Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Going to Egypt pt III

Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis, the Colma to our San Francisco. We can see Djoser's famous step pyramid as we drive down the road.

Here's an excerpt on what Wikipedia has to say about the step pyramid:
The step pyramid at Saqqara was designed by Imhotep for King Djoser (c.2667-2648 BC). It is the oldest complete hewn-stone building complex known in history. It is also the location of the newly opened (in 2006) Imhotep Museum.
We get the rundown from Amgad: burials from the first few dynasties were in shaft tombs, then mustafas, then...hey! why not stack the mustafas? And now you have a step pyramid. It became all the rage. And you'd jockey to get your smaller pyramid or your mustafa built as close to the pharaohs as you could, to share in his glory. Only again, in the early dynasties, invocations to the dead within were entirely verbal, so these early pyramids are bare of text.

Which is fine as we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, nor could we go in Djoser's pyramid. But we did get to do the duck walk through another, smaller pyramid, a real Egyptian tomb, and I'm sorry I don't remember if it was a queen or other nobility. That little taste got me to thinking, what would it have been like to open the passageway, clear it of rubble and sand, and descend down the steep, smooth, pitch-black passage into who-knew-what below? It would have been done by someone with bigger balls than I, my friends, that's for sure. I'm no claustrophobe (like Don), but I don't have the temperament for tomb-raiding.

More on Imhotep, that blue-collar wizard who, while not the first to build with stone, designed the first cut-stone building ever. Look around you and see the hand of Imhotep! His tomb, probably in Saqqara, has never been found. Did he invent papyrus scrolls? Maybe. Did he invent columned architecture? Maybe. He's credited as the founder of medicine in Egypt. His cult lasted into Ptolemaic times. Go Imhotep!

It's been a long day of ruin-exploring, and we're ready for dinner back at the hotel and a full night's sleep. D'oh! Scratch that last: we have to be at the airport for our flight to Luxor at 5am.
Sand is everywhere as we head toward Imhotep's innovative creation.

Amgad tries to get us to hurry so we can go in the tomb inside the crumbly mass on the right before the 4pm closing time. See anything green?

A gateway leading to a now-ruined temple. The roof, which was intentionally split by its designers, is covered with blue-painted stars.

Temple ruins, with the bent pyramid just visible in the background.

Tourist policeman on a camel, guarding the tour buses. He's got a camel goad in his hands and his Kalishnakov slung over his shoulder. Most of the locals are wearing sweaters because it's early spring, and a bit on the cool side with temps in the 80s.

Coming next: ancient Thebes, modern Luxor.

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