Egypt - Cairo - Pyramids with a Camel

In March of 2023, my wife and I decided to embark on our long-awaited journey through Egypt. 

Read about Egypt and the highlights of our tour here and about Cairo here.

This story is dedicated to our exciting tour of the Great Pyramids, Saqqara, and Memphis.  

Our tour of those historic sites was guided by Fawzy from Memphis Tours, who gave us a wealth of information about those sites and made our time memorable. 

Mit Rahina Museum

Egypt - Giza - Mit Rahina MuseumOur tour started with a visit to the ruins of the ancient city of Memphis and the Mit Rahina Museum.

Memphis (Men-nefer) was founded by King Menes and was the capital of ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. 

Memphis thrived as a regional commerce, trade, and religious center during its golden age.

Interesting Facts: Most Ancient Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs (rulers of Ancient Egypt) and their families. To date, over 130 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt.

Egypt - Giza - Mit Rahina MuseumThe ruins of this ancient city are now located near the village of Mit Rahina.  

Mit Rahina is an open-air museum built around a magnificent fallen colossal limestone statue of Ramses II. 

We felt like little ants as we walked around the humungous statue. Going up the stairs, we could view the statue from above and admire the excellent artistry. 

Also, from the balcony, we could gaze down at other statues, monuments, and a large field of excavated artifacts that are yet to be categorized and assembled. 

The outdoor museum also had a baby Sphinx and an upright statue of Ramases II, and many vendors selling souvenirs to tourists

Saqqara and Stepped Pyramid

Egypt - Saqqara - Step PyramidSaqqara is an Egyptian village in the Giza Governorate that contains ancient burial grounds of Egyptian royalty, serving as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis.

Saqqara contains numerous pyramids, including the Pyramid of Djoser, sometimes called the Step Tomb, and is considered the oldest complete stone building complex known in history.

Interesting Facts: Saqqara is home to 11 major pyramids sprawled over 6 miles, including the oldest known pyramid: the Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser I

The Step Pyramid is enclosed by the funerary complex, designed by Imhotep and described by some as the world's first architect.

Egypt - Saqqara - funerary complexA large court between the south tomb and the Pyramid has curved stones considered territorial markers associated with the Heb-sed festival.

The festival was an important ritual completed by Egyptian kings (typically after 30 years on the throne) to renew their powers. Read about it here 

The huge building containing the Step Pyramid, tombs, chapel, and courtyards has one grand entrance. After admiring the design, we passed through the entrance colonnade and the South Court. We then took a short hike around the building and the Pyramid. 

You can really appreciate the scale of such structures as you walk next to them. This was the first Pyramid to be built in ancient Egypt and the first we saw up close. We thought it was huge, but once we saw the Great Pyramid of Khufu, it looked small in comparison.

Restaurant "Pharous"

Egypt - Saqqara - Restaurant 'Pharous'After we toured the museum and the Step Pyramid, we stopped for lunch at this authentic Egyptian restaurant. The name "Pharous" is a variant of Pharoas, and it was appropriate due to its proximity to Pharoas tombs.

Egypt - Saqqara - Restaurant 'Pharous'We were greeted by a band of dancing and singing performers as we approached the main gate. 

The restaurant had several seating halls, but we chose to sit in the garden.

Our guide ordered a feast of Mezzeh and Grilled meats. If you are unfamiliar with the Mezzeh concept, it is a large collection of small plates that include Humus, Falafel, Tabouleh, Baba Ghannoj, pickles, olives, and more.

We enjoyed our delicious meal while traditional Arabic music played in the background. 

The Great Pyramids and Sphinx

After a short ride through villages and towns, we ended up at the fantastic site of the three Pyramids. 

Seeing those great monuments so close to the Giza suburbs was astonishing. Movies and documentaries always depict the Pyramids in the middle of the desert, away from civilization.  

But despite this encroachment of civilization, the site was stunning. 

Interesting fact: Contrary to common belief, the Pyramids were not built by slave labor. Read about it at BBC.

As we got closer to the base of the Pyramid of Khufu, the sheer size of this mega building was astounding. It felt like an artificial mountain. 

It is hard to imagine how Giza looked like thousands of years ago before the sands of time eroded them to their current state. The above video recreates those times for use. You can also see it here:

Egypt - Giza - Pyramid ChamberThree known chambers are inside the Pyramid, and one is available for tourists to explore. 

Our guide told us it was difficult and not worth the effort to climb into this chamber, but we had to see it. 

Interesting Facts: There are actually more than 130 pyramids in Egypt

So we bought the extra tickets and went up the Pyramid steps, into a doorway, and up a steep tunnel. 

The climb was exhausting and crowded, and the interior was stuffy and hot, but we persevered and made it to the chamber – which was empty. But at least we can now say we went inside the Great Pyramid.

Interesting Fact: Initially standing at 146 meters (481 feet), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Over time, most of the smooth white limestone casing was removed, which lowered the Pyramid's height to the present 138 meters (454 ft). What you see today is the underlying core structure. 

After we visited the Pyramid of Khufu, our guide took us to a vantage point to observe the three Pyramids together. 

They also offered Camel Rides around the Pyramids, but we declined because we were tired and concerned about riding those huge ships of the desert. 

Egypt - Giza - Sphinx - by Emőke Dénes - WikimediaThe Sphinx is another great relic in Giza close to the Pyramids. It was carved from limestone and represented a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. 

We noticed that the Sphinx's nose was broken. According to a popular myth, it was broken by cannonballs fired by Napoleon Bonaparte's army during one of the military battles of the French campaign in Egypt in 1798. However, this is refuted by several sources predating the birth of Napoleon.

Our visit to the Sphinx was cut short due to a sudden desert thunderstorm, but by this point in the tour, we had our fill of ancient monuments and were ready for a reset before dinner. 

La Palmeraie Moroccan Restaurant 

Egypt - Cairo - La Palmeraie Moroccan RestaurantBack in Cairo and after a well-deserved rest, we walked to our dinner reservations at La Palmeraie Moroccan Restaurant located inside the Sofitel Hotel.

The restaurant is on a terrace overlooking the Nile with great river views, sailboats, and the cityscape beyond.

While we enjoyed the view, we tried the lamb with dried fruit and the chicken with potatoes tagine – both were very tasty.