Located just east of the Step Pyramid, the House of the North and House of the South are shrines representing Upper and Lower Egypt. The House of the North is decorated with papyrus, while the South is decorated with lotus, the plants symbolising each region and their unity. These shrines contain what is considered the oldest tourist graffiti known, dating as far back as the 13th century BC!
The Hypostyle Hall leads into the Great Courtyard of the Complex of Djoser. The Hall consists of 40 columns, each carved to resemble bundles of papyrus plants, and statues were once placed between the columns. It is interesting to note that, unlike columns seen in Luxor and Aswan, these were not decorated with hieroglyphs. Such practice was not yet the trend in the 3rd Dynasty, when the Complex of Djoser was built.
The vast funerary complex of Djoser was once entirely surrounded by a high wall. The entrance into the complex was through a door in the south east corner. Only small sections of this wall have survived, but the south east section, through which lies the entrance, has been restored to enable the visitor to imagine what it was once like. The entrance leads into the hypostyle hall.
The mastaba of Mereruka is really worth a visit. It's the largest one in Saqqarah with it's 32 (!) rooms. Mereruka was the the son in law to Pharao Teti, who was the first pharao of the 6th dynasty. The tomb has som really remarkalbe wallpaintings showing scenes of hunting, goldsmith working and another one showing what happens to people who not are paying their taxes.
There is a sacrificial chamber at the far end of the mastaba with six pillars. In this chamber a statue of Mereruka was found intact.
This is the place to go if you would like to see some real Egyptian hieroglyphs. You are not allowed to take photos in here though.
South of Djoser's Pyramed is Una's Pyramid from the fifth dynasty. Nowadays this pyramid is now ruined, and looks more like a small hill than a royal pyramid.
It was investigated by both Perring and Lepsius, but it was Gaston Maspero who first found the entry to the chambers in 1881, where he found texts covering the walls of the burial chambers, these together with others found in nearby pyramids are now known as the Pyramid Texts. These are the oldest known examples of decorative script found in a Pharaoh tomb.
In the burial chamber itself the remains of a mummy were found, including the skull, right arm and shin, but whether these belong to Unas is not certain.
Unfortunaitly you can't enter this pyramid since it's almost ruined. But you can visit many of the 200 mastabas and tombs surrounding it, many of them are very interesting.
During the Third Dynasty of Ancient Egypt (27th century BC), the architect Imhotep built Egypt's first step pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser, by building a series of six successively smaller mastabas (an earlier form of tomb structure), one atop of another. This is the oldest, still standig pyramid in Egypt.
The pyramid used to be sorrunded by a 10,5 m high wall made out of
limestone. Some of the wall has been restored and now serves as the entrence to the pyramid area. A korridor made out of 40 columns lead you out the southern yard.
Located at the east side of the pyramid you can find the oldest examples of tourist scribble from 1100 BC.
On the north side of the pyramid you can see a painted statue of Djoser. The statue it though a copy the original, which can be found in the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
Quite interesting to visit. Quite nice to have a guide here if possible, very much history and names to keep tack on.
Worth a visit.
The necropolis at Saqqarah was used throughout the thousands of years of Egyptian history. The oldest pyramids dating to the Old Kingdom are fairly dilapidated like those of Sekemkhet, Unas and Teti.
The latter two can be entered and it is worthwhile doing so as the walls have the earliest versions of the Book of the Dead inscribed on the walls.
As well as the tomb of Mereruka mention in an earlier tip, the Tomb of Kagemni is also intersting, as is the Mastaba of Ti.
The Philosophers Circle is a disappointment having just a few busts, and The Serapaeum I have never found open.
New discoveries are being found all the time, so it is a valuable site, and spread over quite a large area.
Good sturdy shoes are advisable as there is no road access to some of the places.
A newly constructed museum was opened in 2006, but I have not seen it. It is at the foot of the necropolis after the ticket office..
The step pyramid of Djoser was the first man-made stone structure. It began as a typical mastaba tomb until the architect Imhotep had the idea of extending the mastaba , and then turning it into a pyramid made of 6 steps.
The enclosure round it is also amazing, being a very beautiful wall imitating the natural materials that were used for building prior to this.
Pillars are connected to the wall, as these were the first and it was not known if free-standing pillars would survive. They are imitations of the bundles of reeds that would have formed the houses.
One of the tombs, and the largest at Saqqarah , if not in the whole of Egypt, is that of Mereruka who married into the royal family. There are many rooms, fine wall pictures depicting many aspects of everyday life and an excellent statue of Mereruka coming out of the Underworld from a False door.
The pyramid of Teti is nothing much to look at- a heap of rubble, but go down into the tomb and you will see a chamber with a sarcophagus. The ceiling is painted with six-pointed stars, and the walls have inscriptions from the Book of the Dead.
Similar is the Pyramid of Unas on the southern side of the Djoser pyramid. It can be entered and also has the Book of the Dead.
There is probably more to see at Saqqarah than any of the other pyramid fields in Egypt. However, if you go on a big coach tour you may see the mortuary temple and the Step Pyramid and off to other sights in Cairo. You really need a good part of a day to experience Saqqarah right! Either hire a taxi for the day from Cairo or get a private guide and plan on seeing the whole place. Our guide Ayamn (http://www.egyptguide.4t.com/) was superb. He gave us the time and the information that help make the whole extremely memorable and enjoyable,
Heb Sed Court is the place where Heb Sed Festival took place. It was a Jubilee of 30th year of the reign, sometimes celebrated in a shorter period rather than in 30 years. The idea was to demonstrate that the king is still able to rule the country.
The chapels in the Heb Sed Court again have symbolic meaning. And again they were built in the way before the stone was used but rather mud-bricks, wood, etc. The chapel on the picture has unique architecture in Egyptian history, representing the plant Herculaneum giganteum.
(aka Palaces or Houses)
Some of the archaeologists believe both pavilions had no practical meaning but rather symbolic one and symbolize the Upper and the Lower Egypt. They are located next to the Mortuary temple but are not connected to each other.
Pay attention to the following sites:
The graffiti in the Southern Pavilion date back to the 18th and 19th dynasties. They are the first historical evidence that the complex belonged to Djoser.
The three papyrus columns of the North pavilion are the oldest ones of their kind.
The Arabic word serdab means cellar. Next to the North Palace, in west direction, there is another courtyard. Serdab is the a chamber with a life-size limestone statue of King Djoser inside with two holes in the wall looking to the yard. The original statue is in the Cairo museum, this one is a replica.
The Step Pyramid is the earliest stone-made monument. It was built by the architect Imhotep for the pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, Djoser.
Djoser, or as his real name name was, Netjerikhet, broke up the tradition with his decision his burial place to be in Saqqara instead of in Abydos, the burial place of the most of his ancestors from the 1st and from the 2nd Dynasty. The pyramid has the shape of 6 mastabas laid one on the top of the other. So, not only the material but also the form of the royal tomb were innovations for the time.
Why this form of the pyramid was chosen? One answer I heard on my journey was that this is how the sun at sun rise in the desert looks like. And it is true!