After the giza pyramids and a full day spent in Cairo, I was told by my host that there was a smaller pyramid a little south of Cairo, which was not as touristy as Giza. It was called Dahshour, but I was unsure if we had the time to go all the way. So, instead we decided to go to Saqqara to see some of the oldest pyramids that were ever built in Egypt. And with not too many others heading that way, it would be wonderful to have a less touristy experience, much different from the crowded Giza.
On the way, we decided to have a little breakfast, but was not sure what to eat. My host stopped at a local eatspot, while asking me all the while if I was ok with eating at street-side eateries. I had to keep reminding him that I was from India!
He ordered a Dagen macaroni for me, which turned out to be the heaviest breakfast I have ever had. Basically, it is just pasta with some spices and herbs, but cooked inside a closed bowl in an oven (Dagen). Mind you, it was spicy. Well, works for me because of my upbringing.
Although Saqqara was still part of the Giza governorate, it was located 25 km from the Giza Necropolis. With the help of a little chaotic Cairo traffic, we reached Saqqara in about 45 minutes. At the entrance, we had to buy tickets: mine for 80 pounds – since I was the foreigner – and my host’s for only 2 pounds – since he was the local. But the ticket also gave us entry to the Imhotep museum, which was located at the foot of the Saqqara. The only downside was that photography is not allowed inside the museum.
I always thought Imhotep was an Egyptian king, but turns out that I was wrong. Imhotep was a famous chief architect who built many Pyramids, and he was second only to the king during the ancient ages.
After the museum, we drove up the Saqqara necropolis site as far as we could. At one point, we finally had to park our car and walk a little bit. And what I saw was probably one of my favourite memories of Egypt. The site that greeted us was the step pyramid of Djosser, which is the first pyramid ever built. It was undergoing renovations, and we couldn’t enter, but we did get a chance to walk through the roofed colonnade that constituted the funerary complex of Djosser. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
There were touts here, but they were much less aggressive than the ones that I saw in Giza. I just had to tell them Shukran once, and they never bothered me again. Hope the rest of the day goes on the same lines.
After an hour in Saqqara, we proceeded to drive further towards the Memphis, located less than 10 kms from the Saqqara necropolis. But thanks to the not-so-great roads, the drive seemed to take an eternity. My host offered me biscuits to pass the time while he drove through the difficult roads. I was sure they were Oreo, but had to take a closer look to figure out it was called ‘Borio’ biscuits! And to further my surprise, I started seeing auto rickshaws in Egypt!
Memphis was the capital of ancient egypt, and the ruins of Memphis is a world heritage site, and has been preserved as well as it could be. The site is open to the public as an open-air museum, lonely planet tells me. Apparently I had an old edition of LP, because I still had to pay 40 Egyptian pounds!
The walk through the Memphis open-air museum was a rather short one, but had some interesting aspects inside it. The museum itself was built on the grounds of the ancient temple of Ptah, The biggest attraction was a giant colossus of Ramses II, which was laid down on its back for all to see. There was also a large sphinx monolith, and some other interesting Pharaonic statues. I was told that mostly tourists never come here, and the only foreigners who come here are Egyptologists. Well, I certainly tried my best to act like one.
Nothing interesting happened on our way back, as we waded through traffic. I passed my time by clicking kids who travelled on open jeeps. Oh, the freedom!