The word Mastabacomes from the Arabic word for "bench", because when seen from a distance it resembles a bench.Inside the mastaba, a deep chamber was dug into the ground and lined with stone or bricks. The exterior buildingmaterials were initially bricks made of sun dried mud which was readily available from theNile River. Even as moredurable materials of stone came into use, the cheaper and easily available mud bricks were used for all but the mostimportant monumental structures. The above-ground structure was rectangular in shape, had sloping sides, a flatroof, was about four times as long as it was wide, and rose to at least 30 feet in height. The mastabawas built with anorth-south orientation. This above ground structure had space for a small offering chapel equipped with afalse doorto which priests and family members brought food and other offerings for the soul of the deceased. A second hiddenchamber called a "serdab", from theArabic
word for “cellar,” housed a statue of the deceased that was hidden within
the masonry for its protection. High up the walls of the serdab
were small openings. These openings “were not meant
for viewing the statue but rather for allowing the fragrance of burning incense, and possibly the spells spoken inrituals, to reach the statue.