Time has all but erased the once mighty Memphis from the Egyptian landscape, however, the city of the dead has been excavated and exhumed from the desert sands, the vast necropolis of Saqqara. Memphis is some 23km south of central Cairo, in the center of the floodplain on the western side of the Nile. Memphis was traditionally founded in 3000 BC by Menes, the legendary figure credited with the creation of a politically unified Egypt. Memphis served as the effective administrative capital of the country during the Old Kingdom and partly in later times.
It’s eleven pyramids, countless mastabas and lone Coptic monastery stretch over 7km from north to south, and span three and a half thousand years of Egyptian civilisation. At its centre sits King Djoser’s Stepped Pyramid, the very first pyramid and the first great stone structure in the world. North of the pyramid, inside a stone serdab, sits the Ancient Pharaoh himself.
Saqqara also includes the Serapeum, represented by a life-sized sculpture of limestone, the original of which is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and an astonishing collection of mummified Apis bulls in gargantuan granite coffins. Of its eleven pyramids, King Teti boasts the best preserved burial chamber, with pyramid text lined walls mapping out his journey to the afterlife. The walls of Mereruka’s multichambered maze-like tomb are covered with exquisite murals, showing scenes of everyday life.
What to see in Saqqara
Zoser’s funerary complex, Mereruka’s tomb, Serapeum