Best things to do in Saqqara
Find out more about those top places in Saqqara
Situated in the heart of the Western Desert south of Cairo, Saqqara is the largest archaeological site in Egypt – a country peppered with some of the world’s most important ancient ruins. Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3000 years with its necropolis being the final resting place of innumerable Old Kingdom pharaohs, civil servants, military generals, civilians and, of course, their sacred animals. Until the 19th century, most of Saqqara was buried in sand apart from the impressive Step Pyramid, the first pyramid ever constructed. However, successive excavations have revealed Egypt’s finest hidden gem and today visitors can tour an array of frescoed tombs, the vast underground Serapeum, where holy bulls were mummified, and the awe-inspiring funerary complex surrounding the pyramid.
The highlight of any visit to Saqqara is undoubtedly the black marble Serapeum dedicated to the Apis bull. The first burial of a sacred bull took place during the 14th century BC and continued to around 30 BC and today visitors can marvel at their mummified remains and monumental marble sarcophagi in vast subterranean galleries. Guided tours of this mysterious attraction are highly recommended as guides can help explain its cultural significance.
The Imhotep Museum houses some of the best archaeological finds that have been excavated at the nearby ruins of Saqqara. The museum itself is dedicated to Imhotep, the famed architect who worked under Pharaoh Djoser during the 3rd millennium BC.
While today little more remains of its exterior than a mound of earth, the Pyramid of Teti was built to house the mummified remains of the first 6th Dynasty pharaoh and was originally clad in gleaming limestone. Despite its poor condition on the outside, the interior of the pyramid has remarkably survived with visitors able to take tours of the hieroglyph-clad burial chamber.
Erected in the year 2650 BC, the Step Pyramid of Djoser is the world’s oldest stone monument. In architectural terms, the significance of the pyramid cannot be overstated and despite its squat proportions a visit remains one of Saqqara’s most thrilling experiences.
The Bird Tomb, traditionally known as Mastaba of Nefer-her-ptah, is one of Saqqara’s hidden gems. Built during the era of the 5th Dynasty, the tomb belonged to the head stylist of the ruling family. While it may only be one room large, it is coated with meticulously painted frescoes and hieroglyphics.