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Build Like an Egyptian

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Quick, think of Ancient Egypt. What's the first thing that comes to mind? With 90% certainty, you're thinking pyramids, and the other 10% of the time you are probably thinking of The Sphinx. And why shouldn't you? The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest artificial structure on Earth for three and a half millennia and is the only extant example of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Ancient Egypt is inherently cool. Plenty of writers, primarily in the fantasy genre, like to have pyramids in their works to evoke an Egyptian feel. These will almost always be found in desert areas, and will usually have some sort of curse. Shifting Sand Land levels in video games will usually feature at least one pyramid on the premises. Also, regardless of whether the setting is ancient or new, it will all be made of golden-brown sandstone bricks, without the ivory-and-gold outer skin the pyramids were built with. The walls will be decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions, usually meaningless, perhaps with some Wadjet eyes and scarabs thrown in for Faux Symbolism. Sarcophagi and mummies are native to here.


For cases in which the historical pyramids have something unusual associated with them, see Pyramid Power. For cases where pyramid-shaped buildings show up in science fiction, see Futuristic Pyramid. For the game show, see Pyramid.

Compare and contrast with the Eye of Horus Means Egypt where the Eye Of Horus is used to symbolize that something's Egyptian , though the two may overlap.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Hybrid × Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia: Osiris' world looks like a copy of Ancient Egypt, but it is actually an Inversion. Osiris is one of the four gods that created our world in first place, and she likely created Egyptian civilization based on her home world, as Kei speculates.
  • The society of Ancients in Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals built pyramids and other quasi-Egyptian structures.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In the album Asterix and Cleopatra, Edifis the builder admits that he'd rather design pyramids. His cameo in The Golden Book shows a poorly-made pyramid in the background.
  • Wonder Woman:
  • Superman:
    • Daxam (Lar Gand's planet of origin) has a number of historical pyramids, though they more resemble Mayan pyramids than Egyptian ones to tie in with the planet's colonization by Kryptonians in the past.
    • In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, the confrontation between Superman, Toyman, Prankster and Terra-Man happens in the shadow of the Pyramids of Giza.
    • Two for the Death of One: As battling Lord Satanis for the final time, Superman gets slammed into the Valley of the Kings. As he flies back to the battlefield, the Pyramid of Cheops is can be seen behind him.
    • At the beginning of The Unknown Supergirl, Jerro shows Supergirl a valley of undersea pyramids built by Aquaman's Atlantean race in honor of their land-dwelling ancestors.
    • In Superman Vs Shazam, Supergirl flies to the Valley of the Kings to find Black Adam, who is robbing a pyramid.
  • Papyrus is set in Ancient Egypt, and several adventures involve exploring some pharaon's pyramid.

    Fan Works 
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Good Omens fic, I Shall Endure, the angel Aziraphale is trying to explain to the demon Crowley about the ubiquity of the pyramid as an architectural construct. They are sitting in the shade with drinks watching the post-Flood Egyptians build the first of many.
    And the three Pyramids still rose.
    "How did they get the idea, anyway?" Crowley asked.
    "Basic maths." the Angel said, shrugging. "Look, I'll show you. It's all about square numbers, right? Let me illustrate. Square six is thirty-six. Now look. If you have thirty-six rounded pebbles and lay them out in a square, six to a side, they…"
    "Roll off the table." Crowley said, helpfully.
    Aziraphile shot him an annoyed glance.
    "But say they don't. What do you see? You see twenty-five little pits, right, where the pebbles meet. And twenty-five is square five. So you lay anther twenty-five pebbles into the pits formed in the top of the original thirty-six."
    "And a lot more pebbles roll off the table."
    "You're not helping. Now you go to a third level, yes, with sixteen more pebbles. Thirty-six on the bottom, twenty-five above them, sixteen above those, fitting into the dimples left in the five-square. Then nine fit in top of the sixteen. Nine dimples, right? Four on top of the nine. One on top of the four. You then have a stable structure with a low centre of gravity. Do you see it, Crowley?"
    "And then you fill the sides in. Smooth them out. Yeah, I see it. I've heard over in the big Western continent, they're building 'em like this, but not bothering to fill in the sides. Sort of step pyramids.
  • A Scotsman in Egypt, as you might imagine from the title, has several scenes in and around the pyramids. King Edward has himself buried in one, and many decades later the discovery of the Mesoamerican pyramids is taken as an omen.
  • In Just Let Me Die – A Widowmaker Story, the Omnic Crisis destroyed or damaged Mount Rushmore, the Old Bailey, and the pyramids.

  • Star Wars: The rebel base on Yavin IV is a pyramid. Many of the Yavin IV scenes were shot in the ruins of Tikal in what is now Guatemala, making this more of a case of "Build Like a Mayan." The old lore was that the pyramids were built by the Massassi under the direction of an exiled Sith thousands of years before the Rebels arrived. Much of the architecture and art used by the Sith species (not the order!) in Expanded Universe sources are seemingly based on ancient Egyptian as well as Mesoamerican motifs.
  • Stargate: Pyramids are apparently landing pads for alien spaceships.

  • Pyramids is, you guessed it, about pyramids — or, more accurately, a very reluctant Pharaoh who is called back to govern his backwards kingdom after the death of his father, and his similarly reluctant duty to construct a pyramid for his funeral, which his chief advisor (not evil but horribly misguided) insists must be the biggest and grandest pyramid ever built. It turns out that these pyramids indeed can re-sharpen a razor — because they manipulate time: they can keep their occupants perpetually young, but mostly just functioning as a literal time sink keeping the country of Djelibeybi stranded in the past even in the modern day. Now the Great Pyramid is about to be finished. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Michael Moorcock's Queen of the Swords. The City of the Pyramid is an immense ziggurat with houses on each terrace.
  • The Ancestral Trail has the Great Pyramid of Loktar plonked down in the western part of the continent, with no evidence of anything else Egpytesque.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who's eponymous Pyramids of Mars.
  • Stargate SG-1: Hooo-boy, have we got pyramids... IN SPACE!!!
  • American Gladiators had an event called Pyramid in later seasons. Two contenders tried to reach the top of a pyramid built from crash mats while avoiding a pair of Gladiators who were trying to knock them off.
  • In Game of Thrones, the city-state of Meereen was ruled from a great pyramidal palace, although it had a somewhat more complex shape than the Egyptian ones.

  • The Iron Maiden album Powerslave, whose Title Track is even told from the point of view of a Pharaoh. The tour (documented in the concert video Live After Death) continued the Egyptian theme, and so did a throwback in the Somewhere Back In Time tour nearly 25 years later.
  • The stage set when Dio toured behind The Last In Line album had an Egyptian theme, to tie in with the song "Egypt (The Chains Are On)". It can be seen in the concert video A Special From The Spectrum.
  • Earth, Wind & Fire had a lot of Egyptian themology on their album covers, costumes and stage shows, including having a pyramid-shaped UFO as part of it.
  • Roger Dean's Pyramid With Eyes appears on the covers of the Asia albums Alpha, Aura, and XXX.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Adventure I3 Pharaoh. The PCs explore an ancient pyramid to free a pharaoh's spirit so it can reach the afterlife.
    • Adventure WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. The Temple is in the shape of a two-stepped pyramid.
    • In Spelljammer 'verse Ptah is one of widely known powers among the spheres, so of course there are early products of his (and the rest of the pantheon's) worshippers. So you may encounter 80' wide stony Flying Pyramids IN SPACE! — now mostly occupied by mummies and less respectable undead.
  • Warhammer has the Black Pyramid of Nagash, the first necromancer (and later responsible for the existence of vampires).
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Necron Monolith, which is a floating pyramid of doom. Additionally, Necron Tomb Citadels have a large Tomb Ziggurat that houses an Eternity Gate to facilitate fast travel of the Dynasty's forces.
    • The Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marine legion has many nods to ancient Egypt as part of their imagery and fluff, one of which were the beautiful pyramids on their homeworld of Prospero...before the Space Wolves flattened them.
  • Chaosium's Stormbringer/Elric! game. Temples to Goldar (one of the Lords of Law) are built in the shape of a pyramid.

    Video Games 
  • The Oasis theme in Golf With Your Friends takes place in a sandy desert, with a pyramid, Sphinx statue, and other stereotypical ancient Egyptian structures and decor.
  • With Assassin's Creed Origins being set in Egypt, the entire game world is full of this. Taking place just under two decades from the end of the Ptolemaic era, the Pyramids aren't as "run down" as they are in the present day, with the landmarks - especially the ones in Giza - still possessing most of what the developers envisioned as their original exterior; a layer of white stone forming a sheer sloped surfacenote  and a darker cap at their summit.note 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The series features pyramids in the Shifting Sand Land worlds of Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Land and all New Super Mario Bros. games except U (which replaces them with sand structures modeled after desserts). In all cases, the desert world has an Ancient Egypt feel, so it's justified. In Super Mario Bros. 2 and Land, the designated castle for the desert world is a dungeon set in a pyramid.
    • Super Mario 64 has a big pyramid in the middle of the actual "Shifting Sand Land". It has two entrances: The main one which has all sorts of traps and obstacles, and a secret one at the top which leads to the level's boss (Eyerock).
    • In Dusty Dune Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy, there are planetoids that resemble double-sided pyramids, and one of them can be explored within to find a secret, green-colored Power Star. The Slipsand Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a pyramid which also has sand-slides for good measure.
    • One of the stages in Super Mario 3D Land is a pyramid. Like most stages it has a remixed version in the Special Quest.
    • Super Mario Odyssey plays with the trope. The Sand Kingdom has pyramids as a reference to the pre-Columbian (Aztec, Toltec and Mayan) architecture, since that level was inspired by Mexico instead of Egypt.
    • The Dry Dry Ruins in Paper Mario 64 are in a pyramid.
    • The Drybake Desert in Paper Mario: Sticker Star is clearly Egyptian-themed, featuring both a Yoshi sphinx and pyramids.
    • The Desert Table in Mario Pinball Land has a pyramid as its center attraction where the boss is Tutankoopa, a mummified Koopa pharaoh.
    • Desert Courses in the Mario Kart series often feature pyramids and sphinxes, like Desert Hills, Dry Dry Desert or Dry Dry Ruins.
    • Mario Party 7 has the aptly named Pyramid Park board, located in the midst of a desert, whose pyramids house Chain Chomps that can steal stars from players they approach while they ride alongside the character who paid for a ride.
    • One of the suites in the Last Resort hotel in Luigi's Mansion 3 is themed after ancient Egypt, so naturally it has a big pyramid at the centre, with a host of booby traps in the chambers underneath, from spiked ceilings to rolling boulders. The boss ghost, an ancient Egyptian queen, sleeps in a sarcophagus in the pyramid. Even the paintings on the walls are styled like hieroglyphics, and at one point Luigi has to strike the classic “Walk Like an Egyptian” pose to open a hidden door.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sandopolis Zone in Sonic 3 & Knuckles has pyramids in the background of Act 1. Act 2 is set entirely in one. And that goes for almost every single desert level in the Sonic series. Apparently the ancient Echidnas built pyramids.
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, Dr. Eggman uses the interior of a pyramid as his base of operations.
    • And in the first Sonic Adventure, the ancient echidnas live in a jungle with a Mayan-like pyramid which appears in both flashbacks and the present day. A copy of that pyramid later appears on a space station in Sonic Adventure 2.
    • Mirage Road Zone in Sonic Rush has a decidedly Egyptian flair, with pyramids in the background and cartouches on the walls.
    • Desert Ruins Zone in the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World is interpreted in this way, featuring massive sarcophagus-like statues in the background. Also, Desert Ruins Zone 1's interiors in the Wii U/PC version to a lesser extent.
    • Team Sonic Racing has two examples; Boo's House, which has a few Big Boo's Haunt elements, and Clockwork Pyramid, which has a few Clockworks Area elements.
  • In Star Fox 64, the base on Katina is a pyramid.
  • The second scenario in RollerCoaster Tycoon, "Dynamite Dunes" took place in a vaguely Egyptian desert, complete with pyramids (which guests can't enter) and sphinxes.
  • The community maps "Egypt" and "Lakeside" in Team Fortress 2.
  • The City-Building Series features pyramid construction in both its games set in Egypt.
  • The Temple of the Sun in La-Mulana is an Egyptian-themed level built around a pyramid.
  • World of Warcraft has Ahn'Qiraj which has a pseudo-Egyptian look and Uldum which has a more traditional Egyptian appearance. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the two zones are adjacent to each other (though blocked from each other by mountains).
  • Banjo-Kazooie has several pyramids in the level Gobi's Valley, and each of them have their own puzzle or challenge: A match pair minigame, a racing minigame to reach and enter the top, a maze you have to escape from in a time limit, and feeding a snake to reach a Jiggy.
  • Stage 4-1 in Purple has a lot of pyramids in the background (and despite that, it's not Shifting Sand Land). Stage 4-2 has a pyramid as a part of the stage itself which houses a Bonus Level switch.
  • The Pyramid of Moore in Final Fantasy V which contains one of the tablets to unseal the legendary weapons.
  • Dragon Quest III has a pyramid dungeon located near Isis, an Egyptian-like kingdom. Though it's only optional, you can get the sought-after Golden Claw, which can raise a hefty sum if you sell it to a merchant. Just be aware that it'll effectively turn every step along the way in the dungeon into a enemy encounter.
  • Aladdin (Capcom) has a stage in which Aladdin must go into an Egyptian-type pyramid to rescue Abu.
  • Minecraft has Desert Temples in the shape of classic pyramids which spawn in Desert biomes. Collect enough sandstone, and you can build one yourself, too.
  • The Shifting Sands track in Super Tux Kart, where the racers even enter into a pyramid.
  • Sophanem and Menaphos in RuneScape
  • When playing the Egyptians in Age of Mythology, you'd obviously build like an egyptian. That said, the developers have done quite some research on the topic so Pyramids aren't that prevalent.
  • Breath of Fire III has Angel Tower, which despite its name is a ziggurat (step-type) pyramid. Curiously, it is not located in the game's desert zone.
  • Final Fantasy VII has the Temple of the Ancients, although its ziggurat shape (and location in a forest/jungle) suggests the Cetra architecture was inspired, like the Yavin pyramids in Star Wars, by the Mayans.
  • The villain of Nightshade, an NES Adventure Game, has an Egyptian fetish of some sort. In addition to dressing up like Set, he's decorated the entire city with nonsensical hieroglyphics.
  • In Persona 2, the Taurus Shrine, one of four unearthed dungeons, has a sandy desert motif.
  • Persona 5: Futaba Sakura's dungeon has you trying to infiltrate a pyramid in the middle of a desert.
  • Pyramid Scheme, a level in Rocket: Robot on Wheels.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends has Sandblasted, a combat arena which has 4 giant pyramids made of stone, which are partially encased in gold plating, have hieroglyphics, and giant laser beacons mounted on the top. Obelisks and stone homes surround the pyramids. The Jungle Solaris Arena inexplicably has fake Egyptian ruins dotted around it, and has a quarter of a Pyramid in one corner of the two kilometer-wide arena.
  • The Shrines in Shining the Holy Ark were all pyramid shaped. The South Shrine however was Egyptian themed.
  • The Doom WAD Alien Vendetta has the level "Misri Halek", set in really expansive underground tunnels under a pyramid next to the Sphinx. (Setting the level in the pyramid itself would presumably require designing it as multiple floors over each other, which is impossible in the Doom engine.)
  • Bomb Jack has a pyramid and Sphinx in the first stage background, though just as eye candy. In Mighty Bomb Jack, however, most of the game takes place inside a pyramid, and the Sphinx is an item that unlocks hidden rooms.
  • Dokapon Kingdom has a pyramid dungeon. You have to bring an NPC to the bottom floor to blow up an ancient I.O.U. for the king.
  • While the Tomb of VARN in Might and Magic VI is a Futuristic Pyramid, it has traits more closely associated with this trope — featured in a fantasy game, found in a desert, has a curse ( radioactive contamination), and features a lot more Egyptian aesthetics than merely the pyramid's shape (instructions in hieroglyphs, jackal-headed guardians...). It also looks perfectly non-futuristic from the outside, and for the most part on the inside.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect, it is possible to find Prothean ruins consisting of a reflective pyramid on various worlds.
    • Mass Effect 3, Shepard and company end up taking a detour through an abandoned krogan city, and learn that they used to build towering gold-and-glass pyramids. In the Extended Cut, the epilogue might show the krogan building even taller pyramids, indicating a new renaissance in their civiliation.
    • The salarian homeworld of Sur'kesh also has a pyramid-y feel to its buildings, although theirs is more Mayan style than Egyptian.
  • In Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, the Shifting Sand Land level is followed by a level inside a pyramid, with mummies.
  • In ActRaiser, Kasandora Act-2 involves fighting your way through an Egyptian-style pyramid, with mummies, birdmen and a giant Pharaoh mask.
  • Heat Man's stage in Rockman 2 Deus Ex Machina.
  • Toaplan's Hellfire has an Egyptian-themed second stage, with a pyramid and a sphinx in the background near the beginning. Its boss takes the form of a sarcophagus.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Pyramid of Power in A Link to the Past (not inside a desert, but it's not necessary since the Dark World as a whole is mostly a wasteland already), the numerous pyramids built in the grassy, temperate islands of the long-fallen Cobble Kingdom in Phantom Hourglass, and the Sand Temple (located in the Sand Realm) in Spirit Tracks. Notably, both Mutoh's Temple and the Sand Temple remain faithful to the pyramidal layout in the inside, as the dungeon maps will attest.
  • The Cave has you running around in the midst of a massive pyramid deep within the Cave that's full of traps. It makes about as much sense as everything else within the titular cave.
  • The Pyramids of Shmu-Hadron in Carnivores resemble smaller versions of Egyptian pyramids, though they were erected by a long-gone alien civilization. Similar pyramids built by the same Ancient Astronauts can be found on the Greenshire map in Carnivores Triassic.
  • ADOM has a Pyramid, choke-full of traps and mummies and complete with a mummy lord, that is accessible only between PC's levels 13 and 16. Protip: Balms used for mummification are highly flammable.
  • There's an entire pyramid level in Yo! Joe! Beat the Ghosts with standard tourist attractions including traps, mummies and venomous snakes.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse has Tan Line Island, a desert with cursed mummy sarcophagi, sandstone brick buildings covered in hieroglyphics, and an ancient people led by a serpent-staffed priest who will mistake Shantae for their long lost princess and dress her up in a skimpy Egyptian princess outfit.
  • The town of Scaraba in EarthBound which has a pyramid that also functions as a Temple of Doom.
  • The Tomb of Onomatopoeia in Scribblenauts Unlimited is a pyramid which has traps, mummies, a frog god statue and aliens.
  • Terraria worlds sometimes spawn with a Pyramid, which contains items and accessories you can never find anywhere else. Of course, you can make one too, given enough Sandstones.
  • Enforced in Civilization VI, as the Pyramids wonder must be built on a desert tile.
  • The Neksdor Kingdom architecture in Miitopia is partly inspired by ancient Egypt, and it's main dungeon is a pyramid. The latter is littered with mummies and hieroglyphs, and the main boss is a giant pharaoh mask.
  • Glider PRO has two user-made houses set in or around pyramids: "Sahara Desert" (which has original graphics) and "The Pyramid" (which reuses graphics from Glypha, a Joust-like game by john calhoun).
  • Bomberman Hero has Death Pyramid and Kanatia Shrine on the third planet, Kanatia Star. The Boss of Kanatia Shrine, Bolban, is a Sphinx-like creature.
  • In Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!, the Second Set is an Egyptian desert setting.
  • In the Strider NES game, the Egypt stage is set inside a large pyramid full of traps and enemies.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps has the Windtorn Ruins, a desert Temple of Doom with heavy Egyptian influences, including the murals illustrating the history of Niwen and the prophecy of Ori's arrival, and the Gorlek sarcophagus that holds the Heart of the Forest.
  • The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World: Egypt includes the obligatory Great Pyramid level. There's a Sphinx that has Krusty's face.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon features the level Haunted Tomb, a pyramid where the friendly NPC's are Anubis-like dogs and the enemies pop out of sarcophagi.
  • One of the civilizations the submarine crew can visit in We Need to go Deeper is an underwater dome containing a pyramid, occupied by living Egyptians.
  • Pyramid Builder takes place in a desert where you control people who build a pyramid.
  • Time Bandit: The levels Sentinel and Guardian are sphinxes that flank the pyramid of Cheops' Curse.
  • Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile: As you plan cities and your own Pharaonic dynasty in Ancient Egypt, pyramids of all sizes and sphinx statues are among the monumental projects you're required to undertake. They provide a tidy boost to your Prestige score besides.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth". The Enterprise crew must solve a puzzle involving a pyramid in an ancient city or be destroyed.
  • Futurama features an Egyptian-themed planet, O'Cyris IV. They explain when the crew arrives that the Ancient Egyptians visited them and taught them religion, architecture, and the secrets of space travel.
  • The Simpsons episode "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" features a golf pro shop on top of a pyramid.
  • The Venture Bros. features the group SPHINX, as well as an Egyptian-theme group calling themselves the Cult of Osiris in "Escape to the House of Mummies, Part II".
  • Rhinoland is full of pyramids in Babar.
  • Press Start's animated adaptation's episode "Tomb Terror" features the cast visiting the Valley of Gizeh.

    Real Life 
  • Pyramids have in fact been independently invented in many different times and places. You don't have the technology to do reinforced concrete or steel-framed skyscrapers, but you want to build something Really Big—piling up the rocks in a shape that's larger on the bottom and slopes up to a more-or-less pointy top is the logical way to do it. In addition to the Egyptians and the aforementioned Mesoamericans (Mayans and Aztecs), pyramids and pyramid-like structures have been built by many different civilizations. A slightly more poetic, but still plausible reason is that Pyramids imitate the shape of mountains. The ancient Egyptian reasons, at least, were that the pyramids resembled both the Mound of Creation, the first land created by the gods, and the rays of Ra. Selection bias also plays a definite role in how strongly pyramids are associated with ancient civilizations. The Egyptians, Mesoamerican nations, Nubians, Mesopotamians, and others built far more buildings that weren't pyramids than ones that were, but the latter out-lasted the former because it's so difficult for a building shaped that way to fall down.
  • "Egyptomania" in nineteenth century Western Europe led to building of various architecture in the Egyptian style. For example, the Washington Monument is styled after an Egyptian obelisk.
  • Quite a few modern-era cemeteries can boast of a pyramid-shaped tomb or two, custom-built to suit the eccentric tastes of whomever is buried within.


Video Example(s):


Haunted Tombs

Haunted Tombs is a world accessable in Midnight Mountains. it resembles a tomb from Ancient Egypt, the vast Necropolis palace overrun with booby-traps, mummies, rhynocs and riddle-spouting dogs.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BuildLikeAnEgyptian

Media sources:

Main / BuildLikeAnEgyptian