Located a fair distance south of Cairo, Saqqara is a pleasant drive out of the city and into the Egyptian countryside.

Donkey, fields, and pyramid
Egyptian palms

Unfortunately, in the scan, the Step Pyramid of Zoser is not as clear as it is in the original photograph (left), but you can still make it out on th horizon if you look closely. Our cab driver clearly knew the spot - I suspect they all stop right there for the tourists to take pictures. I even wondered if the donkey was stuffed, it's so picturesque! These two pictures are very indicative of the fields that line the Nile Valley.

Saqqara dates to the IIIrd Dynasty (the Dynasty before the Great Pyramids) and the reign of King Zoser, whose funerary complex it houses. With the possible exception of the Sphinx and Valley Temple and similar controversial monuments, Saqqara houses the oldest stone structures in the world. And architecturally, they make a rather remarkable departure from the styles of the rest of Egypt.

Entrance to Zoser's funerary complex
Entrace closeup

As you can see, Saqqara is much more square and angular. Even the columns of the columnade just on the other side of the entrance have a rigid, angular feel despite being round.

Columnade detail
Columnade, looking back

* There are two sets of names commonly used for the pharaohs to whom the pyramids are attributed: Cheops / Khufu - the Great Pyramid; Chefren / Khafre - the second largest of the three; and Mycerinus / Menkaure - the smallest. They are the Greek / Egyptian names respectively - throughout these pages I will use Cheops, Chefren, and Menkaure. I don't care about consistency - they're the names that I like, so there.

1 John Anthony West, Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, etc.

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