1. The Bent Pyramid, also known as the Rhomboidal or Blunted Pyramid.

Bent pyramid opens

One of the most curiously recognisable structures of Egypt, the Bent Pyramid (1) is now entering a new chapter in its long life. The 101m-high pyramid of the pharaoh Sneferu at Dahshur, 28km south of Cairo, is noted for its unusual appearance. Now, for the first time since 1965, the pyramid is open to the public.

From a raised entrance on the pyramid's north face, visitors can now descend through a 79m tunnel to two chambers in the tomb which lie deep within the pyramid. Perhaps even more excitingly they can also enter the nearby 18m-high 'side pyramid', which may have been built for Hetepheres, Sneferu's wife, and has been closed since its excavation in 1956. The first pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom (circa 2686–2181 BC), Sneferu reigned circa 2613–2589 BC.

Built for the pharaoh 4600 years ago, the Bent Pyramid, also known as the Rhomboidal or Blunted Pyramid, was the first attempt by an Egyptian king to build a tomb of this type. The initial 49 metres of the pyramid, on which the limestone casing is still largely intact, are built at an angle of 54 degrees, but then the angle of the sides towards the apex of the pyramid changes abruptly to 43 degrees (2).

2. Sections through the Bent Pyramid show its angles, dimensions and entrance passages.

It is believed that this was an intentional design modification which may have been prompted by cracks appearing in the structure. After this false start, King Sneferu went on to build the Red Pyramid just to the north, the first of its kind to have straight sides. His remains have never been discovered, but his legacy is world-famous as he began a great era of pyramid-building in Egypt.

The most renowned result of this are the pyramids at Giza, which are the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. The largest of these, the Great Pyramid, was built by Sneferu's son, Khufu, circa 2560 BC.

At the opening of the Bent Pyramid, archaeologists displayed coffins, mummies, masks and tools, which were discovered during excavations that began near these pyramids in Dahshur last year. The area is described as
being rich in hidden tombs and excavations are set to continue. Dahshur lies at the southernmost end of
the pyramid plateau, which stretches all the way north past Saqqara and the Step Pyramid, and on to Giza.
Lying in the open desert untrammeled by crowds of tourists, Dahshur is described by the Egyptian tourist board
as a 'hidden jewel'.

Diana Bentley