Why You Should Include Saqqara on Your Egypt Itinerary 

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Saqqara is located just outside the Egyptian capital of Cairo and is part of Egypt's ancient capital of Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But this sprawling necropolis has plenty of allure of its own.

Covering an area of around 7 by 1.5 kilometers, this burial site is most famous as the home of the uniquely designed Step Pyramid of Djoser. The fact that the pyramid reopened to the public in March 2020 after a 14-year restoration is reason enough to visit.

But Saqqara has also recently been back in the news following some groundbreaking discoveries. Historical finds that Egyptian authorities are hoping will help to lure in tourists interested in exploring the country’s storied ancient past.

So, before you plan your next trip to Egypt, let’s take a look at why you should include Saqqara on your travel itinerary.

Essential Information

As of now, there are no specific travel restrictions for visiting Saqqara. However, it's advisable to revise the latest updates before your trip. Always ensure you check the correct entry documents for Egypt for your nationality before visiting the country.

Saqqara is located about 25 kilometers southwest of Cairo on the Nile's west bank, and is easily accessible by road. It takes around an hour to reach the site by car from the city center.

Additionally, several luxury tour operators in Egypt offer tailored experiences that include a visit to Saqqara, removing the need to organize transportation.

Due to Saqqara’s proximity to Cairo, you have plenty of accommodation options to choose from if you’re planning to visit the area. Including some of Egypt’s most luxurious hotels.

For a truly lavish experience, consider staying at the renowned St. Regis Cairo, located in the heart of the city. This 5-star hotel offers exceptional amenities and a breathtaking view of the Nile River, making it the perfect base for a Saqqara adventure.

The History of Saqqara

Saqqara has an almost unparalleled historical legacy that stretches back over 5,000 years.

At the heart of its significance lies its role as the sacred burial grounds of Egyptian royalty, serving as the necropolis for the ancient capital of Memphis.

The story of Saqqara's inception dates to the Second Dynasty, where the first royal burials took place within its hallowed grounds. These early interments, tucked away in underground galleries, bore witness to the passage of countless kings and their eternal journey.

One of the earliest architectural marvels at Saqqara was the funerary monument erected by Khasekhemwy, the last Second Dynasty monarch.

Over 16 Egyptian kings followed suit, each contributing their own pyramids to the landscape. A number of high-ranking officials also added private funeral monuments to the sprawling necropolis throughout the Pharaonic era.

Remarkably, Saqqara remained a center of reverence and cultural significance for over three millennia. The site continued its sacred duty even into the times of Ptolemaic and Roman rule.

Why Saqqara Is in The News

Saqqara is one of Egypt’s most talked-about archaeological sites at the moment. This is because a series of ancient workshops and tombs were uncovered within the necropolis in early 2023, rekindling interest in the site.

According to Sabri Farag, director of the Saqqara archaeological site, the tombs were for a senior official from the Old Kingdom and a priest from the New Kingdom.

Archaeologists discovered ceremonial vessels within the workshops, in addition to clay pots and other objects that appeared to have been used in mummification,

The Supreme Council of Antiquities' secretary-general, Mostafa Waziri, announced that the New Kingdom tombs contained alabaster statues of their owners. The oldest tombs, on the other hand, were decorated with murals depicting daily life from the period and also displayed the names of the dead and their wives. 

Waziri also revealed that the workshops had been used to mummify both people and revered animals. He added that they date back to the Ptolemaic era (305 BC to 30 BC) and the 30th Pharaonic Dynasty (380 BC to 343 BC).

What to See in Saqqara

Aside from the ongoing archaeological excavations, the biggest attraction in Saqqara is the Step Pyramid of Djoser. A testament to architectural prowess, it stands as the oldest complete stone building complex in recorded history.

The pyramid was commissioned during the Third Dynasty and constructed under the guidance of the visionary royal architect, Imhotep. You might recognize his name: it was repurposed for the villain of the 2000s Mummy films!

The distinct 6-level edifice is surrounded by a vast network of halls and courts. And you can now go inside the pyramid and see King Djoser’s sarcophagus for yourself.

While Saqqara itself is a treasure trove, nearby attractions are equally captivating. Consider exploring the surrounding pyramid fields of Memphis, which include the iconic Giza pyramids, for a complete experience.

JL Staff

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