When visiting Cairo, or Egypt in general, the first thing people think of visiting is the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx; however, there is an area of Giza that serves as the perfect introduction to the ancient wonders of Egypt! Memphis and Saqqara are the doorway into Egypt and deliver a peek into the rest of the country you are about to see. It serves purpose almost like a prequel to your favorite story.
So what specifically makes these places your starting point in Egypt?
We started bright and early on our first day by going to Memphis, Egypt and it is an understated yet perfect way to start your Egyptian vacation. Memphis is located in the current city of Mit Rahina, and was thought to have been founded by King Menes who was thought to unite the 2 lands of Egypt. My trip out here was my first insight into the actual Egyptian culture beyond the bustling streets of Cairo. Memphis is one of the oldest cities from ancient Egypt and its positioning is near the Giza plateau at the entrance of the Nile River made it a prized and rich area to live in.
Coolest thing about Memphis? The MASSIVE lying down statue of Ramses ll (the base and feet of the statue broke off prior to discovery in 1820). It is scheduled to be moved to the entrance of the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza once they complete construction; however, moving the 83 ton statue is quite the endeavor. In fact, in the past, they have built a replica casing as a practice transport to practice with in order to protect the original statue. If visiting the area, definitely look up where the statue currently is because it is an amazing site to behold and made my trip to Memphis worthwhile.
A short but incredibly scenic drive away, consumed with giant and vibrant palm trees that make you feel as though you are driving through a movie mirage set, is Saqqara. Home of one of the oldest burial grounds AND home to Djoser (aka Zoser) which is considered to be the world’s FIRST pyramid. Made entirely out of giant limestone pieces, Djoser definitely holds some stories within, even if it has not held up too well over time. The government is currently restoring the outside framework so you cannot climb on the pyramid, but you can still get right next to the pyramid to gain full perspective of the massive size of the limestone pieces.
The most unique thing about Saqqara to me was my introduction into Egyptian architecture and symbols. It is where I first learned how to tell the difference between Egyptian and Greek columns.
Why You Should Start Here:
I am so thankful that I visited both of these areas before seeing The Great Pyramids of Giza. Walking through here set the stage for what was to come and I enjoyed Saqqara and seeing the 16 other pyramids in the distance even more than visiting the Great Pyramids (maybe because there were way less people). There was something about visiting this area that really put things into perspective of all the mysteries that Egypt was about to unfold on my journey.
If camel riding is on your list then don’t do it here. Instead, wait until you visit the Great Pyramids and ride them on the back side of the complex. Just take note to profile the condition of your animal. Some owners can be quite cruel in the tourism world.
Unless you see something you absolutely have to have, save your souvenir buying for when you go to the bazaar or while in town.
Dress Code: You will be walking through dirt and sand so you may want to opt for closed toed shoes (however I wore sandals because this doesn't bother me). Keep your dress conservative but you can wear anything you would like. Normally I opt for flowy skirts and blouses in areas like Egypt and Asia just to make sure I am good no matter where I opt to go.
There are restrooms on site ; ) but I would always carry tissue paper and sanitzer. Also have small Egyptian Pound on you because you will often have to pay to even use the restroom.
First Timer in Giza