ISLAMABAD          -            A 4,700 year old Egyptian pyramid has been saved from collapse by a British engineering firm and opened to the public for the first time in almost 90 years. The step pyramid of Djoser measures 200ft high (60m) and is believed to be the first pyramid in Egypt and the oldest building in the world. It was built entirely out of stone by the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep in the vast Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo, and was believed to be the final resting place of King Djoser, founder of the Old Kingdom. But the stone beams and block supporting the structure have weakened over the ensuing millennia. Peter James, an engineer from Newport, Wales, began fixing the crumbling tomb in 2011 and the structure is finally sound enough to be opened again to tourists. Visitors are now able to explore King Djoser’s burial chamber for the first time since the 1930s, when it was shut over safety concerns.

As the tomb was opened to members of the press yesterday, Mr. James, Managing Director of Cintec, the Welsh company that repaired the pyramid, told the construction work was fraught with risk. ‘It really was extremely, extremely, dangerous,’ he said. Dosjer’s pyramid was a revolutionary concept, the pyramid prototype providing the blueprint for all future Egyptian developments, including the three that stand beside the Sphinx at Giza 12 miles to the northwest. The step pyramid is made up of six mastabas (rectangular structures) stacked on top of each other. Dating to 2,680 BC, the Djoser pyramid was designed and built under the direction of Imhotep, described by some as the world’s first architect and Djoser’s vizier. ‘We are in awe as to how he was able to create this structure, which has remained standing for 4,700 years,’ said Egypt’s tourism and antiquities minister Khaled al-Anani. A chamber around 100ft underground in the heart of the pyramid holds the sarcophagus of the pharaoh, but no mummy or content have ever been discovered. There are also hieroglyphs from the Book of the Dead inscribed on one of the chamber’s walls.