Today we headed farther south to where the ancient capital of Memphis was. It became the first capital of Egypt in 3100 B.C. after Upper and Lower Egypt were united. Very little of it is left and much was damaged by water. The small museum does have an impressive statue of Ramses II: all granite, nearly intact. It also has the second largest Sphinx (the largest being the well known one at Giza). From there we went to Dashur which is home to 3 pyramids. The Black one collapsed before it was finished. It was called black because it was made of mud bricks. It was built around 1900 B.C. The thought is that while it is younger than many other pyramids, the mud bricks made it far less stable. Next is the Bent Pyramid. It is the oldest one at Dashur and was built by Sinefru (who was the father of Kufu who built the Great Pyramid) around 2600 B.C. The pyramid is bent because they started building the walls at a 54 degree angle. About halfway thru, they changed to a 44 degree angle. Turns out the 54 degree slant would have been too steep at the top. It still have some of its casing which is the smooth surface on the pyramids. Most pyramids list their casing in ancient times due to it being removed for other buildings by later kings. Finally there is the Red Pyramid, so called because from a distance is often appears red. It was also build by Sinefru. Nobody knows why he built a second one. We were able to go into the Red Pyramid. Long slant down bent over as the passageway was only about 4 feet in height! The reward was seeing a very different construction. The chambers here had pitched roofs that went up some 50 feet. There were two and they were staggered. Got my work out in for the day climbing back out!
The photo set above is from Dashur. Once again we were not allowed to take pictures onside the pyramid. I think you can appreciate the casing. The two separate pictures are a piece of pottery we found just lying around — a common thing apparently — and a picture of a smaller pyramid west of the bent pyramid that is called a subsidiary pyramid. Usually it held the wife or maybe the mother of the pharaoh. The ones below are from Memphis. The detail on the Spinx is amazing, down to the lion’s claws. The smaller upright statue is labelled Ramses but he was apparently known for erasing the original name and adding his instead. Other features of this statue do not match Ramses time period. The wrist band still had traces of the pain that was on the statue.
After all of this, we stopped at a “carpet school”. These are scattered all around Cairo. Think of them as a combinations of vocational school and apprenticeship. The kids are enrolled here around 7 years of age. They get the basic schooling required of all Egyptian kids thru 6th grade but are simultaneously learning how to weave carpets so they have a trade in the future. These are mostly poor kids and lower middle class for whom advanced education even beyond 6th grade would be difficult. Two types of carpets are made, knotted and woven. We learned that both knotted carpets and woven carpets look essentially identical front and back when they are truly hand done, as opposed to machine woven or stamped. We of course bought 2 small ones to use as tapestries! Missy got a pillow and was given another small small carpet she can also use as a tapestry.
The day was capped off by an hour lecture by Dr Hawass followed by dinner with him. Missy was invited to to sit next to him and we were able to join them!