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.
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.