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Saqqara (or Saqqara or Sakkarah, Arabic: سقارة [saqâra]) is a vast necropolis in the Memphis region. It has been occupied continuously throughout the history of ancient Egypt, and as a result, royal tombs and smaller burials are found side by side, providing numerous testimonies of daily life in ancient Egypt.

The Saqqara Plateau lies South of Cairo, in the center of the Memphis necropolis, which stretches for almost twenty kilometers. The complex, situated on the edge of the desert (the world of death) bears witness to a desire to defy time.


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From the first dynasties, kings and members of the aristocracy had their mastabas built here. The oldest tomb (numbered 3357) dates back to the reign of Hor-Aha, the second ruler of the First Dynasty. The first pyramid was built by Imhotep, the architect of Djoser (3rd Dynasty), around 2600 BC. It is generally agreed that this was the first stone building in Egypt. The vast enclosure of courtyards and replicas of temples of the period provide invaluable petrified evidence of early sanctuaries.

A royal necropolis during the Old Kingdom, the site developed around the royal pyramids of the 5th and 6th dynasties. Numerous mastabas from this period have come down to us, containing reliefs of perfect quality describing the daily life of ancient Egypt.

In the Middle Kingdom, with the removal of Pharaoh and his court, first to Thebes and then to the Fayum, the necropolis was somewhat neglected.

During the New Kingdom, with the revival of the city of Memphis during the 18th and 19th Dynasties, nobles and courtiers were once again buried at Saqqara, in tombs surmounted by real funerary temple-chapels.

One of the most famous is the one built by Horemheb before he was crowned pharaoh. The reliefs of this chapel generally represent him with the royal ureus, thus indicating his extraordinary future.

Saqqara is also the site of the sacred Apis bulls' tombs, which are worshiped in Memphis. Inaugurated in the 18th Dynasty, the Serapium developed, especially under the Ramessides. The son of Ramses II, Khamuaset, high priest of Ptah, passed to posterity by legends qualifying him as a great magician, leaves steles and inscriptions relating to the restoration of the tombs of Apis as well as the inauguration of the great catacomb, which then continues to expand to accommodate the mummified remains of the sacred bulls. Khâemouaset died before his father and was buried in the Serapium.

Then, in the Lower Period, a sanctuary was built and became one of the most important pilgrimage centers at the end of Egyptian history under the Ptolemies and then under the Roman emperors. An avenue lined with sphinxes leads to the temple dedicated to Apis (no longer in existence), which is reached by a dromos crossing a hemicycle of Hellenistic architecture housing statues of the main philosophers and thinkers of antiquity.

Other sanctuaries dedicated to Anubis and Bastet are built next to catacombs enclosing in endless galleries numerous animal mummies, witnesses of the popular fervor for the cults of sacred animals.

Europeans and Egyptians who continued to excavate the ground of Saqqara discovered many tombs that had been ignored until then. A fresco depicting the rendering of an ox was discovered in the tomb of an Old Kingdom nobleman. At the time of the Pharaohs, the Egyptians wanted to believe in the immortality of the human person. To enter the afterlife, the person must find the daily images of life and, in particular, representations of food.

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