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Memphis is the English name for the present-day site of one of the great ancient capital cities of Egypt. It is a great starting point if you are planning your trip to Egypt. Find out how to visit and what to see in Memphis.
Where Is Memphis and How to Get There
Memphis is located approximately 20 kilometers south of Cairo. It will take you about 45 minutes to reach Memphis traveling by car from Cairo.
Honestly, there is no better way of getting to Memphis than to get a taxi. Your hotel should be able to help you with getting a taxi. Another option is to hire a driver and a guide for a day or two and check off all the attractions in and around Cairo.
There are many organized tours that will take you all around Cairo and stop at all the major attractions. Again, your hotel should be able to make recommendations and get you on an organized tour of the main attractions in Cairo.
A trip to Memphis can easily be combined with a visit to Saqqara, a vast necropolis site and a place where the building of pyramids first began in Egypt. Check out How to Visit and What to See in Saqqara, Egypt (Guide to Visiting Saqqara).
Image Credit: Map data ©2020 ORION-ME
Interesting Facts About Memphis
- 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 the god Ptah.
- The original name of the city was Hiku-Ptah. Later on, it was known as Inbu-Hedj, which means white walls. By the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE), it was known as Men-Nefer, which means beautiful harbor. Finally, it was renamed Memphis by the Greeks.
What to See in Memphis
Today, what is left of Memphis is collected in the Open Air Museum.
First of all, what you will see is the result of organized excavations in 1850′ by Auguste-Edouard Mariette. Mariette was the first one to reveal the evidence of the great temple of Ptah.
Second, it is a result of a major excavation conducted by Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie from 1907 to 1912. His discoveries included the pillared hall of the temple of Ptah, the pylon of Ramses II, the great alabaster sphinx, and many others.
Open Air Museum in Memphis / How to Visit and What to See in Memphis, Egypt
Guide to Visiting Memphis, Egypt
Once you start touring the Open Air Museum, make sure not to miss the granite statue of Ramses II.
The granite statue of Ramses II / How to Visit and What to See in Memphis, Egypt
Second, make sure to locate the granite coffins, commemorative tablets, and more statues from later periods.
Furthermore, do not miss the giant alabaster sphinx dating back to the New Kingdom and still standing at the original spot guarding the entrance to the temple of god Ptah.
It is estimated that it weighs more than 80 tons.
Alabaster Sphinx in Memphis Open Air Museum / How to Visit and What to See in Memphis, Egypt
Guide to Visiting Memphis, Egypt
In addition, there is an 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.
I think one person that I would like to mention again is Auguste-Edouard Mariette, not only for his discoveries of the great temple of god Ptah but also for establishing the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO) in 1859, which became responsible for the exploration as well as conservation of Egypt’s archaeological treasures and prevention of massive exportation of Egyptian artifacts abroad.
How to Visit Memphis - Things to Know Before You Go
- The Memphis Open Air Museum is open daily from 8 am till 4 pm.
- The entrance ticket to the Open Air Museum in Memphis costs 80 EGP. By the way, the entrance ticket covers the indoor museum which houses the colossal statue of Ramses II as well.
- As you start traveling through Egypt, you will realize that there are so many different rules pertaining to visiting the sites. Some places do not allow guides inside their structures, some do. So, just stay flexible and adjust as you tour Egypt.
By the way, you do not need a guide to visit the Open Air Museum in Memphis. And, I think you will do very well on your own. I found the entire place rather well marked and signed. However, it is always a good idea to have a knowledgeable guide by your side. You will learn so much more! My guide was awesome and I found out so many details about this ancient capital city.
- There are many places that you will visit in Egypt that have restrictions on taking pictures. Some places do not allow cameras, however, cell phones are allowed. Needless to say, no matter what, always be ready and have your camera in your backpack and a cell phone as well.
At the Open Air Museum in Memphis, you are allowed to use your camera and a cell phone to take pictures. Make sure to have your camera ready to capture some spectacular close-ups of the colossal statue of Ramses II.