Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Step Pyramids of Saqqara

Most people living in Cairo / visiting Cairo would have been to the Step Pyramid of Saqqarra..Well, despite all my travels, I had only seen the Step Pyramid from the outside, never ventured inside the complex. This is despite sending tons of guests to see the pyramid!

According to historians, the Step Pyramid complex holds a very special place in the history of Egyptian architecture as it was here, that limestone was first used on a large scale as a construction material, and here the idea of a monumental royal tomb in the form of a pyramid was given shape.

Since hubby was out of town, and, I had the time, decided to go see the Saqqarra pyramids.

Near the ticket office is the small Imhotep Museum which contains the sarcophagus of Imhotep, who is credited with building Egypt's first pyramid. He is recognized as a doctor, a priest, scribe, sage, poet, astrologer, and a vizier and chief minister to Djoser, the second king of Egypt's third dynasty.

The colours from centuries ago are still bright and the detailing absolutely clear!
The Step Pyramid of Djoser! While many credit it to be the first known pyramid to mankind, recent findings seem to suggest step pyramids of earlier vintage, but as per popular concensus it is still considered the first known pyramid to mankind!

It is believed that this pyramid marks the transition of funeral tombs from a mastaba to a proper pyramid. In fact, the pyramid probably started out life as a mastaba and was subsequently added to, which explains the structure and the distinct steps...
There is a large facade through which you enter the complex, and, walk into a colonnaded entrance.

The colonnaded entrance contains 40 columns - 20 on each side. They are considered to represent the provinces of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The corridor opens into a rectangular vestibule which served as the final entrance to the courtyard. I understand that this courtyard used to serve as a running field for the King's Sed Festival during which the king would demonstrate to the people his continuing physical prowess and ability.

The south tomb's chapel. Its exterior has niches over which a frieze of cobras protect the facility..
The carvings above the entrance of the tomb of Inefrt..

The name of the Prince Inefrt written in heirogyphics at the entrance of the tomb.
Frescos on the wall at the entrance to the inner chamber of the tomb..

Heirogyphics on a false door in the tomb....
Original colours on the frescos from over 3000 years ago....

I can just imagine what this must have looked like when the colours were still bright!I understand that there are two other tombs which are in a better condition, but did not go in there this time.

Another engraving at the entrance to another tomb...

The pyramid of Unnas, the last king of the 5th dynasty. The pyramid is infinitely more well known than the man who built it, because for the first time in the history of the excavation of pyramids, they discovered 128 magical spells of the Pyramid Text on the walls of its subterranean chambers!
The duck like figure at the bottom represents the number 1000. The fresco indicates sacrifices made of 1000 cows, 1000 horses, 1000 deer etc...

In the shadows of Dsojer's pyramids, stands the pyramid of Userkaf who was considered the founder of the 5th Dynasty.His pyramid was called "Pure are the (cult) places of Userkaf", but today, in keeping with its state of disrepair, locally its known as the "ruined pyramid".
The duo at Saqqara...

I am glad that I did make the trip. Now my son and I are hoping to be able to go see the new pyramid that they discovered at Saqqara!


Connie said...

I love the Pyramids at Saqqara! I have only been with little kids, so I spend as much of my time chasing them around as I do listening to the tour guides, but it is hard not to FEEL the history at the site. The art work is stunning.

Manisha said...

Connie, it is fascinating, isn't it? I cant help but marvel at all that the accomplished so many centuries ago! Things that have stood the test oftime..