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Saqqara, Memphis & the World’s Greatest Mistake

Today we went back – way back in history to see THE FIRSTS!!!

We took a quick day trip to visit two ancient sites in the land full of ancient sites. Our journey took us to Saqqara and Memphis.

Located about 20 miles south of Cairo, getting to Saqqara is easy and well worth the visit.

Here in Saqqara are numerous pyramids, including the Step pyramid of Djoser, and a number of mastaba tombs.

When most people hear Egyptian Pyramids, they immediately think of the Great Pyramids in Giza.

But here in Saqqara – here is where it all started and where it’s still happening.

Saqqara is the “pyramid field” of Memphis, the first Capital of Egypt, home to dozens of pyramids and named for the Memphite god of the dead, Sokar. It’s has been around for 5,000 years and is Egypt’s largest archaeological site.

This large and mostly unexplored area is about 20 miles south of Cairo and features the small square tombs (mastabas) of the kings, including the first to unite Egypt – Djoser. There are no public transport routes from Cairo to Saqqara, so unless you plan on hiring a car, a private taxi is your only option for exploring independently.

It’s an added expense, but so worth it.

This is the famous “step pyramid” built before the “Great Pyramid” of Giza. While Giza gets all the attention-Saqqara is my favorite.

It is magical – and mostly unearthed.

These could be the world’s oldest doctor’s kit.

To learn more about the area and the rituals of the Old Kingdom, you should definitely make sure to visit the Imhotep Museum, located at the entrance to Saqqara. Its five halls showcase some of the site’s most interesting finds.

Discovered here – the world’s oldest doctor’s kit…

Yep, these are scalpels used on common laborers injured on the job or to cut out the organs for the pharaohs’ “afterlife” journey.

I’ve been obsessed with seeing this relief – an early protest “billboard”

THIS is my obsession.

It’s a relief on the causeway used by the kings. Think of this as the earliest protest – people were starving and they wanted the Pharaoh to heed their calls!

A small stone was carved to make a huge statement.

No one thinks of ancient Egyptians starving – but they did – and it brought the country into its first true state of chaos!

Power to the people!

First look inside the Pyramid of Unas

Inside the Pyramid of Unas is a true global treasure. The Pyramid itself is over 4,400 years old and remained unexplored until the French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero uncovered it in 1881.

What makes this tomb unique is that it was the first to feature the mysterious Pyramid Texts, the earliest surviving collection of religious spells. The texts offer instructions and the power to grant life after death.

Its ceiling is adorned with stars! The original paint remains and it’s beautiful- Benjamin Moore could take some lessons.

The colors are so vivid here in the mastaba “tomb” of Ty

You are looking at the original painting inside the mastaba “tomb” of Ty , in Saqqara.

It is one of the most famous tombs of the Old Kingdom, remarkable for the diversity and relevance of topics – inside you’ll find hunting scenes, fishing scenes, and the remains of the original paintings over the hieroglyphics!!!!

Stunning!

Real life on reliefs: Ancient Egyptians killing hippos!!!!

And pedicures!!!! Gotta love a good pedicure and a fine sandal

Back outside, I stumbled upon a group of archeologists and wanted to see what they were up to.

You see, proof: It’s still an active site – I wandered up to this dig that’s being conducted by a Czech group.

They weren’t happy with me and all my questions – I got politely “shoo’d” away!

The main hallway inside The Serapeum of Saqqara

So we then went off to explore “The Serapeum of Saqqara” this underground fortress/bunker is believed to be a burial place for the sacred bulls – the Apis Bulls.

The sacred bulls were mummified after death and carried to the Serapeum to be buried in stone sarcophagi. This practice lasted for over 1,300 years, only ceasing in 30 B.C.

But!!!! Started in about 1350 BC – it’s huge! HUGE!

There are three wings and the hallways are home to 24 sarcophagi weighing about 70 TONNES each!!!

One of the 24 remaining sarcophagi weighing about 70 TONNES

They stand about 8 feet high and were supposedly brought into these underground tombs by a team of 500 men – but that doesn’t ring true to me- not enough space, not enough oxygen, no evidence of soot!

I’m going with aliens.

Pharaoh during Egypt’s golden age, King Ramses II built more monuments and sired more children than any other Egyptian king.

Ramses!

Here in Memphis, the first capital of Ancient Egypt is a colossal fallen statue of King Ramses II! This statue was found in an area “lake” – it’s enormous- 10 meters/32feet long and he’s been cut off at the knees!

Ok- I don’t know how enormous – I looked!
Two pyramids: In the background, The “Bent Pyramid,” in the foreground, the improved, “Red Pyramid.”

The world’s greatest mistake!

Take a closer look at the photo.

In the background the “Bent Pyramid” in the foreground, the second attempt – the red pyramid! Both were just stepping stones to the “great pyramid” of Giza.

So the architect messed up here – realizing halfway he got it all wrong! Hence the odd shape and the abandonment of this style.

But keep in mind, without the step pyramids of Saqqara, even in their sad current state of demise, there wouldn’t be the Great Pyramids of Giza. This is where the ancient architects tried out their designs, moving from mastabas to step pyramids and finally to the towering Wonders of the Ancient World that still stand to this day.

Sipping in the shadows of Giza

And we celebrated an exhausting but exhilarating day in the shadow of genius!

Oy!!!!!

I just checked my pedometer- 9.3 miles today in this heat – I’m ordering another!

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