Saqqara was the most important necropolis of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis and the site of the famous Step Pyramid of Zoser, the first in the world according to scholars, and also one of the oldest large stone structures. This is the most important point of interest to visit Saqqara, but there are also other temples and small pyramids located next to the tombs of prestigious names and pharaohs such as Mereruka, Kagemni, Ankhmahor, Idut and Ti.


The entire archaeological area of Saqqara measures about 9 square kilometers and is located on the west bank of the Nile River, being the largest necropolis of antiquity. It is a group of tombs belonging to the First Dynasty and will remain the necropolis of the successive dynasties of the entire ancient empire until the middle empire decided to abandon it. Only with the new empire Saqqara would be used again as a necropolis for the royal tombs, gradually it would be abandoned and replaced by the Valley of the Kings.

It is a must-see site to understand a part of the spirituality of ancient Egypt. They believed that their soul, which they called Kâ, was the part of a whole, that it grew in all things and that, from the beyond, it returned to earth as a river. A vision that meant that every living being was part of a cycle in which the mind was constantly renewed, a cycle represented by the sun that rises every morning in the East and goes to bed every evening in the West (which is why the East is represented as the realm of the living and the West as the realm of the dead). The Nile River was the natural border of these two worlds and that is why the ancient Egyptians built their necropolises on its banks. And Saqqara, of course, was no exception.

Points of interest in Saqqara

  • Step Pyramid. It was built by the famous Imhotep, who is considered the first recognized architect in history, during the rule of the pharaoh Zoser, belonging to the III dynasty, around 2,630 BC. The Step Pyramid was built as the most important point of the pharaoh’s funerary complex. It is 140 meters long, 60 meters high and 118 meters wide. It is built with small blocks in a style similar to adobe and its importance lies in the fact that it was fundamental as an inspiration for the pharaoh Cheops to decide to start the construction of the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Archaic tombs on the north side. To the north of Saqqara are the large groups of archaic tombs belonging to the First Dynasty and the Third Dynasty. There is also the Temple of Isis and a long alley bordered by a Sphinx that separates the oldest tombs from other newer funerary complexes belonging to the Fifth Dynasty.
  • Pyramids and complexes on the south side. The famous Step Pyramid of Zoser is located on the southern flank of Saqqara, in addition to several outstanding funerary complexes: Menkaouré, Sekmenket and Userkaf. In this area there are also tombs of many rulers and nobles of the Fifth Dynasty and the so-called Necropolis of the New Kingdom, built centuries later, during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Another point of interest south of Saqqara is the Serapeum, a temple dedicated to the Apis of God-Toro.
  • A monastery at Saqqara. In the southern area, where the tombs of the new empire are located, there is a curiosity: the monastery of St. Jeremiah. A large part of the building, now in ruins, was created in 470 and enlarged during the 6th century. The Arabs attacked it in the 6th century, it had to be rebuilt and since 960 it has been abandoned.
  • Napoleonic interest. Although before Napoleon Saqqara had already been studied, it was with his arrival that it acquired the relevance it has today. The Napoleonic expedition landed in Alexandria in 1798, at which time the Step Pyramid of Zoser was hidden in the sand and rubble. The first exploration to study this pyramid of Zoser dates from these years, through General Enrico Menu von Minutoli (1772-1846), head of the scientific mission, sent to Egypt in 1818 by the Prussian government. It would be the first in a series of archaeologists and explorers who would become interested and obsessed with Saqqara, an inexhaustible source of Egyptian treasures: the Italian Egyptologist Girolamo Segato (1792-1836), Colonel Richard W. Howard-Vyse (1784-1853), the archaeologist Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884) and the Frenchman Auguste Edouard Mariette (1821-1881) who managed to extend the site of Saqqara to what we know today and to whom we owe the discovery of the Serapeum on November 12, 1851.
  • Sacred temples. Saqqara has many sacred temples dedicated to the gods: Anubeion, for the jackal god Anubis, near the pyramid of Thetis; Serapeum, for the bull god Apis, north of the pyramid of Zoser; Bubasteion, an area dedicated to the goddess Bastet.
  • Perpetual excavations. The site of Saqqara, being so ancient and so vast, is the subject of perpetual excavations and at every moment new tombs, temples and valuable objects are discovered that continue to write the history of the Egypt of the early pharaohs.
  • Fetal position. In archaic tombs, the deceased were buried in the fetal position and wrapped in a reed mat. Many are excavated inside the mastabas, rectangular buildings with sloping walls and two parts: the chapel, to celebrate the funeral cult, and the vault, where the deceased was buried.
  • The Imhotep Museum. Since 2006, Saqqara has had this museum dedicated to the world’s first architect. You can see sarcophagi and mummies found right here, as well as many everyday objects from the ancient civilization. It was created by the French Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer.

How to get to Saqqara

Saqqara is located south of Cairo and 15 km south of the necropolis of Giza, opposite the city of Memphis. If you are staying in the Egyptian capital, the best way to get there if you go on your own is by cab or private car, with the price previously agreed upon. But the best option is to hire a guided tour that includes the transfer to and from your hotel.


From 8:00 am to 4:00 pm every day in winter. And, in summer, the opening hours are extended to 17h.

Visit prices

Normal adult admission: 150 EGP. Accredited students: 75 EGP.

Photos of Saqqara and the Step Pyramid

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