CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt on Thursday reopened Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the first pyramid ever built, after a 14-year restoration costing nearly $6.6 million.
Tourists take pictures at the archaeological site of the standing step pyramid of Saqqara after its renovation, south of Cairo, Egypt March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
The pyramid, a UNESCO world heritage site, was constructed 4700 years ago during the era of Pharaoh Djoser, one of Ancient Egypt’s Third Dynasty kings.
After decades of neglect and the risk of collapse, the Egyptian government started an ambitious project to restore it to splendor in 2006.
“Today we celebrate the completion of the project of warding off the danger and maintaining and restoring the first and oldest remaining pyramid in Egypt,” said tourism and antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani.
The structure was designed by Imhotep, described by some as the world’s first architect.
“We are in awe as to how he was able to create this structure, which has remained standing for 4,700 years,” said Anani.
Restoration work stopped in 2011 after Egypt’s popular uprising that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubark, but resumed at the end of 2013.
Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the first large-scale stone construction in history and the largest pyramidal funerary complex, is located at Saqqara archaeological site, west of Cairo.
The 60-metre-high pyramid consists of six stacked steps over a burial shaft tomb which is 28 meters deep and seven meters wide.
Speaking alongside the pyramid, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said Egypt was engaged in many large-scale projects, and the restoration of its heritage was one of them.
“Although of course we are very proud that this is an Egyptian legacy, we also know very well it is world and global heritage that we are very keen to maintain,” he added.
The project saw efforts to prevent the pyramid from collapsing, and external and internal restoration work, including of the paths leading to the pyramid and the internal corridors leading to the burial chamber.
Experts also restored the sarcophagus of King Djoser within the pyramid and the walls of the burial shaft tomb.
Reporting by Nadeen Ebrahim and Sameh El-Khatib, Writing by Mahmoud Mourad, Editing by Alexandra Hudson