First built some 4,700 years ago as a flat-roofed mastaba, the Pyramid of Djoser was one of the very first pyramids built by the Egyptians. Pharaoh Djoser had the structure built as part of his tomb complex at Saqqara, just outside of Egypt's then-capital Memphis, and by the end of his reign, the pyramid had been transformed into six stepped layers reaching 203 feet (62 meters) in height.
The complex of pyramid, tombs, courtyards, and temples covers nearly 40 acres. Upon entering, you'll find a large hypostyle hall leading onto an open court flanking the south side of the pyramid. A temple sits on the north side with a statue of Djoser set in a stone enclosure known as a serdab (Look through the hole in the serdab and you'll see straight into the pharaoh's eyes).
The pharaoh's burial chamber, vaulted in red granite, is located beneath the pyramid, surrounded by a series of tunnels and other chambers. Although the interior is closed to the public, an interesting museum sits at the entrance to the complex.
Most day trips combine a visit to the Djoser complex with the Giza Pyramids and a tour of the ruined city of Memphis, taking in the most important ancient sites in the Cairo area.
The Pyramid of Djoser is located on the west bank of the Nile, about 18 miles (30 km) south of Cairo and 9.3 miles (15 km) from Giza. If you're not arriving as part of an organized tour, the complex can be reached by taxi or mini-bus.
Did You Know? Despite the king's burial chamber being hidden among a maze of underground tunnels, the tomb was still plundered by grave robbers. All that remains of Djoser is his mummified left foot.