The necropolis of Saqqara is the starting point of the architecture of ancient Egypt, it is the primordial necropolis, which contains the tombs of the pharaohs of the first dynasties. But it is also the necropolis of the first pyramids of Egyptian history, and even of humanity. Saqqara is home to the very first pyramid, the famous Pyramid of Djoser.
Saqqara can be visited very easily, it is only fifteen kilometers south of the famous necropolis of Giza. It is a very extensive site (8Kms long!), It is necessary to move by car, on site. To visit you will have to pay a ticket of entry on the site, then, if you wish it, to add a ticket of visit of the mastabas, in the South of the complex. We recommend the visit of Saqqara, it contains a lot of funerary monuments of very varied periods, from the first dynasties to the Ptolemaic period, the last before the fall of the Egyptian empire.
Getting there / Getting around
By taxi, it's obvious: It's still the easiest way. By bus, it's really complicated and long, so the taxi is almost the only solution. Except, of course, to go through a travel agency. It is much better to keep the taxi for the whole day, you will be sure to have it to return to Cairo in the evening, and you can negotiate an acceptable price. Generally there are 300 or 400 Egyptian pounds for the day. At this price, you buy the tranquility. And save time because the plateau of Saqqara can not be visited on foot, it is far too big, it must be visited by taxi.
The archaeological site of Saqqara is accessible by paying an entrance fee. As for the site of Giza it is possible to pay supplements to visit the mastabas, those in the south of the pyramid of Djoser, and for the Serapeum.
- The following rates are from 2018
- They are in Egyptian Pounds (LE)
- There is a student fee
|Entry on the site||80 LE (3,88 Euros)|
|Entry into the mastabas||40 LE (1,94 Euros)|
|Entry into the Serapeum||100 LE (4,84 Euros)|
Visiting times of Giza and Saqqara are very simple: From 8am to 4pm, every day. There are two exceptions to these schedules:
- During Ramadan the site closes at 15h
- During the summer, the sites close at 17h, except for the Giza necropolis, which still closes at 16h, even in the summer.
Do not ask for the closing time during Ramadan in summer ... We do not know!
To see in Saqqara
There are many burials to see on site, they offer different shows depending on the times they were built. But what should not be missed, and you can not fail to see it, is the fantastic funerary complex of Djoser.
Funeral complex of Djoser
This is the great step pyramid you see, entering the site. You see it from afar, long before entering the necropolis, so high is it. It is 66m high and was built by Pharaoh Djoser at the beginning of the 3rd Dynasty, around 2700 BC. This is of course the tomb of the Pharaoh, which was built during his reign.
You must know that a pyramid is only one of the architectural elements of a funerary complex. That of Djoser is in fairly good condition, thanks to the French archaeologist Jean-Philippe Lauer who spent his life searching the site and did some restoration work. When you arrive on the site you will find that there is a part of the rampart that surrounded the complex, a fantastic wall with steps decorated with several false doors. The only real one will allow you to enter a corridor leading to the south courtyard of the complex which houses chapels, the funerary temple and the Serdab. The Serdab is a small, closed room containing a statue of the king. On the wall facing the statue two holes are drilled, allowing to see the offerings made in the room next door. According to the beliefs of the time, the pharaoh's soul could take possession of the statue and allowed him to see what was happening next. As a visitor you can put yourself in the place of Pharaoh and observe through the holes as Pharaoh should do.
You will also see the pyramid of Djoser. She is impressive, tall and rather leaning. It is the result of two superimposed mastabas on which was built a first pyramid, raised by a second. But these successive changes you will not see them, the last elevation covers the rest.
Learn more about the funerary complex of Djoser.
Pyramid of Ounas
Ounas is the last pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. Its pyramid is in a sad state, it is largely collapsed, but its entrance is still visible and allows to enter inside. It proposes a series of galleries leading to underground rooms. The whole is richly decorated with funerary texts, which contrasts with earlier pyramids. You will also see a starry sky and a sarcophagus of granite.
This pyramid is south of Djoser, which serves as a geographical reference point.
Pyramid of Téti Ist
Successor of Ounas and first pharaoh of the 6th dynasty, Téti I had a funerary complex similar to that of Ounas built. On the spot, you will see that its pyramid is in bad state, but one can still penetrate there. Its interior resembles that of Ounas, with texts written on the walls. They had a spiritual function: They were to help the pharaoh's soul to ascend to heaven.
The pyramid of Téti I is north-east of Djoser.
The mastabas of Kagemni and Mererukka
It is about two mastabas, close to each other, each having a characteristic. Mererouka's is the largest mastaba ever found in ancient Egypt! With thirty pieces, his interest lies in the many decorations on the walls, they represent scenes of everyday life at the time of the life of Mérérouka, vizier of Téti I and therefore his contemporary. He lived in the 24th century BC. The mastaba of Kagemni, he is singular by the quality of the decorations that are found inside. The scenes of hunting, daily life, in the home or outside are of a breathtaking beauty. Everything is very well preserved, including some colors that allow to imagine how were painted all the walls.
You can freely enter these mastabas, and this tour really gives you the impression of walking in the footsteps of ancient Egyptians, there is a strong immersion.
The Serapeum is a temple dedicated to the God Apis, the God represented by a cow. It consists of a long corridor opening on 24 niches cut into the rock, each niche containing a huge black basalt sarcophagus richly decorated and containing a cow mummy.
To visit it you can enter the hallway and go forward, you will see the sarcophagi, especially one in them that stayed in the hallway, probably due to the fact that it did not pass the entrance to the niche.
Saqqara is home to many other mastabas that, for the most part, have wonderful scenery, even statues still in place. You can usefully enter the mastabas of Neferenptah, Irukaptah, as well as the tombs of Maia and Horemheb.
It is a museum dreamed by Jean-Philippe Lauer, archaeologist who searched all his life Saqqara site, and which was actually realized. (Alas after his death) In tribute, a room is dedicated to him. It is open every day from 9h to 16h, free admission. Explanations are given in English and French.
This museum is composed of several rooms. The one on the left is a reconstruction of Jean-Philippe Lauer's office and library, while the one on the right is dedicated to Saqqara's missions. We see a wooden sarcophagus marked by the name of Imhotep and a lot of statuettes. A film broadcast on televisions reconstructs life at the time of the full activity of the necropolis. The central hall shows the magnificent bronze statue of Imhotep, a frieze of cobras and a part of the blue faience that was found in one of the four blue rooms, under the pyramid of Djoser.
At the end of the museum are two rooms, one on the right and the other on the left. The first is devoted to the architectural evolution of the monuments of Saqqara while the other shows the objects found in the different burials of the plateau.
Learn more about The Imhotep museum.