The Red Pyramid, also called the North Pyramid, is the largest of the three major pyramids located at the Dahshur necropolis. Named for the rusty reddish hue of its stones, it is also the third largest Egyptian pyramid, after those of Khufu and Khafra at Giza.
At the time of its completion, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world. It is also believed to be the world's first successful attempt at constructing a "true" smooth-sided pyramid. Local residents refer to the Red Pyramid as el-haram el-watwat, meaning the Bat Pyramid. It was not always red. It used to be cased with white Tura limestone, but only a few of these now remain at the pyramid's base on the corner. During the Middle Ages much of the white Tura limestone was taken for buildings in Cairo, revealing the reddish sandstone beneath.
The Red Pyramid is 104 metres (341 ft) high. A rare pyramidion, or capstone, for the Red Pyramid has been uncovered and reconstructed, and is now on display at Dahshur. However, whether it was actually ever used is unclear, as its angle of inclination differs from that of the pyramid it was apparently intended for. The Red Pyramid, along with the Bent Pyramid, was closed to tourists for many years because of a nearby army camp. It is now usually open for tourists and a somewhat intrusive ventilation has been installed which pipes air down the entrance shaft to the interior chambers.
Visitors climb steps cut in or built over the stones of the pyramid to an entrance high on the north side. A passage, 3 feet (0.91 m) in height and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide, slopes down at 27° for 200 feet (61 m) to a short horizontal passage leading into a chamber whose corbelled roof is 40 feet (12 m) high and rises in eleven steps. At the southern end of the chamber, but offset to the west, another short horizontal passage leads into the second chamber. This passage was probably closed at one time and the offset was a measure intended to confuse potential robbers.
The second chamber is similar to the first and lies directly beneath the apex of the pyramid. High in the southern wall of the chamber is an entrance, now reached by a large wooden staircase built for the convenience of tourists. This gives onto a short horizontal passage that leads to the third and final chamber with a corbelled roof 50 feet (15 m) high.