one but is located directly underneath the apex of the pyramid, which indicates that it was intended to be the true burial chamber of the Pharoah. The positioning of this room is significant as the Ancient Egyptians believed in the relationship between sacred geometry the transcendence of souls.
Modern scientists are only beginning to understand the significance of the pyramid. According to researchers at ITMO University in St. Petersburg, Russia, pyramidal objects concentrate electrical and magnetic energy. In fact, this ancient technology could be adapted to create highly efficient pyramidal solar cells.
These findings shed some light on the mystery of why the Ancient Egyptians took such great care to build these massive structures, why they are aligned with the stars and the equinox, and why kings were buried directly below the apexes.
The Hidden Chamber Of The Red Pyramid
High up on the southern wall of the second chamber, at a height of 25 feet (7m), there is yet another little entrance. Today, a wooden staircase has been built to make this entrance more accessible to tourists. Once through, there's a short horizontal passageway that leads to the third and final chamber. This final room is unlike the other two. The long axis of this chamber aligns along the east-west line and the roof is taller at 50 feet (15m).
The final room is assumed to have been sealed off and probably contained valuables that were to remain hidden for eternity. Based on the uneven floor and marks in the stone, robbers probably broke into this chamber and dug into the walls, taking with them whatever mysteries were buried there and forever obscuring the secrets of the Red Pyramid.