The step pyramid is remarkable for being the first man-made stone pyramid. It is actually 6 mastabas on top each other. The pyramid was designed by Imhotep, whio eventually himself was worshipped as a god. Some people believe Imhotep's tomb is somewhere on the Saqqarah necropolis.
In addition to Djoser's pyramid are others of Pepi, Teti, Unas, Sekhemket.
There are a number of fine tombs with bas relief and walls inscribed with the Book of the Dead.
Further out is the philosopher's circle , a rather disappointing collection of Greek or Roman busts. The Serapaeum where the Apis Bulls were buried is unfortunately closed.
Still there is a lot to see, and more is being discovered all the time.
The only entrance to Zoser's complex is in the south-east corner of the giant enclosure wall [10,5 metres high] It encloses 150,000 sq m. and is made of limestone There are 14 bastions with gateways, thirteen of which are actually false doors of solid stone
Within a short distance from the Zoser Pyramid is the subterranean tomb of Mereruka, his son and his wife. The highlight of this tomb has to be the intricate and fascinating detail of the wall carvings which portray life in those ancient times. There are scenes of hippo hunts, craftsmen working gold into jewellery and the one I particularly relished were the fisherman setting their nets and traps. The detail was fantastic.
Do make the detour to visit this very special tomb.
First of all, my main tip for this site has to be - make sure you have PLENTY of time for your visit, because it covers a large area, and if you try to cram it all into just an hour or two, you will leave without having made the most of it. I really wish we'd had more time to explore this wonderful place.
See the wikipedia map (link below) for the siting of the numerous monuments.
Before pyramids, tombs for the elite of Egypt were constructed in the form of mastabas, which were flat, rectangular structures with sloping sides. In the 27th century BC, Imhotep built a tomb for the Pharoah Djoser (or Zoser) which consisted of 6 mastabas, decreasing in size, one on top of the other. This was the Step Pyramid, considered to be the world's first large stone building.
If you get the chance try to visit Saqqara. There is the famous Step Pyramid of King Zoser and the amazing tomb of Mereruka not far away.
If you climb the step ladder up onto the mound overlooking the deep excavations at the site you can see off to the south yet more pyramids including the Bent Pyramid of Dashur.
This is a very large mastaba tomb, in fact the largest Old Kingdom tomb at Saqqarah.. It is excellent for giving a clear picture of life in Ancient Egypt. The wall paintings are fairly well preserved.
Mereruka was probably a member of the royal family, and had married the daughter [Shesheshat , aka Waetetkhethar] of Pharaoh Teti, whose pyramid is nearby.
There are 32 chambers in three sections: 21 are devoted to Meruruka who held several high positions : Chief Justice and vizier, Inspector of the priests associated with the Pyramid of Teti, Scribe of the Divine Books, Chief Lector Priest, Overseer of the Royal record Scribes. these titles are inscibed on the jambs of the entrance. There is a14.5 m shaft down to the burial roof where he was laid in his sarcophagus. But this was robbed in early times.
A section for his wife Shesheshat.
A section for his son Meryteti.
There is a good statue of Mereruka coming out of the false door in the large chamber which has 6 square columns . The walls show scenes of wildlife, hunting, industry, playing, as well as family life. For those who cannot get down to Luxor, this tomb is a good example of what can be seen there- and is far older, dating back to the 6th Dynasty
Holes in a corridor once had statues which have been removed to the Museum.
More pictures in the travelogue.
Known as the "Master Butcher of the Great House", Irukaptah built himself a decorated tomb in Saqqara along the causeway to the Pyramid of Unas. The tomb dates back to the 5th Dynasty and is the only one known in Saqqara to contain rock cut statues. These statues (seen in the attached photo) were carved one after the other during the life of Irukaptah and show the progression in his appearance. The last statue is unfinished as Irukaptah died before completion. The opposite wall is carved with several statues of his family. Wall decorations elsewhere show carvings of animal butchering scenes. (Note that photography inside the tomb is strictly forbidden, however, being the only ones in it, our guide allowed us to do so (with no flash), probably looking to make an extra baksheesh).
Tickets to the Saqqara complex also grant admission to the newly opened Imhotep Museum (since 2006), located next to the ticket office. The small but orderly museum contains an excellent collection of artefacts found in the necropolis of Saqqara, as well as useful information on the history of the necropolis. It is definitely well worth a quick visit. See the travelogue "Imhotep Museum" for photos of some of the museum's exhibit.
One of a set of tombs only recently opened to the public, known as "B Tombs", the Tomb of Niankhkhnum & Khnumhotep is one of the most interesting to visit. It was discovered only in 1964 and is located just south of the causeway to the Pyramid of Unas. The tomb dates from the 5th Dynasty (c. 2400 BC) and belonged to two men who shared the title of "Overseer of the Manicurists in the Palace of the King" referring to King Niuserre. Royal manicurists held a very important post in Pharaonic Egypt, due to their very close proximity to the Pharaoh. This pair were therefore able to acquire for themselves an elaborate tomb with beautiful high quality carvings and decorations (see attached photographs). It is thought that the two men, who are depicted with their families, might have been brothers. However, their portrayal in such closeness, holding hands and embracing, is only ever seen between a man and his wife in funerary depictions across Egypt. One theory is that the two men had a more intimate relationship than a fraternal one, which would make them the earliest known same-sex couple in human history... (Note that photography inside the tomb is strictly forbidden, however, being the only ones in it, our guide allowed us to do so (with no flash), probably looking to make an extra baksheesh).
Located just south of the Funerary Complex of Djoser, the 5th Dynasty (c. 2350 BC) Pyramid of Unas is of great archeological importance. Although it was once 43 metres high, it is now little more than a mound of rubble, but whose interior is richly decorated with hieroglyphs. It is the first known Pyramid to have such elaborate decorations, as before it was built, funerary chambers were largely mute. Unfortunately, the interior of the Pyramid of Unas is now closed to the public, having deteriorated due to the large number of visitors. The long processional ramp leading to the Pyramid is partially restored (see photos), though it was once an entirely covered causeway decorated with hierglyphs. Along the sides of the causeway are areas rich in tombs and mastabas of notable individuals who wanted proximity to the Pharaoh in the afterlife.
Having long served as the necropolis of Memphis, one of Ancient Egypt's greatest capitals, Saqqara is rich in funerary structures. It contains a large number of pyramidal tombs, the most prominent of which is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, though many lesser ones have been reduced to little more than rubble. Although most are out of bounds for tourists, some are open to the public. The attached photo shows the Pyramid of Userkaf (closed to the public), once 49 metres high, whose outer casing was removed and used as building material elsewhere.
Saqqara has served as a burial ground for thousands of years. It is thus dotted with numerous tombs and mastabas from various periods and dynasties of Ancient Egypt. While Pharaohs built pyramids and grand burial structures for themselves in Saqqara, their people built mastabas and simpler tombs in close proximity to remain near the Pharaohs in the afterlife. Some tombs and mastabas are open to the public others are not, meanwhile, discoveries continue to be made. Entering at least one tomb or mastaba is highly recommended when visiting Saqqara.
North of the Pyramid of Djoser lie the ruins of the Funerary Temple of Djoser. The Temple was the site of the funerary procession before the burial of Djoser and therefore led into the Pyramid, which was deliberately designed as a confusing labyrinth of corridors to discourage potential robberies. Next to the temple is the Serdab, a small chamber containing an eerie life-size statue of Djoser gazing into the sky through two round holes. Although the original statue was moved to the Antiquities Museum in Cairo, an exact replica has been placed instead visible through the two round holes (see attached photo).
Predating the Giza Pyramids, the funerary step Pyramid of Djoser is considered the first monumental stone construction ever built by man, standing since around 2670 BC! Its construction as a step pyramid was somewhat accidental, as it was originally built as a large, though regular mastaba, i.e. the typical flat square tomb structure. The first structure was then enlarged and a second mastaba was built over it. Eventually, several other mastabas were added to form what became a step Pyramid rising 62 metres. This was a great leap forward in tomb architecture in Egypt and served as a model for future royal tombs in Egypt. The royal architect Imhotep designed the step pyramid for the 3rd dynasty king Djoser (also known as Djeser or Zoser). The Pyramid of Djoser is part of a large walled enclosure containing a hypostyle hall, courtyard and a few other structures, and is the largest and most prominent pyramid in the necropolis of Saqqara.
The Hypostyle Hall leads into the Great South Court. It is a large open area at the footsteps of the Pyramid of Djoser. While the courtyard is now nothing but a barren desert, it was once surrounded by the enclosure's wall. In the south-west corner of the Court, a section of the wall is remarkably well-preserved. The most interesting feature of this wall is the frieze of cobras that once surrounded the entire complex. The cobra represents the goddess Wadjet, who appears on the royal headdresses and crowns in Ancient Egypt. To the south of the courtyard, is a large hole in the ground, 28 metres deep, which was Djoser's second funerary complex (another identical hole and funerary complex is found underneath the Pyramid). The blue faience tiles decorating it can be found at the Imhotep Museum by the ticket office to the Saqqara complex.