The pyramids in Giza date back over 4,500 years, a scale of time that can be difficult to comprehend. But none of the Gizan monuments can claim to be the oldest pyramid in Egypt. That distinction goes to the step pyramid built for King Djoser. You’ll find it in Saqqara, which, like Giza, is an easy day-trip from Cairo (Saqqara lies about 19 miles south of Cairo’s downtown). Saqqara is not a city; it’s a giant necropolis that, in antiquity, served the corpse-disposal needs of the nearby city of Memphis. During my September 2012 vacation to Egypt, my tour group spent a morning in the remains of Saqqara and Memphis.
SAQQARA: A CITY OF THE DEAD
Djoser’s step pyramid: a trend-setter
The centerpiece of Saqqara is the step pyramid, which was completed before Djoser’s death in 2611 B.C. — thereby predating the pyramids in Giza by about 100 years. It features a more primitive “step” pattern, rather than the smooth sides of most pyramids you’ll see.
Although it has bragging rights within Egypt, this edifice might not be the absolute oldest pyramid in the world. Continue reading