Learning from mistakes, or today would be a good day to visit Dahshur

I haven’t yet done a Monday travel post on Giza, but I’m sure I will one day, because of course seeing the last remaining wonder of the ancient world is an incredible experience. But it’s some photos from another place near Cairo that I wanted to share today.

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Dahshur is about 40km south of Cairo and is home to a couple of pyramids that are even older than their more famous cousins at Giza. I’d love to revisit them today both because they are incredibly impressive in and of themselves, and because they taught me some important lessons.

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What did I love about Dahshur?

The Red Pyramid. It’s just a beautiful and imposing structure, not to mention the awesome experience of walking inside a four and a half thousand year old building. (And there was no queue because a lot less tourists come to visit here.)

This is probably one of my all time favourite travel photos. The camel in the foreground gives some helpful scale to just how big this really is.

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Not too far away in Saqqara is the step pyramid of Djoser. It is another 100-200 years older again. I’m not sure I can really fathom how many generations of people that means have visited this place.

I love that you can see something of how the pyramid builders were figuring out what they were doing over the intervening years.

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The statue of Djoser himself is the oldest life-size Egyptian statue. It’s on display in the Cairo museum, but you can also see a copy inside his funerary monument.

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What did I learn from Dahshur?

The other pyramid still standing at Dahshur is the Bent Pyramid, so called because of the change in angle of the shape about half way up the structure. Apparently they realised part way through building it that the angle was too steep to sustain the whole thing!

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Which leads me to some important lessons I think these ancient pyramid builders learned, and their work continues to remind us of:

1. You can’t know for sure if something is going to work out unless you give it a go

2. If things aren’t working, there’s no shame in correcting course mid-way

3. Nobody gets everything perfect on the first go

As I continue through my PhD studies, with all its ups and downs, these are pretty good lessons for me to remember today. And I’m sure they apply in plenty of other areas of my life as well. I hope they are an encouragement (or challenge!) in some way to you too.

Because the truth is, without these early attempts, its unlikely the Great Pyramids of Giza we admire so much would ever have been built. You have to crawl before you can walk, and you have to give yourself the freedom to make some mistakes along the way before you can achieve the great things you hope to.

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