Updated: May 21
Welcome to Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt! This city is steeped in history and is home to some of the most iconic structures in the world. We drove about 45 minutes south of Cairo to this UNESCO World Heritage site with lots of ancient Egyptian sites to explore. Let's start with the statue of Ramses II, which is one of the most impressive ancient statues you're ever going to see. Ramses II, born about 1300 BC, was a powerful pharaoh who reigned for over six decades, and this towering statue was erected in his honor. It’s laying flat down on its back now, but can you imagine when it was standing - over 30 feet tall and weighing in at nearly 90 tons? Now that is one big statue. How those ancient people handled something like this is amazing.
But the statue of Ramses II isn't the only impressive thing in Memphis. Just a short distance away is the alabaster sphinx, which is another incredible feat of ancient architecture. This massive statue stands at over 13 feet tall and weighs in at around 84 tons. It's truly awe-inspiring, and the intricate carvings and details on the statue make it clear why the ancient Egyptians were considered masters of their craft.
But the ancient capital of Memphis isn't just about statues and sphinxes - it's also home to one of the most important necropolises in the world. (Necropolises is just a fancy ancient word for “cemetery”). This cemetery is filled with tombs, temples and pyramids. The temple is where they prepared the king’s body and did the mummification before placing them in the pyramids. The famous Step Pyramid of Djoser is located right here in Sakkara. This pyramid is the oldest stone structure of it’s size in the world, and it was really the start of the architecture that the Egyptians were famous for.
In addition to the Step Pyramid, there are also numerous other tombs and temples in Sakkara that are well worth a visit. Here you see a variety of carvings and hieroglyphics that offer a glimpse into what life was like thousands of years ago.
For lunch today, we headed to the Mena House. This famous hotel and restaurant have been here for many, many years and have been visited by many famous people. It’s easy to see why—it’s located right beside the great pyramid. What a view to have while eating lunch. After lunch, we headed out to the Giza complex itself.
The Great Sphinx and the Giza complex are two of the most iconic symbols of ancient Egypt. The Sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, and it stands guard by the entrance to the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Giza complex consists of three pyramids - the largest of which is the Pyramid of Khufu - as well as smaller pyramids, temples, and other structures.
When you first walk through the temple and out to the Great Sphinx, you just have to stop and stare. It stands at over 66 feet tall and over 240 feet long, (that’s the biggest part of a football field long). It is one of the largest statues in the world. The Sphinx is believed to have been built during the reign of Pharaoh Khafre, and it is thought to represent the pharaoh himself.
But the Sphinx is just one piece of the puzzle. The Giza complex is home to the three largest pyramids in Egypt, and they are considered some of the greatest architectural wonders in the world. The largest of the pyramids - the Pyramid of Khufu - stands at over 450 feet tall, and it was originally covered in gleaming white limestone. This outer layer of stone has been taken off through the centuries and used to build other buildings, but the sheer size and scale of these structures is mind-boggling, and it's hard to imagine how they were built without the help of modern machinery.
It's also here that you can get a sample ride on a camel. The ride only lasts about ten minutes, but it's a great chance to get a picture of yourself on a camel at the Great Pyramids (provided your phone doesn't go dead right when the picture is to be taken, like happened to our friends here). You on a camel at the Pyramids of Giza - now that's one to show the grandkids!
(To see more of the area, double click on the photos below to enlarge and scroll)