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BEST DAY TRIP FROM CAIRO -
DAHSHUR, MEMPHIS AND SAQQARA (with MAPS and PHOTOS)
There is a lot to do in Cairo and you could easily spend a few days exploring the city.
Sometimes, it is nice to take a break from the busy city life and discover some places around it.
Here is my favorite day trip from Cairo during which you will explore Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara!
WHAT IS THE ORDER YOU NEED TO SEE THESE SIGHTS?
- First of all, the day trip from Cairo to Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara can be done in any order you wish.
- However, if you look at the map, it just makes sense to start the day trip from Cairo by going to the farthest point and then work your way back to Cairo.
- So, I suggest driving straight to and making the first stop at Dahshur, and then, on the way back, making a second stop at Memphis, and finally going and making the third stop at Saqqara.
- Second, the day trip from Cairo to Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara is going to take you a little more than half a day. So, once you are done touring Saqqara, it just makes perfect sense to head on to Giza and spend the later part of the day exploring the treasures of Giza.
MAP OF THE DAY TRIP FROM CAIRO
Image credit: Map data ©2020 ORION-ME
HOW TO GET TO DAHSHUR, MEMPHIS AND SAQQARA
- WITH A PRIVATE GUIDE AND A DRIVER
I think that having a private driver and a guide is the best way to go on this day trip from Cairo and explore Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara. This option gives you total flexibility. Also, having a knowledgeable guide by your side is simply invaluable.
Now, if you are staying in one of the hotels in Cairo, your hotel will be more than happy to arrange for you a driver and a guide. Needless to say, this is an expensive option, but it is all worth it.
- ON A TOUR
You can ask your hotel for a day trip tour from Cairo that goes to Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara. It is probably one of the least expensive options. But, it does not give you much flexibility.
- BY TAXI
Another option is to just book a taxi and head to Dahshur, then Memphis, and finally Saqqara. You will always be able to hire a guide right at the entrance to the Dahshur, Memphis and Saqqara Archaeological Sites.
Dahshur will be the first stop on your day trip from Cairo.
Dahshur is located about 35 km from Cairo. It should take you about an hour to reach Dahshur traveling by car from Cairo.
Image Credit: Map dato ©2020 ORION_ME
Dahshur is a royal necropolis and it is famous for its two pyramids, which are the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
Both pyramids are one the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt.
THE BENT PYRAMID
The Bent Pyramid was the first pyramid built at Dahshur. It was built around 2600 BC under the rule of Pharaoh Sneferu.
Unfortunately, it proved to be an unsuccessful attempt at building a smooth sided pyramid.
- First of all, the structural weight calculations of the pyramid placed on the soft ground proved to be erroneous.
- Second, the different blocks used for building the pyramid were not distributed appropriately causing the angle of the pyramid to be off.
So, if you look at the pyramid you can see that the bottom 147-foot section was built at a steeper 54-degree angle, while the top section was finished at a flatter 43-degree angle.
What is really cool is that you can get inside the pyramid! You will be able to get to its two chambers through a narrow approximately 79-metre (259-foot) tunnel. However, I need to mention that the tunnel is rather narrow and it changes its elevation at steep angles. Needless to say, make sure you are up to it!
ARE YOU UP TO GOING INSIDE THE BENT PYRAMID?
- If you are claustrophobic or have any breathing problems, then it would be wise not to go inside either the Bent Pyramid or the Red Pyramid. The tunnels are long and narrow with poor lighting and no ventilation.
- In addition, you need to be in a fair physical shape to be able to climb the staircases at sharp angles.
THE RED PYRAMID
The Red Pyramid is named for its reddish color that comes from the red limestone that was used for its construction. However, as my tour guide told me, the pyramid was not always red! Actually, its color was white, since it was covered with the most exquisite Tura limestone.
WHAT IS TURA LIMESTONE?
- Tura was the primary quarry for limestone in ancient Egypt.
- The limestone from Tura was the finest and whitest of all the Egyptian quarries, so it was used for facing stones for the richest tombs.
- The Tura limestone was deep underground and instead of open-pit mining, the miners tunneled deep underground to cut large stones out, leaving some limestone behind to support the caverns left behind.
By the way, you can still see some of these stones at the pyramid’s base. Unfortunately, most of the Tura limestone was taken and used for buildings in Cairo. As a result, the red limestone was revealed.
The Red Pyramid was built at 43-degree angle. It is the same angle as the upper portion of the Bent Pyramid was built. If you look at it, you can see that it has somewhat stumpy appearance compared to the other Egyptian pyramids. However, what is important here, is that it was the first successful construction of a smooth-sided pyramid.
You can go inside the pyramid through the entrance cut high on the north side of the pyramid.
The video will give you a pretty good idea what it is like inside the pyramid and if it is something that you would like to do.
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR DAHSHUR
- The opening hours of the Dahshur Archaelogical Site are from 9 am till 5 pm
- The cost of the entrance ticket is 60 EGP
- Moreover, parking costs 10 EGP
- Also, if you want to use your camera inside the pyramid, then you will need an additional ticket, which costs 300 EGP. However, if you just use your iPhone to take pictures inside the pyramid, then there are no additional charges
- The tunnels inside the pyramids are narrow with no ventilation, if you are claustrophobic or have breathing problems, I suggest that you skip going inside
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The day trip from Cairo continues and after visiting Dahshur, it is time to head to Memphis.
It will take you no more than 20 minutes to reach Memphis traveling by car from Dahshur.
Image Credit: Map data ©2020 ORION_ME
Memphis is the English name for the present-day site of one of the great ancient capital cities of Egypt. It is believed that the city of Memphis was founded at the time of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt around 3100 BC by the Pharaoh Narmer, who was the first pharaoh of the first dynasty.
The location of Memphis was very strategic. It sat at the entrance to the Nile River Valley near the Giza plateau. It is believed that it was Egypt’s nucleus of commerce and trade distributing food and merchandise throughout the kingdom.
In addition, Memphis served as an important religious center and a worship place of god Ptah.
Today, what is left of the ancient city is collected and displayed at the Memphis Open Air Museum.
THE GIANT ALABASTER SPHINX
You certainly will not miss the giant alabaster sphinx. It dates back to the New Kingdom and it is still standing at the original spot guarding the entrance to what was once the temple of god Ptah.
It is estimated that it weights more than 80 tons.
THE COLOSSAL STATUE OF RAMSES II
Now, make sure not to miss the indoor museum housing the magnificent fallen colossal limestone statue of Ramses II. I think for me, that was the highlight of the tour of Memphis.
The statue is absolutely amazing and you need to see it to appreciate the sublime details!
As my guide told me, the statue is 10 m (33 ft) tall. It was discovered by Giovanni Caviglia in 1820 near the entrance to the great temple of god Ptah.
THE GRANITE COFFINS, COMMEMORATIVE TABLETS, AND STATUES
Moreover, take your time and meander around the Open Air Museum in Memphis.
What caught my attention were very impressive statues of Ramses II. In addition, my tour guide pointed out to me the statue of the triad of Memphis which includes the great god Ptah, his wife Sekhmet, and their son Nefertum. However, I was told that the sculpture depicting Nefertum was replaced with that of Ramses II.
Also, at the Memphis Open Air Museum, I saw the statues depicting goddess Hathor. I spotted that same statue many times while touring Egypt.
Goddess Hathor was usually represented as a female figure with the ears of a cow.
WHY WAS GODDESS HATHOR IMPORTANT IN ANCIENT EGYPT?
Hathor was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion who played a wide variety of roles.
- As a sky deity, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, and thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs.
- She was one of several goddesses who acted as the Eye of Ra, Ra’s feminine counterpart, and in this form she had a vengeful aspect that protected him from his enemies.
- Her beneficent side represented music, dance, joy, love, sexuality and maternal care, and she acted as the consort of several male deities and the mother of their sons. These two aspects of the goddess exemplified the Egyptian conception of femininity.
- Hathor crossed boundaries between worlds, helping deceased souls in the transition to the afterlife.
INTREPID SCOUT POINTERS FOR MEMPHIS:
- The opening hours of the Memphis Open Air Museum are from 8 am till 4 pm
- The cost of the entrance ticket is 80 EGP
- The entrance ticket covers the indoor museum which houses the fallen statue of Ramses II
- Make sure to read my post: What to See in Memphis – Your Guide to Visiting Memphis
Once you are done visiting Memphis, it is time to continue your day trip from Cairo and start heading to Saqqara.
It takes about 20-25 minutes to get to Saqqara from Memphis traveling by car.
Image Credit: Map data ©2020 ORION_ME
Saqqara, also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English, is the vast necropolis site of the ancient capital city of Memphis. And, this is the place where the building of pyramids first began in Egypt.
There is a lot to see at the Saqqara Archaeological Site, however, I recommend that you start your tour of Saqqara at the Imhotep Museum. Also, make sure to check out my post: Saqqara – Top Tips for Visiting Saqqara in Cairo, Egypt
THE IMHOTEP MUSEUM
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Imhotep Museum is named in honor of the Egyptian architect Imhotep who is credited with designing the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser as well as the whole complex around the pyramid.
It is a great starting point for visiting the Saqqara Archaeological Site.
You will be able to see archaeological findings from various excavations in Saqqara.
THE STEP PYRAMID OF DJOSER
The Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara was constructed by Imhotep. It was the first pyramid ever built in Egypt. In addition, as my guide told me, the Step Pyramid of Djoser is the oldest surviving stone building in the world! It was built in the period from 2630 to 2611 BC.
The Step Pyramid is 60 meters high (204 feet) and consists of six steps.
THE STEP PYRAMID FUNERARY COMPLEX
The Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara was a part of a funerary complex consisting of temples, courtyards, shrines, and living quarters for the priests.
The complex was surrounded by a wall. And, interestingly, as my guide told me, the wall had 13 false doors which were cut into the wall. In addition, there was a trench surrounding the wall. All of this, to protect, defer and disco
urage any invading intruders.
What remains today of the Step Pyramid Funerary Complex is still well preserved. Make sure to take some cool pictures of the beautiful Hypostyle Hall at the Temple of Djoser.
THE TOMB OF KA-GMNI
The tomb of Ka-gmni consists of eight decorated chambers and five storage rooms.
The decorations in the first chamber show scenes depicting fishing and fowling. However, what caught my attention were splendid depictions of birds and animals. Make sure not to miss beautiful reliefs of offerings bearers. You can find out all the details about the tomb and check out my pictures in my post: Saqqara – Top Tips for Visiting Saqqara in Cairo, Egypt. Plus, learn how the Step Pyramid of Djoser was constructed!
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR SAQQARA:
- Saqqara site is open daily for visitors. In the summer (May through August), Saqqara is open from 8 am till 5 pm. During winter months (September through April), it is open from 8 am till 4 pm.
- The cost of the entrance ticket is 180 EGP. The entrance ticket covers both, the Saqqara Archaeological Site and the Imhotep Museum.
- Make sure to read my post: Saqqara – Top Tips for Visiting
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