Pyramid of Djoser: Re-Opening, Top Priority – Mostafa Waziri

Step Pyramid of Djoser

The reopening of the Pyramid of Djoser, 14 years after major restoration work, is one of the most important projects of Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Ministry. This was declared by the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, in a news report by Egypt Independent.

The cost of its restoration amounts to LE104 million (about 6.7 million dollars), according to the Egyptian government. This ancient pyramid will both draw in tourists and make clear how committed Egypt is to preserving and restoring its antiquities. The burial chamber and internal corridors of the pyramid have been cleaned and renovated.

It is expected that the restoration and development of archaeological sites will stimulate tourism, which generates foreign currency for the state’s coffers.

Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid

The 4,700-year-old Pyramid of Djoser is located in the Saqqara area south of Cairo at Memphis, the first Egyptian capital, and is the oldest standing pyramid in Egypt.

Considered the oldest stone building in the world, the structure which reaches a height of 60 meters, consists of six layers and corridors leading to the main burial chamber, which is 28 meters deep and seven meters wide.

Step Pyramid of Djoser
Stepped Pyramid complex, Saqqara, Old Kingdom, 3rd Dynasty, c. 2675–2625 B.C.E. (photo by Dr. Amy Calvert)

The restoration project of the Pyramid of Djoser started in 2006, but work stopped in 2011 at the outbreak of the January revolution. Renovation work later resumed at the end of 2013 and lasted until 2020.

More about the iconic pyramid

Djoser’s Step Pyramid in Saqqara is one of Egypt’s most iconic monuments—and rightfully so. It constitutes a significant historical turning point in ancient Egyptian funerary monuments, revolutionizing stone architecture and royal burials. In addition to its beauty and monumental scale, it is not only the very first pyramid that the ancient Egyptians ever built, but also the oldest known ancient Egyptian stone structure.

The sheer age of the Step Pyramid is astounding. It was built in the early Third Dynasty, during the reign of King Netjerykhet (c.2667–2648 BC), who is now more well-known as Djoser.

Before his reign, royal and elite Egyptians were buried in mastabas. This word, meaning “bench” in Arabic, refers to a type of funerary structure that was generally rectangular in shape and built over the tomb proper, which was underground. The Step Pyramid is composed of six stacked mastabas, thus creating the stepped effect. Imhotep, its architect, may very well have been responsible for this major innovation.

At one end of the pyramid complex, a structure known as the South Tomb is believed to have acted as an additional, symbolic, tomb for Djoser, perhaps reflecting his role as the dual king of both Upper and Lower Egypt.

Djoser’s pyramid complex also has some unique features. The two courts in front of the pyramid recreate the setting of the Sed Festival, a royal ceremony aimed at rejuvenating the king and regenerating his power. The structures on the side of the eastern court emulate in stone the ephemeral shrines that were used in this festival, thus ensuring that the king could continue being rejuvenated forever.

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