Saqqara also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English, is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas (Arabic word meaning 'bench'). Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km (4.35 by 0.93 mi).
At Saqqara, the oldest complete stone building complex known in history was built: Djoser's step pyramid, built during the Third Dynasty. Another 16 Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or dilapidation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times.
North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir, and south lies Dahshur. The area running from Giza to Dahshur has been used as a necropolis by the inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Some scholars believe that the name Saqqara is not derived from the ancient Egyptian funerary deity, Sokar, but supposedly, from a local Berber Tribe called Beni Saqqar
Saqqara is the name given both to a village 32 km to the south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo and (more particularly) to the extensive ancient necropolis on the plateau above the Nile Valley, the location of tombs and pyramids dating to the Predynastic, Old Kingdom, New Kingdom and Late Periods of ancient Egyptian history. The desert plateau above the modern village of Saqqara formed one of the main cemeteries of the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis for thousands of years. As such, it attracted a large number of royal and high prestige burials, the remains of which can be seen in pyramids and decorated tombs scattered across the area. The site of Saqqara is quite extensive, stretching 6 km north-south and 1.5 km across at its widest point.
History of Saqqara
The earliest burials of nobles can be traced back to the First Dynasty, at the northern side of the Saqqara plateau. During this time, the royal burial ground was at Abydos. The first royal burials at Saqqara, comprising underground galleries, date to the Second Dynasty. The last Second Dynasty king, Khasekhemwy, was buried in his tomb at Abydos, but also built a funerary monument at Saqqara consisting of a large rectangular enclosure, known as Gisr el-Mudir. It probably inspired the monumental enclosure wall around the Step Pyramid complex. Djoser's funerary complex, built by the royal architect Imhotep, further comprises a large number of dummy buildings and a secondary mastaba (the so-called 'Southern Tomb'). French architect and Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer spent the greater part of his life excavating and restoring Djoser's funerary complex.
Nearly all Fourth Dynasty kings chose a different location for their pyramids. During the second half of the Old Kingdom, under the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, Saqqara was again the royal burial ground. The Fifth and Sixth Dynasty pyramids are not built wholly of massive stone blocks, but instead with a core consisting of rubble. Consequently, they are less well preserved than the world-famous pyramids built by the Fourth Dynasty kings at Giza. Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, was the first king to adorn the chambers in his pyramid with Pyramid Texts. During the Old Kingdom, it was customary for courtiers to be buried in mastaba tombs close to the pyramid of their king. Thus, clusters
From the Middle Kingdom onward, Memphis was no longer the capital of the country, and kings built their funerary complexes elsewhere. Few private monuments from this period have been found at Saqqara.
During the New Kingdom Memphis was an important administrative and military centre, being the capital after the Amaran Period. From the Eighteenth Dynasty onward many high officials built tombs at Saqqara. While still a general, Horemheb built a large tomb here, although he later was buried as pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Other important tombs belong to the vizier Aperel, the vizier Neferrenpet, the artist Thutmose, and the wet-nurse of Tutankhamun, Maia.
By taxi; Taxis can be hired from central Cairo to visit Saqqara.
By bus; Travelers may be told there is no bus to Saqqara. This is not entirely true. Bus services do exist to Saqqara from central Cairo, but entail a lengthy journey and a long walk from the village up to the plateau. It is possible to reach the plateau by taking a microbus from the Giza metro station. It should be expected to transfer to multiple microbuses as there is no direct microbus. Tell the driver you want to go to "Marishay and then Saqqara" and he should indicate where to transfer. Once in Saqqara village, take a tuk-tuk for a few pounds to the site.
Saqqara complex. Opening hours: 9AM-5PM, and till 4PM in winter
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