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‘Bent’ pyramid to welcome guests

Birds fly over the 4,500-year-old “bent” pyramid, in Dahshur, Egypt.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Birds fly over the 4,500-year-old “bent” pyramid, in Dahshur, Egypt. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Schemm Associated Press

CAIRO – Travelers to Egypt will soon be able to explore the inner chambers of the 4,500-year-old “bent” pyramid – known for its oddly shaped profile – and other nearby ancient tombs.

The increased access to the pyramids south of Cairo is part of a new sustainable development campaign intended to attract more visitors.

Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said the chambers of the 330-foot-pyramid outside the village of Dahshur, 50 miles south of Cairo, will be opened for the first time to tourists some time in May or June.

“This is going to be an adventure,” he said.

Dahshur’s bent pyramid is famous for its irregular profile. The massive tomb’s sides rise at a steep angle, then abruptly taper off at a more shallow approach to the pyramid’s apex.

Archaeologists believe the pyramid-builders changed their minds while constructing it out of fear the whole structure might collapse because the sides were too steep.

The pyramid is entered through a cramped 260-foot-long tunnel that opens into an immense vaulted chamber. From there, passageways lead to other rooms including one that has cedar wood beams believed to have been imported from ancient Lebanon.

Hawass said archaeologists believe the 4th dynasty founder Pharaoh Sneferu’s burial chamber lies undiscovered inside the pyramid.

The inner chambers of the nearby Red pyramid, also built by Sneferu, are already accessible to visitors. Hawass said several other nearby pyramids, including one with an underground labyrinth from the Middle Kingdom, would also be opened in the next year.

“It is amazing because of a maze of corridors underneath this pyramid – the visit will be unique,” Hawass said about the pyramid of Amenhemhat III, who ruled during Egypt’s 12th dynasty from 1859-1813 BC.

“Twenty-five years ago, I went to enter this pyramid, and I was afraid I would never come back, and I had to ask the workmen to tie ropes around my leg so I wouldn’t lose my way.”

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