One of the richest archaeological sites in Egypt, Saqqara was the ancient necropolis of Egypt in the period starting from the 1st dynasty in the 30th century BC till the Coptic period in Egypt around the 2nd century AD. This makes more than three thousand years that Saqqara was used to bury the deceased kings, nobles, and royal family.
When King Menes unified Egypt more than 4000 years ago, he established the first capital of Egypt that was called Memphis. Saqqara was in fact the burial site of Memphis. Today Saqqara is one of the historical sites that welcome hundreds of tourists who spend their Vacation in Egypt. Moreover, the step pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara is considered to be the oldest surviving monument in the whole world.
With the monuments like the step pyramid of Djoser, the pyramid of Unas, and some marvelous ancient tombs, almost all travel packages in Egypt include a visit to Saqqara.
Geographical Location of Saqqara
It was common that a burial site, or the city of dead as being called in ancient Egypt, would be situated near the capital, or the city of the living in ancient Egypt. This is why Saqqara is located only around 15 kilometers away from Memphis. This is the reason mainly why tours to Egypt would include the visit to the Pyramids of Giza together with Saqqara and then Memphis.
Located on a high plateau, Saqqara is located around 30 kilometers to the South West of the center Cairo and around 10 kilometers to the South of the Pyramids of Giza. Many travelers spending enjoyable vacations in Egypt include visiting the historical site of Saqqara with some of the other highlights around it.
The History of Saqqara
The first establishment that might be erected in the Saqqara necropolis is the step pyramid of Djoser. We can never mention the step pyramid and overlook the role Imhotep, the highest priest of Heliopolis, played in its design and its construction.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser marks an important transitory landmark in the pyramid construction history. Before the 27th century BC, when the pyramid was constructed, the tombs of the ancient Egyptians consisted only a “Mastaba” or one layer of mud bricks over the top of a hole in the ground where the deceased were buried.
Imhotep thought of this marvelous idea when he first used limestone to build the pyramid. Moreover, He constructed six Mastaba or layers of limestone on top of each other’s to build this wonderful monument which was considered at that time, and even until today, as one of the most remarkable architectural achievements.
The first layer of the step pyramid had a square shape with each side being 63 meters and a height of 8 meters. This was different than any Mastaba tomb that was constructed in the past as they used to have a rectangle shape. A corridor was also constructed to lead to the king’s burial chamber.
During the second phase of the construction, the size of the first layer was enlarged that each of its sides became 71 meters with only 7 meters in height while during the third phase the each side of the first layer became around 80 meters, in the fourth phase each side became around 85 meters, and in the fifth phase it became 119 meters.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser
Today the Pyramid of Saqqara has a base that is 109 X 125 meters in size and the whole construction is 62 meters in height with all its original features being preserved up till today and this is why many tourists who spend their vacation in Egypt explore the pyramid during their Cairo tour.
There is also a wide enclose wall surrounding the pyramid which is also considered a remarkable point in the history of the ancient Egyptian constructions. The wall has a height of 10 meters.
The entrance to the step pyramid today and the whole complex is from the mortuary temple that consists of 40 notable pillars and some wonderful wall carvings. The façade of the temple is notable as well for its impressive large size and construction excellence.
The Pyramid of Unas
To the South of the impressive Step Pyramid of Djoser, there is the smaller less elegant pyramid of Unas, the last king of the fifth dynasty. This pyramid is featured with some of the most ancient decorative inscriptions known in history.
The Pyramid of Teti
Despite the fact that the pyramid of Teti is in ruins now, but a pile of rubbles, the burial chamber is quite interesting and it is worth a visit. This is besides a fascinating well preserved sarcophagus of the king, the wonderful celling decorations and some of the most ancient pyramid writings that is the only one open for public in Saqqara today.
The Tomb of Mereruka
This is in fact the most notable tomb in the Saqqara complex. Consisting of 33 chambers, the tomb has some of the most wonderful wall paintings in Saqqara and a life size statue of the owner of the tomb; Mereruka, the son in law to the king Teti. This is among the most recommended sections in Saqqara for travelers to explore during their tour to Egypt.
This is one of the most distinctive sections in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. The Serapeum was actually the burial place of the sacred bulls. It consists of many corridors and alleys that lead to a considerable number of huge sarcophagi made out of granite for the animal god.
The ancient Egyptian saw that the bull is the representation of the god Ptah, the god of the city of Memphis. One intact chamber was discovered in the beginning of the 19th century and it contained the perfectly preserved mummy of a bull that is now put on display in the Agriculture Museum in Cairo.
The Imhotep Museum
Established in 2006, the Imhotep Museum is named after the architect responsible for constructing the masterpiece of the Saqqara complex; the Step Pyramid of Djoser. The museum consists of six large halls where the guests enjoying their holidays in Egypt can appreciate some of the most distinctive findings unearthed in Saqqara including statues, mummies, and sarcophaguses which date back to various periods of the ancient Egyptian history.