Sakkara (Saqqara) is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in Egypt! It was the cemetery for Memphis, the capital of Ancient Egypt, yet it is still one of the virgin archaeological sites, despite the fact that so much has already been found here!
The site is dominated by the Step Pyramid of King Zoser, which goes back to 2700 BC. It is one of the oldest stone structures in the world!
Sakkara is also the site of many tombs from the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. Most are made out of mud bricks, but some tombs are made of limestone, decorated with daily life scenes. When you are at Sakkara, you will notice that it is divided into:
Southern Sakkara, which is dominated by the step Pyramid.
-Northern Sakkara, which is dominated by the Pyramid of King Titi, and Mastaba tombs of the old kingdom.
When conducting a visit to Sakkara don’t miss the following sites:
The Step Pyramid of King Zoser, and it surrounding complex:
The Pyramid of King Titi
The tomb of Mereruka and the tomb of Kagimni
The Mastaba tomb of Ti, and the tomb of Ptah-Hotep
The step pyramid
Please Note: The Pyramid has been closed to visitors for a long time, as it is deemed not safe to enter it!
It was built for King Zoser, one of the greatest Kings of the third dynasty (2721-2780 BC). Originally meant as a tomb, this Pyramid was designed and built by his great architect Imhotep. The Pyramid is built as a step Pyramid, 60m high, and consisting of 6 steps; each one built on top of each other and smaller than the one below.
Today it is considered as one of the oldest stone structures built by man, and the first time the Ancient Egyptians would attempt to use limestone. Zoser’s Pyramid is entirely built of limestone, small bricks of limestone, and not of the best quality, and yet it has remained for more than 4700 years!
The Pyramid’s four sides are very nearly aligned to the four cardinal points. On the northern side is the original entrance of the Pyramid.
On the north-western side you will notice a little room that is built with a gradient angle, similar to the Pyramid itself. In there was found a beautiful statue of King Zoser made of limestone, it was moved to the Egyptian museum in Cairo and replaced by a replica
The northern entrance is not used anymore, as it is very dangerous! Any people, who are allowed into the Pyramid, use another entrance that was made in the 26th Dynasty, on the southern side of the Pyramid. I have frequently been admitted, into the Pyramid, with TV crews that I have led around Sakkara but I needed special permission to do this.
When you go underneath the Pyramid, there is strange feeling that haunts you, especially when you remember that you are exploring 4,700 years of time. Down there it is a maze of little corridors and tunnels! Found in some of these tunnels more than 30, 000 jars, which were made out of several types of stone, alabaster, marble, diorite and slate.
To the southern side of the Pyramid, you will find a burial shaft, almost 28 meter deep, which is believed to be a symbolic tomb for the King, as Kings of the first three Dynasties used to build two tombs for themselves; one a real tomb and the other, a cenotaph.
The Pyramid is surrounded by a rectangular enclosure wall that measure 277m by 544m, mostly ruined today, but it was originally 10m high. You can see parts of it today.
In the southeastern part of the wall you will find the entrance to the complex, and most of what you are going to see, when you get through this door, is recently restored! You will notice at the end of the little hall that the door leads you to; there is an imitation of two doors, swung open. The entrance leads you to a colonnade that has 40 columns. Each column is attached to the wall behind, the style is called engaged columns, and they were built to ensure that they would be able to endure the heavy weight of the ceiling.
You will notice that in-between the columns a large numbers of little rooms were created; they once contained statues representing King Zoser as ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt. The long hypostyle hall leads to an open courtyard, which was used by the King, performing the rituals of the jubilee feast, called the Hep-Sed festival. One of the rituals performed by the Kings of Ancient Egypt to ensure that they are able to rule the country for the next 30 years.
To the right of this open courtyard, Imhotep built a Temple known as the Hep-Sed Temple, so that the King would be able to practice the ritual in the after life.
Behind the Temple, and further north, you will notice two buildings behind each other; they are called the northern and southern houses, where the King is supposed to host the dignitaries who have come to attend the King’s ritual in the Temple, and his recognition as a King of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Next to the Step Pyramid complex, on the southern side, you will see the ruined Pyramid of King Unas, which dates back to the end of the 5th Dynasty. It was the first Pyramid that had inscriptions decorating the walls of the burial chamber! There are more than 700 incantations, which are supposed to help the dead King throughout the afterlife, and they are known as the Pyramid texts. Unfortunately the Pyramid has been closed for more than 6 years now
The Tomb of Mereruka:
This is the largest tomb in Sakkara! It consists of 32 rooms and was built for Mereruka and his family. Discovered in 1893, it is located 20m to the north of the Pyramid of King Titi.
Dating back to the time of the 6th Dynasty (2240 BC), the tomb is divided into sections where Mereruka and his wife and son are buried. The walls of the tomb are decorated with marvellous scenes, illustrating the daily life in Ancient Egypt.
It is also filled with many details of Mereruka, with his family and servants