Most of the remnants of ancient Egypt lay scattered on the desert plateau south of Cairo. After visiting the amazing pyramids of Giza we went to see the amazing necropolis at Saqara and the Step Pyramid of King Djoser that was 'built to last til the ends of time'. This is the largest necropolis in Egypt, extending for almost five miles. It's a collection of pyramids, temples and tombs including the Mastaba tombs where the high officials of the Pharaohs were buried. These are comprised of several chambers with walls covered with reliefs that detail scenes of hunting and fishing and everyday life in ancient Egypt.
The step-pyramid is the oldest pyramid found in Egypt, over 2,000 years. What was amazing to me is that it reminded me of the type of pyramids you find in Mayan ruins in Mexico, with steps leading to the top. Although the third dynasty began with the Pharaoh Sanakht the real founder is considered to be Djoser, a name derived from "geser" meaning "sacred" Just as Ramses II is associated with Abu Simbel, Djoser is identified by Saqqara's architectural monument. It is the oldest structure in the world build entirely of stone. It is 62 metres high and the base measures 109 by 125 metres. The burial chamber of the Pharaoh was located at the centre of the pyramid at the bottom of a large vertical shat 28 metres deep. From here a labyrinth of rooms, corridors, chambers and passageways protected the tombs
Cobras decorate the roof
You know that song "We're going to Memphis"? Well Memphis, in ancient Egypt was once the capital city. According to legend it was founded by pharaoh Menes around 3000 BC and was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, remaining an important city throughout history. During the 6th dynasty it was a centre for the worship of Ptah, the god of creation and artworks. There is an alabaster Sphinx guarding the Temple of Ptah that is a memorial of the city's former power and prestige.
alabaster statue of Ramses II
I was particularly interested in visiting this ancient city, because it was where Alexander the Great came after he had successfully driven the Persian out of Egypt. Part of the mystique of Alexander is his connection to Nectanebo II, a shaman pharaoh of Memphis who had fled to Macedon to plead with Alexander's father Philip II to help drive the Persian out of his country. Rumours abounded for most of Alexander's life that he was Nectanabo's son because during the Pharaoh's stay in Macedon, Alexander's mother, Olympias, then a young bride of Philip, may have had an affair with the pharaoh. She was reputedly told by him that she would be visited by the golden snake of Ammon and give birth to a miraculous son. After Philip was assassinated and Alexander became king, he led his army south down the coast of Asia Minor, across Gaza and successfully vanquished the Persians. He was honored by the Egyptians and crowned pharaoh in the Temple of Ptah, ushering in the Hellensitic period. . From then on he wore the Horns of Ammon on his helmet. After his famous visit to the oasis shrine of Siwah where he would consult the oracle about his birthright, he learned information that he wouldn't even indulge to his best friend but said he'd wait til he got back home to discuss it with his mother.
Alexander wanted to establish a city in Egypt. Memphis was too far inland, south of the delta, so he chose the site by the sea that is now Alexandria. When Alexander died in 323 BC, his illegitimate half-brother Ptolemy came to Egypt to establish the city of Alexandria. For a time he kept Alexander's body at Memphis but it was later moved to the new city. This began the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. Ptolemy established the cult of Serapis in Egypt at Saqqara.
Memphis thrived until the arrival of the Romans when it lost it's importance in favour of Alexandria.
NEXT: At Last, ALEXANDRIA!