EGYPT recently reopened Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the first pyramid ever built, after a 14-year restoration costing nearly $6.6 million. The pyramid, a Unesco world heritage site, was constructed 4,700 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 splendour 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 Mubarak 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 metres deep and seven metres wide.

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.