Ancient Egypt's first known pyramid, Meidum, lies 100km south of Cairo in the rural countryside. It is the failed and forgotten precursor to Egypt's engineering superstructures.
Little known and little visited, Meidum was built by Pharaoh Sneferu (2613-2589 B.C.). Originally commissioned as a step pyramid, Sneferu later ordered his workers to encase it in limestone, giving Meidum the smooth sides we see today at Giza.
Engineering flaws led to the limestone shell’s collapse at an unknown date. Left among its rubble, all that remains standing is the pyramid’s inner core. Many researchers believe the project collapsed during construction, subsequently abandoned only to teach the pharaoh’s architects how to build more successful, stable structures like the Bent and Red pyramids at Dahshur.
Our visit to Meidum seemed about as big a failure as the pyramid itself, when the journey in our hot leather cab took 2 hours longer than expected. But getting lost was worth it, because when we finally found the pyramid we had the chance to experience something few other tourists do. It was a gorgeous and refreshing sight.
Sneferu’s architects learned from their mistakes, and did not repeat them. Thinking back on that incredible discovery, I can't help but relate Meidum's history to Egypt's current events. Perhaps Egypt's failed political past can serve a similar lesson to Meidum, and the country will one day overcome its struggles to become a renewed superpower in the Middle East.