Friday, February 27, 2009

Memphis, Egypt

I made it to the land of the pharaohs and pyramids! It is so surreal to be here and to see things that are over 5000 years old. We arranged a tour, which started today to see the must-see items while in Cairo.

Our first stop was the Memphis, Egypt. Memphis is the Greek name for the administrative capital of ancient Egypt, which has its historical roots dating back as far as the Early Dynastic Period. The origin of the city’s foundation is credited to the ‘mythical’ first king, Menes, who is said to have united Upper and Lower Egypt for the first time around 3100 BC. Traditionally Menes was thought to have enclosed his city within white mudbrick walls which gave it the ancient name of ‘Inbw-hedj’, meaning ‘White Walls’ or ‘White Fortress’ and it probably once stood on the banks of the Nile before the river bed gradually shifted eastwards. The capital’s name Memphis is thought to derive from the Egyptian ‘Mennefer’, the ancient name of the pyramid complex of Pepy I (Dynasty VI) which is situated close by at South Saqqara.

Memphis is about 12 miles south of Cairo and there is little left of the city today, at least which can be seen. Originally, the city had many fine temples, palaces and gardens. However, today, other than the scattered ruins, most of the city is gone, or lies beneath cultivated fields, Nile silt and local villages.

There are some things to see including:

Alabaster Sphinx: The Alabaster Sphinx was carved in honor of an unknown Pharaoh most likely during the eighteenth dynasty, between 1700 and 1400 BC. Although there was not an inscription, the facial features suggest that it was in honor of Hatshepsut or Amenhotep II or Amenhotep III. (This is not the Sphinx that is more famous...we will get to that later!)Status of Ramesses II (also known as Ramesses The Great): This statue actually visited Memphis, TN back in the 1980s during a huge Egyptian exhibit. I remember when that exhibit was in Memphis and visited it as a student as it was a huge deal at the time. Ramesses II is often regarded as Egypt's greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh. Colossus of Ramesses II: This is the twin to the statue above, but MUCH larger standing at 33 feet. It is HUGE. The fallen colossus was found near the south gate of the temple of Ptah, located about 30 miles from the huge limestone statue of Ramesses. Some of the original colors are still partly preserved.The first pyramid that we saw was the Saqqara/Sakkara pyramid. It is the Step Pyramid of King Zoser, which goes back to 2700 BC. It is one of the oldest stone structures in the world! It was built for King Zoser, one of the greatest Kings of the third dynasty (2721-2780 BC). Originally meant as a tomb, this Pyramid was designed and built by his great architect, Imhotep. The Pyramid is built as a step Pyramid, 60 meters high, and consisting of 6 steps; each one built on top of each other and smaller than the one below.

Today, it is considered as one of the oldest stone structures built by man, and the first time the Ancient Egyptians would attempt to use limestone. Zoser’s Pyramid is entirely built of limestone, small bricks of limestone, and not of the best quality, and yet it has remained for more than 4700 years! The Pyramid’s four sides are very nearly aligned to the four cardinal points. On the northern side is the original entrance of the Pyramid.
The weather may look nice in the pictures, but it was very cold and VERY windy (as you will see in later pictures). Can you believe that the desert gets cold? Me either!! I was freezing and the wind was out of control. There was even a sand storm later in the day! I had sand in places sand does not need to be!!

The Tomb of Mereruka: We also visited the Tomb of Mereruka. This is the largest tomb in Sakkara. It consists of 32 rooms and was built for Mereruka and his family and was discovered in 1893. Dating back to the time of the 6th Dynasty (2240 BC), the tomb is divided into sections where Mereruka and his wife and son are buried. The walls of the tomb are decorated with marvellous scenes, illustrating the daily life in Ancient Egypt. It is also filled with many details of Mereruka, with his family and servants.

No pictures were allowed inside so I was only able to capture a couple outside the tomb.
As with this post and further posts, I will not be able to get into the history of this region and the things that I am seeing as much as I would like to. There is just too much to tell. I was never interested in history growing up; however, living in Europe and visiting so many historical places and actually seeing history has made it more interesting to me.

Up next, more pyramids!


  1. Anonymous10:30 PM

    I saw this title and thought you were kidding...I feel like a dummy! I had no idea! I love the pictures! Can't believe it was cold...Keep 'em coming, I'm learning a lot!!!

  2. Isn't that amazing! Something that you once saw in your hometown on exhibit, to now see it in its original native land... that just gives me chills :) That right there would make the world seem smaller to me, at the same time you are discovering how big it is!

    5000 years old, Tippa! There are hardly words to describe. Love it! Still praying for your safety and well-being!

  3. Jennie B.12:19 PM

    Sometimes I feel like I am 5000 years old. HA! These are really amazing. I was so excited when I got your email with the pyramids. I forwarded it to my mom and she thought it was WAY cool.

    Enjoy every minute, and then get excited because you have a BEAUTIFUL house to come home to! It looks so so good.

    Be safe!

  4. I had to keep reminding myself that you weren't at an exhibit, you're IN EGYPT. So crazy to me. Seriously.