The World's Oldest Stone Monument
Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
331Trip End Ongoing
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But first we had to get to and through the pyramids and ruins at Saqqara. Saqqara, called "the huge cemetery of ancient Memphis" by our guidebook, is Egypt's largest archeological site
The Step Pyramid was built in 2650 BC by the great Imhotep for Zoser, the best known pharaoh of the third dynasty. The Step Pyramid was revolutionary; prior to its construction, monuments had either been made of uncut stone or mud bricks. By making the structure into a pyramid of smooth, cut stones, Imhotep set the archaeological world a-spinning. A short time later, they would go even further at Dahshur and create the smooth-sided pyramids we are so used to seeing today.
There are a series of other ruins around the Step Pyramid, only some of them open to the public. We spent quite a lot of time exploring the bits that were open, most of them away from the crowds, who were all more interested in snapping a few photos of the Step Pyramid and then jetting off to the next spot. It was during these wanderings that we saw our first hieroglyphics in Egypt outside of a museum. It's hard to explain the feeling I had seeing them; after so many movies, books, and TV shows about Egypt, you would have thought they wouldn't have been that special -- but they were
After checking out the Step Pyramid, we wandered down to the recently excavated and opened Tomb of the Two Brothers. We were completely alone -- not even the guards and ticket takers were there. The hieroglyphics here were even better; they were all inside, so had been better protected from the elements, allowing some of them to retain a touch of their original colors.
Yasri wanted to take us to Giza from there, but we convinced him we had enough time to make one last stop at Saqqara and made for the Pyramid of Teti and its nearby tombs. We jetted through pretty quickly, and I had my first (of many, many, many) baksheesh experiences (a cleaner took me into a closed tomb). We went into the pyramid as well, which was much smaller than the Red, but more ornate inside. Knowing we still had to grab our tickets before the office closed, we decided to get a move on and hopped back in the car, letting Yasri whisk us away, back towards Cairo and off to its most famous suburb: Giza.