The second day marked the big day of our trip. The Nile River is indeed an essential and surviving remain of Egypt’s old world but the private tour to the Pyramids would still be the highlight.
The sunrise on that Saturday morning on the 18th of November heralded a favorable day for a desert tour. We immediately prepared ourselves after a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel. We met our travel agent and driver for this whole-day private tour to Saqqara, Memphis, & Giza at exactly 8:00 AM at the reception. We had a short briefing before we proceeded to the van.
Everyone was excited and full of energy. We were so engaged with looking at the views outside on the way to Saqqara—the first of the three tourist destinations which are all in the rural area.
The visual contrast of the countryside provided us with a relaxing vibe while in transit. It all brought us home somehow. The dominating climate crept into every corner, bathing the whole world in a temperate glow.
The van cruised down from a straight and narrow paved road in the city into a twisting one, sometimes grassy but dusty most of the time, passing by some green and brown hills looming over the desolate drive. Occasionally there was a boscage that separated the fields until we were brought to an endless expanse of barren lands with shimmering sands and pebbles stretching towards the distant horizon.
Approximately 45 minutes more from that point and there it was, the first ever pyramid built in Egypt—which is the Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as the number of mastabas (benches).
We had to pass through this beautiful ruin of a roofed colonnade corridor, with stone pillars carved to imitate bundled plant stems, in order to get to its festival complex. That are is intended for photography purposes.
“The pyramid is the central feature of a vast mortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration. This first Egyptian pyramid consisted of six mastabas (of decreasing size) built atop one another in what were clearly revisions and developments of the original plan. The pyramid originally stood 62 m (203 ft) tall, with a base of 109 m × 125 m (358 ft × 410 ft) and was clad in polished white limestone. The step pyramid (or proto-pyramid) is considered to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction, although the pyramids at Caral in South America are contemporary and the nearby enclosure known as Gisr el-mudir would seem to antedate the complex” (Pyramid of Djoser).
For a structure that is over 4,600 years old and is 200 ft tall, the Pyramid of Djoser is really the perfect introduction to Egyptian pyramids. We took photographs here and there—every corner or angle worthy of a click on sight.
The next stop was to The Ruins in Memphis and it was about a thirty-minute drive from Saqqara. The place predated all of what we had seen earlier by hundreds of years. It was the first capital of ancient Egypt, before the rise and fall of Thebes and modern day Cairo of course.
This ancient city currently serves as home to some of the most important archaeological finds over the years.
If there is one thing most notable about the set of ruins therein, it would be the 34 ft long statue of Ramses II who ruled Egypt for over 1,300 years or after the pyramids were built.
Having said that, the Sphinx of Memphis is also an eye candy.
Ramses’ statue is literally Cyclopean not only for its size but for the elbow grease and artistry put into it.
On a side note, there are few souvenir shops lined up in one side of this place.
The final stop on our day trip was to the Great Pyramid of Egypt in Giza City—an hour-drive from ancient Memphis. We first went to the place where we were going to rent our horses from and had lunch at KFC. This fast-food restaurant offers a peculiar view overlooking the three masterpieces of ancient architecture. We were that close to them—almost but not quite.
Riding a camel is another option by the way, but we took the faster ride through the horses that took us around the deserts, to the panoramic spot on top of the hill, to the pyramids, and, of course, to the sphinx. We extremely enjoyed the ride with the views of the majestic pyramids and the Sphinx in the distance. They were like aphrodisiacs of enthusiasm.
It became so clear right then and there why this spot is always on the top of the must see places in Egypt.
Every inch closer to those pieces of architecture was intoxicating in a good way all the more when we were finally cheek to cheek with them, especially the tallest Pyramid.
My soul was once again unfolded to some kind of magic. It held me spellbound for a few minutes.
The thought of standing on the sand that was once walked upon by Pharaohs, who pioneered the earliest civilization, was exhilarating. Add to that the perfect symmetry and imposing height of the Great Pyramid…it felt as if time feared something for the first time in the form of a tangible piece of forever. Hence, the only wonder that makes time human in my book.
The Great Pyramid at Giza is very commanding to look at because it was built in a position on a hill looking out over the rocky plateau and vast desert expanse of Giza.
“It was constructed between 2584 and 2561 BC for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (known in Greek as Cheops) and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. Excavations of the interior of the pyramid were only initiated in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries CE and so the intricacies of the interior which so intrigue modern people were unknown to the ancient writers (The Seven Wonders).
We spent more than an hour wandering around and taking photos until our batteries got drained.
The sequence of this one day trip to Saqqara, Memphis, and Giza is rivaled by no other as far as the introduction to ancient Egyptian history is concerned. The progression of pyramid designs leading from that of Djoser’s to Pharoah Khufu’s really shows how architecture has evolved over time.
Egypt is, without a doubt, a wonderful country to visit. You will surely get so much more out of a holiday there.
Saqqara, Memphis & Dahshur travel (lonelyplanet.com)
How to visit Cairo, Memphis, Dahshur and Saqqara in one day (roamreplenishrepeat.com)
Saqqara, Memphis, and the Pyramids – Touring Ancient Egypt (gypsygiraffe.com)