The first ancient location I visited in Egypt was Saqqara which is an ancient burial ground in Egypt, and was basically the cemetery for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara has a few pyramids, well technically 16 different kings built pyramids but the most famous is the Step Pyramid. Aside for the architectural stand point this pyramids is significant because it is currently the oldest complete stone building complex we know of in our current recorded history and was built during the Third Dynasty.
Getting to the Location
This was my first time in Egypt, as well as my first time being exposed to this culture. So I’m sure just like me, most people have know clue about the conditions of the areas around these ancient sites so I’m gladly gonna go into details. Saqqara is about 20-30 miles south of the inner city of Cairo, but takes a little longer than you would expect based on the milage. The areas are basically in my opinion comparable to a third world country. I mean don’t get me wrong there is some very beautiful compounds and villa along the way but that alone couldn’t get my mind off all the garbage. It was literally unbelievable to say the least. From one side of the road to the other, the water canal way that runs between the road was just riddled with garbage and as well as in-between the buildings.
I’m not just talking about construction debris either. This is regular household garbage and anything else you can thing of. Paper plates, cups, paper, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, clothes, shoes and million other things. It’s basically like someone built a city in a land fill.
Entering the Saqqara Area
Once you get passed the heavy stretch of garbage blvd you will see a greener area with huge really tall palm trees. This area is was pretty awesome because I really wasn’t expecting it and the huge palm trees are so densely crowding the area its almost like you are traveling through an oasis of some sort. After you pass through this green area you will go over a short bridge and run into a guard shack where you will purchase your ticket to proceed into Saqqara. Once you pass the guard shack it instantly turns into wide open desert for as far as you can see. You will immediately see the step pyramid off to your right and also other tombs as well.
The Step Pyramid
The famous step pyramid was the first pyramid I actually got close enough to touch first, even though the hotel I was staying in was only about a two min walk I saved that trip for the next day since I had other stops that it worked better with on my itinerary. Which I will share on a later post. Anyways, the step pyramid is an amazing structure. Considering it was built During the Third Dynasty of Egypt when this type of construction was brand new it’s suprising the architect Imhotep designed Egypt’s first step pyramid as awesome as he did. He commissioned it as a tomb for the pharaoh, Djoser who was in power for twenty nine years but possibly only 18-19 as there is some debate on this. Another important fact is that during this time period Upper and Lower Egypt was ruled as one which signifies the unification of crowns. Interesting topic if you want to read further on that. The structure, the Pyramid of Djoser, was composed of a series of six successively smaller mastabas (an earlier form of tomb), one on top of another basically producing seven levels (including the rooftop) and four sides.
The other structures close to the Step Pyramid
Near by in walking distance of the step pyramid is some really awesome structures to explores. I was able to check out a few different buildings but most were closed. Also something to keep in mind all the sites around Egypt including this one has guards posted almost everywhere. They are uniformed as an armed military or police per say with rifles. They can appear quite intimidating but in all reality could care less about you as long as you aren’t a threat and as tourist you appose none. The reason I wanted to say that is because they are easily persuaded. If there is a closed area or something you want a photo of that has a sign posted no photos you can simply slide them a tip and you are good to go. They could care less as there is really nothing you can take or destroy since really all there is to see is the building itself and all the art is carved into the stone walls. So don’t feel as if you are getting away with murder.
Important Things To Know Hustlers at Ancient Sites
Just a tourist tip. Saqqara and other ancient sites have random guys hanging out in the tombs and other structures who are basically trying to get money from you. As soon as you walk into certain areas they pose as if they are some type of tour guide and start ranting on with information and pointing things out to keep your attention. Then they aggressively demand a tip for their services. Please by no means pull out any sort of money or expose a wallet or purse to this men. My best advice is just ignore them despite their efforts. They don’t know what language you speak and have no clue if you understand them or not. Because once you give them your attention they feel entitled to compensation. I was warned ahead of time from my guide but I’m familiar with this type of hustle from other trips I’ve taken before.
The hustlers at Saqarra are very aggressive. For a moment, I didn’t know if I was gonna have to fight these men or not when I was trying to assist these two women who happen to be down in the tomb with me unaccompanied. They were being bombarded by these men aggressively. They appeared very disrespected that I blocked their attempts. I don’t think that happens to them that often by the look on their faces and one thing I noticed is when these guys are present tour guides avoid them and usually let you explore the areas they are hustling alone to avoid them. My tour guide gave me a heads up, but it seems as if there in some type of intimidation they present to actual tour guides since they avoid these hustlers. It’s quite obvious. I’m not one to knock anyones hustle, but if you present aggression and demand money from someone for a service they never commissioned to a point to where they feel they have to pay you is robbery. There is more respectable ways to go about this than intimidating people on vacation especially women.