Egypt’s antiquities ministry to launch virtual tour of Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser on Wednesday

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 22 Apr 2020

The Third Dynasty Step Pyramid complex of King Djoser (c 2667–2648 BC) is Egypt’s oldest pyramid

Tourists visit the step pyramid of Djoser in Egypt
Tourists visit the step pyramid of Djoser in Egypt's Saqqara

Egypt's tourism and antiquities ministry is launching on Wednesday night a new virtual tour of the Step Pyramid Complex of Djoser.

The tour is part of an initiative by the ministry to enable people worldwide to enjoy the ancient Egyptian civilisation while staying at home under the precautionary measures adopted by the government to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The tour, set to begin at 8pm, will be posted on the ministry’s official website and social media platforms.

The Third Dynasty Step Pyramid complex of King Djoser (c 2667–2648 BC), is Egypt’s oldest pyramid. It is also the first largescale stone construction in history and is considered an important phase in the evolution of royal tombs into their pyramid shape.

The complex is surrounded by a 1,645-metre long external stone wall that is 10 metres high.

It includes 10 architectural elements: the entry courtyard, the entrance colonnade comprising 40 columns in two rows, the South Court, the 60-metre high Step Pyramid, the South Tomb, the Sed Festival court and its chapels, the Pavilion of the South and the Pavilion of the North, and the Northern Temple.

The South Court and the Sed Festival court, with its chapels, acted as the setting in which the king could celebrate the important royal ceremony that aimed at rejuvenating the king and regenerating his power.

The Step Pyramid was built in stages.

A square mastaba around 8.5 metres in height was first built and was later widened. Nine metres were added on the east side to link the building to 11 shafts belonging to Djoser’s family.

Four mastabas on top of one another were built on the expanded mastaba, giving the structure its height of 60 metres and its pyramidal form.

The base of the pyramid is around 121x109 metres. The burial chamber lies at the bottom of a shaft in the centre of the pyramid at a depth of 28 metres.

Construction of the pyramid was overseen by the brilliant architect Imhotep, who held titles such as the “advisor to the King of Lower Egypt," the “first after the King of Upper Egypt," the "administrator of the Great Palace,” and the “greatest of seers of Heliopolis” (the title held by the highpriest of the sun god Ra).

Imhotep was deified in ancient Egypt, and was a patron of scribes. The Greeks identified him with Asclepius, the god of medicine.

The complex was initially excavated from 1924 to 1935.

The French architect JeanPhilippe Lauer — working for Egyptian authorities — dedicated most of his life to the systematic protection and conservation of the Step Pyramid complex for around 70 years starting 1926. 

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