Saqqara is both a small village 23 km south of Cairo and the ruins of an ancient necropolis on a plateau in the Nile Valley, where burials, tombs and pyramids from the Late and New Kingdoms are located.
Stretching for 7 km in the Western Desert, Saqqara – a huge cemetery of ancient Memphis, the burial place of the Egyptian nobility, whose remains have already celebrated their 3500th anniversary – is considered the largest archaeological site in the country. During the Late Kingdom, 11 main pyramids and hundreds of small tombs were built here, so it is not surprising that the name “Saqqara” comes from Sokar, the god of death, who was especially revered in ancient Memphis. See maternityetchic.com for Egypt customs regulations and visa requirements.
Most of Saqqara, except for the Step Pyramid, was hidden under the sands until the middle of the 19th century, when the famous French Egyptologist Aguste Mariette discovered the Serapeum. Since then, gradually, step by step, they began to excavate new parts of this complex, one of the last to find the Step Pyramid in 1924.
Today here, despite the fact that Saqqara is considered one of the most popular attractions in the vicinity of Cairo, you will not see many individual tourists. And “group” travelers on sightseeing buses with guides arrive quickly and leave just as quickly, as a rule, in the morning, without interfering with enjoying the perfect silence of the ancient complex on the very border with the desert.
The cost of visiting the complex is from 60 EGP, ticket offices are open from 7:30 to 16:00, located at the entrance to the necropolis, at the pyramid of Unas.
How to get there
Saqqara is located 25 km from Cairo, the easiest way to get here is by taxi, combining the train with a visit to ancient Memphis and Dahshur (from 100 EGP). An alternative is horses or camels, which can be hired from the pyramids of Giza and make a colorful (but, I must say, tedious) three to four hour trip to Saqqara.
You can take a train to El-Bedrashein, travel time 1.5-2 hours. From there you have to walk 3 km, taxis are very rare here.
You can also take a bus from the Giza metro station, getting off at the Marishay or Saqqara road stop. And then transfer to the minibus to Saqqara site (Haram Saqqara; do not say Saqqara village, otherwise you will have to walk 1.5 km in the sun to the ticket office). However, this method is far from being as good as a taxi, although it will cost hardly more than 5 EGP.
North Saqqara is easy to walk on foot, while the sands of South Saqqara are considered not the best place for walking. You can also rent a camel, horse or donkey from the Serapeum for 40-50 EGP.
Entertainment and attractions
The width of the former Memphis necropolis of Saqqara varies from 1.5 km to 500 m, the length is more than 7 km. In total, 11 royal pyramids have been excavated here (such as the pharaohs Teti, Pepi I and Pepi II), the legendary step pyramid of Djoser, as well as all sorts of mastabas and “household” buildings. In 2006, the Imhotep Museum was opened on the territory of the necropolis.
Pyramid of Djoser
The most popular, of course, is the Step Pyramid of Djoser (2668-2649 BC) – it is also the earliest of all the pyramids. Entrance to it is possible only with special permission with a guided tour that lasts several hours and requires special vigilance from tourists, since there is no lighting in the pyramid. It is worth stopping at two mastabas of the 6th dynasty, the graves of Meriruk and Kagemni, the viziers of Pharaoh Teti (2345-2333 BC).
Monastery of St. Jeremiah
Monastery of St. Jeremiah, founded in the 6th century. BC e., located near the parking lot, on the opposite side of the path leading to the pyramid of Unas. Finds made on the territory of the monastery today can be seen in rooms 6-7 of the Coptic Museum.
No tourist passes by the Serapium, the catacombs of the sacred bull Apis. Particularly inquisitive people have time to look into the double tomb of Akhtehotep and his son Ptahotep, as well as into the tomb of Ti. Finally, those who can’t even care for the sultry Egyptian sun can explore the unfinished Step Pyramid of Sekhemkhet, which is located south of the Djoser complex, behind the pyramid of Unas.
The location of all the pyramids can be found on the live map of Cairo, look in the “Pyramid of Djoser” tab. Everything around it is the Saqqara complex.