Egypt Tour 1:
The Saqqara and Giza

The March from Verdi's Egyptian Opera "Aida"

Egyptian History Writ Large (but Not in Heiroglyphics..)

Egypt is very very old. No one denies that. Its history occurs in dynasties, rather like China's, with periods of anarchy between. These divide into three main periods, Old, Middle, and New. After that, for another millenium, a whole serious of Islamic invaders/liberators ruled. Finally, Egypt emerged with a modern state.

Having said this, however, two truisms remain. First, people sometimes say "there'll always be an England." However the waves of foreign invaders, Germans, Danes, and finally, the Normans, made a substantial impact on the character of England. On the other hand, one can say with more truth "there'll always be an Egypt." Except for the most recent Islamic conquerors, the typical invaders came to Egypt and became "Egyptianized." So that one can trace a distinct Egyptian culture from the Old Kingdom to at least the Islamic conversion, further if you wish.

Second, the Egyptian history revolves around the Nile. One could even call it a "Nile history." Hence, this tour, inevitably follows the river. The ebb and flow of power and influence, involves moving up and down the river. To do any justice in showing Egypt, then, means getting off a camel and on a boat.

The tours here follow an historical sequence.

The Old Kingdom <2649-2134 BC> (Tour 1)
The Middle Kingdom <2040-1797 BC> (Tour 2 and Tour 3)
The New Kingdom <1570-1070 BC> ( Tour 2 and Tour 3)
Alexander's Conquest <323-303 BC> (Tour 4)
Islamic Egypt <600 AD-today> (Tour 5)

The Old Kingdom: The Saqqara, Memphis, Giza

This is the Egypt everyone sees in the movies. The pharoahs, who consolidated their power, ruled as gods. They built pyramids with a lash. Well, maybe.

In fact, Egypt originally consisted of two countries "Upper Egypt" and "Lower Egypt." To the endless dismay of map readers, Upper Egypt lies at the bottom of the map, the south because the Nile flows from the South to the North. The Delta makes geographic sense as a separate country as does the remainder of the river. Different dynasties originated in different places, but needed to assert their power over both parts of the country.

The original capital of Memphis, not surprizingly, lay fairly close to the intersection of these two parts of the country. Here, the pharoahs built the monuments to celebrate their rule, first at the Saqqara and later at Giza.

The Saqqara

The pharoahs built their first pyramids at the Saqqara. Not surprizingly, they resemble the older Sumerian Ziggurats of Iraq. The Giza pyramids came after this and basically open the ideas. Interestingly, after the monuments of the Fourth Dynasty, some later dynasties returned the Saqqara.

The first "Pyramid" by Third Dynasty King Djoser.

Another view.

The Sixth Dynasty pharoah Teti built this.

Some massive columns.

Darn thing keeps falling over.

Here's another view of Teti's complex.

A side view of a finished pyramid. Less impressive, eh?

The pyramid of Sekhemkhet, Dsojer's follower, looks like a real pyramid but unifinished.

Some assembly required.

I'll be he was the last of his dynasty.


One can consider this entire site as a massive celebration of a single dynasty, even four generations of one family. The Fourth Dynasty built here on a scale never before attempted and not since.

I find a couple of ironies here. First, the pharoahs ferverently believed that all this building would save their immortal souls. Mummification, formed a part of the process. However, when you build a tomb of this size, no one has any difficulty finding your body, doing some bad things to it, and defeating your attempt at immortal. Maynard Keynes once said he admired the pyramids at the "Perfect Government Project," but it didn't work for them.

Getting bored of this? Are you dying to see the real Memphis Click here to visit the land of Elvis.

Finally, I find some more irony in that the local guides, government etc. insist that tourist ride horse and camel on the site. The Fourth Dynasty pharoahs had neither animal. Then again, if they paid the prices modern tourists pay to rent a horse or animal, they probably couldn't have afforded a pyramid!

Mine's bigger: Cheops on the right and Chepren on the left.

Come on. We're burning daylight.

Pard'ner, click me..please.

They actually built the Sphinx from leftover materials after building Cheops' pyramid and used his features for the face.

Another view.

First, this guy volunteered to pose. Then, he asked for a tip!

Is this how Lawrence of Arabia got his start?

This shows Chepren, built on a hill, at a narrower angle to appear larger than Cheops.

Cheops again.

I have to get closer.

Okay, it's getting bigger.

Ahh. I think I'm too close.

Note the distinctive surfacing on Chepren's which originally covered the whole pyramid.

"Willbur.... Wiiiilbur."

A view of Cairo.




Not a "child laborer," this young apprentice works on a genuine Egyptian carpet through a government program. Note the touristy pattern.

The Pharoanic Village

Wonder how it all looked back then? The pharoanic village will at least try to recreate it.

The river and a temple

The god of the dead, shown with arms in mummy position.

Cows working the fields.

Local handicrafts

I'm going to take a look at the sarcophagus.

Help! Let me out!

Related Eyptian Tours:
Back to Tour 5: Cairo
On to Tour 2: Southern (Upper) Egypt

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