ultramarinus – beyond the sea

STEP PYRAMID OF SAQQARA, Memphis, Egypt

2006.05.28.

From the pyramids on Giza Plateau to the royal tombs in Valley of the Kings, their belief in afterlife, rebirth, and life of immortality have shaped the cultural identity of the ancient Egyptians for thousands of years. From the Classical time to the modern age, tourists travel to Egypt from around the world to see their majestic monuments dedicated to their afterlife beliefs. Ever since seeing real mummies as a boy in the British Museum, checking out the Egyptian pyramids and tombs has been included on my wish list for a long time. As a boy, I could never imagine how touristy and commercialized the actual visit of the archaeological sites have became, nor would I acknowledge that the Great Pyramids and Sphinx are actually situated just a stone throw away from the urban area of Giza, the third largest city in Egypt. Often, the experience of traveling would involve fulfilling a dream while at the same time accepting the reality.

While visiting Sinai felt like a continuation of our experience of the Arabian Desert (Petra and Wadi Rum), arriving in Cairo gave us a sense of entering another chapter, the final one this time, of our Middle East trip. At Luna Hotel, we hired a taxi for our first day in Cairo. Our intention was to do a day excursion at the outskirts of Cairo, probably the most popular day trip for all tourists coming to Egypt. Our first stop was Saqqara at 30km south of Cairo. Saqqara was the royal necropolis of Memphis, the capital of Lower Egypt. Many kings and nobles of the early dynasties and the Old Kingdom were buried at Saqqara. At Saqqara, the most famous monument is the Pyramid of Djoser, which is also the oldest surviving stone building in the world. Before we headed to the world famous step pyramid, a staff led us into one of the many tombs in the archaeological site. Inside the tomb, detailed wall inscriptions and paintings were well preserved. Apart from depictions of kings and divinities, I was particularly interested in the figures that illustrate religious possessions and ceremonial feasts.

Outside the tomb, we reached the main funeral complex of the Pyramid of Djoser. The complex was crowded with tourist groups, each was led by a tour guide holding an umbrella and speaking with a microphone. We walked past the tourist groups and through the funeral complex to reach the famous stepped pyramid. Out of all mastabas and tombs in Saqqara, Djoser’s stepped pyramid is certainly the most unique and iconic. The massive monument of terracing stone masonry, dated back to 27th century BC, is known as the earliest pyramid in Egypt, and the predecessor for the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Our base Luna Hotel was situated near Talaat Harb Square and the Egyptian Museum.
At Saqqara, we were led to tomb that was opened to visitors.
Inside the tomb, we were fascinated by the wall relief.
The depiction of religious possessions and ceremonial feasts are beautifully carved and coloured.
Judging by the large size, the figure seated must be a royal figure, perhaps the master of the tomb. Without any interpretation information, it would be useful to hire a guide.
Architectural relief in the tomb.
Egyptian hieroglyphs was undecipherable from the fall of the Roman Empire until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799.
Built in the 27th century BC, the limestone step pyramid is the tomb of Djoser, one of the king of the Egyptian Old Kingdom.
The six stepped Djoser Pyramid was built in six stages, which was an architectural experiment back then.
Other than Djoser, another sixteen kings built pyramids at Saqqara.
The walled enclosure and entrance gate of the Djoser complex is also quite impressive.
Despite simple, the architectural proportion and rhythm of the entrance and wall complex conveys a certain imposing beauty to incoming visitors.

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