Saqqara: Birthplace of the Pyramid

Our group had just seen the Pyramids of Giza, but where did the idea for the pyramids come from? Saqqara, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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.

Tomb of Mereruka at Saqqara, Egypt

Tomb of Mereruka

Tomb of Mereruka at Saqqara, Egypt

Tomb of Mereruka

Tomb of Mereruka at Saqqara, Egypt

Tomb of Mereruka

Tomb of Mereruka at Saqqara, Egypt

Tomb of Mereruka

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.

Pyramid of Teti at Saqqara, Egypt

Pyramid of Teti

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.

Colonnaded entrance of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Colonnaded entrance

Colonnaded entrance of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Colonnaded entrance

Colonnaded entrance of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Colonnaded entrance

Colonnaded entrance of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Colonnaded entrance

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.

Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Step Pyramid of Djoser

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.

Courtyard at the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Courtyard

Temple at the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

Temple

A pit where a statue was found at the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt

A pit where a 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).

Pyramid of Unas at Saqqara, Egypt

Pyramid of Unas

The Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid in the distance at Saqqara, Egypt

The Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid in the distance

Pyramids of Pepi I, Pepi II, and Merenre at Saqqara, Egypt

Pyramids of Pepi I, Pepi II, and Merenre

After leaving the complex, I was approached by an overly jolly guy with a donkey offering for photos in exchange for tips.

I didn’t want to take this picture at Saqqara, Egypt

I didn’t want to take this picture

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