South of Giza, we were taken to an archaeological park full of tombs and the predecessor of all pyramids, the Step Pyramid of Djoser. There are many tombs, temples, and pyramids at the site, but due to time constraints, we were only able to visit three.
First, we stopped to admire the Tomb of Mereruka, a nobleman and vizier under the pharaoh Teti. It’s a very vividly decorated mastaba tomb with 33 chambers. Unfortunately, it was closed for maintenance.
Behind the Tomb of Mereruka is what looks like a big mound of sand, but is actually the Pyramid of Teti. It doesn’t look very impressive from the outside, but on the inside there are several elaborate decorations.
The main attraction is the Step Pyramid of Djoser. To enter the complex, we passed through a large colonnaded entrance. Sem Sem gave a quick lecture about how the entrance was constructed and pointed out original columns included in the reconstruction.
We exited to a large open area to see the pyramid, built around 2650 BC, with six mastabas piled on top of each other. Sem Sem then explained how tombs evolved from being inside homes (yes, really!), to outside the homes, to a mastaba, to a step pyramid, and finally, to a true pyramid. It was fascinating.
I had a chance to wander around the courtyard of the pyramid, where a temple can be found as well as a pit in which a large statue was found.
A platform at the site allows visitors to see almost the entire pyramid field. The Pyramid of Unas, built in the 24th century BC, is the nearest to the platform and is surrounded by several small tombs from the New Kingdom. In the distance, I was able to spot the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid, which I had seen two days earlier, and several other less famous pyramids (Pepi I, Pepi II, Merenre).
After leaving the complex, I was approached by an overly jolly guy with a donkey offering for photos in exchange for tips.