Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur

Governorate of Giza
N29 58 33.744 E31 7 49.476
Date of Inscription: 1979
Criteria: (i)(iii)(vi)
Property : 16,358.52 ha
Ref: 86
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The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Memphis is located in the center of the floodplain of the western side of the Nile. Its fame comes from its being the first Capital of Ancient Egypt. The unrivaled geographic location of Memphis, both commanding the entrance to the Delta while being at the confluence of important trade routes, means that there was no possible alternative capital for any ruler with serious ambition to govern both Upper and Lower Egypt. Traditionally believed to have been founded in 3000 BC as the capital of a politically unified Egypt, Memphis served as the effective administrative capital of the country during the Old Kingdom, then during at least part of the Middle and New Kingdoms (besides Itjtawy and Thebes), the Late Period and again in the Ptolemaic Period (along with the city of Alexandria), until it was eclipsed by the foundation of the Islamic garrison city of Fustat on the Nile and its later development, Al Qahira. As well as the home of kings, and the centre of state administration, Memphis was considered to be a site sacred to the gods.

The site contains many archaeological remains, reflecting what life was like in the ancient Egyptian city, which include temples, of which the most important is the Temple of Ptah in Mit Rahina. Ptah was the local god of Memphis, the god of creation and the patron of craftsmanship. Other major religious buildings included the sun temples in Abu Ghurab and Abusir, the temple of the god Apis in Memphis, the Serapeum and the Heb-Sed temple in Saqqara. Being the seat of royal power for over eight dynasties, the city also contained palaces and ruins survive of the palace of Apries overlooking the city. The palaces and temples were surrounded by craftsmen’s workshops, dockyards and arsenals, as well as residential neighbourhoods, traces of which survive.

The Necropolis of Memphis, to the north and south of the capital, extends southwards from the Giza plateau, through Zawyet Elarian, Abu Ghurab, Abusir, Mit Rahina and Saqqara, and northwards as far as Dahshur. It contains the first complex monumental stone buildings in Egyptian history, as well as evidence of the development of the royal tombs from the early shape called “mastaba” until it reaches the pyramid shape. More than thirty-eight pyramids include the three pyramids of Giza, of which the Great Pyramid of Khufu is the only surviving wonder of the ancient world and one of the most important monuments in the history of humankind, the pyramids of Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur and the Great Sphinx. Besides these monumental creations, there are more than nine thousand rock-cut tombs, from different historic periods, ranging from the First to the Thirtieth Dynasty, and extending to the Graeco-Roman Period.

The property also includes the remains of many smaller temples and settlements, which are invaluable for understanding ancient Egyptian life in this area.

Criterion (i): In Memphis was founded one of the most important monuments of the world, and the only surviving wonder of the ancient world, namely, the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its architectural design remains unparalleled and scientists continue to conduct research on how it was constructed. The Pyramid Complex of Saqqara is also a great masterpiece of architectural design, for it contains the first monumental stone building ever constructed and the first pyramid ever built (the Pyramid of Djoser, or the Step Pyramid). The great statue of Rameses II at Mit Rahina and the pyramids of Dahshur are also outstanding structures.

Criterion (iii): The ensemble of structures and associated archaeological remains at Memphis, including the archaic necropolis at Saqqara, dating back to formation of Pharaonic civilization, the limestone step pyramid of Djoser, the oldest pyramid to be constructed, the tombs and pyramids that reflect the development of funerary monuments, and the remains of the city, together form an exceptional testimony to the power and organization of the ancient capital of Egypt.

Criterion (vi): Memphis is associated with the religious beliefs related to the God of the Necropolis “Ptah” who was sanctified by the kings, as well as with outstanding ideas, artistic works and technologies of the capital of one of the most brilliant and long-standing civilizations of this planet.

Suggested bases:

Cairo (pronounced KY-roh; Arabic: al-Qāhirah) is the capital of Egypt and, with a total population of Greater Cairo metropolitan area in excess of 16 million people, one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East (the regions which it conveniently straddles). It is also the 19th largest city in the world, and among the world’s most densely populated cities. On the Nile river, Cairo is famous for its own history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo — with historic Cairo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Egyptian Museum in the city centre is a must see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artefacts, as is shopping at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. No trip to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Giza Pyramids and to the nearby Saqqara Pyramid Complex, where visitors will see Egypt’s first step pyramid built by the architect Imhotep for the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser [read more].

Picture yourself in Egypt and you picture this. Imagine Ancient Egypt and this is where your mind will land. Here is Giza, the city just west of Cairo, where on a desert plateau stand the Pyramids, Sphinx and royal tombs of the pharaohs. Everything west of the Nile’s eastern bank is actually in the City of Giza (el-Gīza) rather than the City of Cairo. It’s a huge conurbation that includes the Nile islands of Gezira and Roda, the riverside neighbourhoods of Dokki and Mohandeseen, and mile after mile of tatty low-rise and ‘burbs. Giza plus Cairo and three other townships make up the Greater Cairo Metropolis. But of course the top sight is the UNESCO World Heritage site Pyramids of Giza, at the western edge of the city, in the “Haram” district. The Grand Egyptian Museum may open in 2019/2020. This means that Giza is developing into a tourist base in its own right, especially along the main axis of the Haram or Pyramids Road [read more].

Alexandria (pronounced al-ig-ZAN-dree-uh ; Arabic: al-Iskandariyya / Eskendereyya ) is Egypt’s second largest city (5.2 million people in 2018), its largest seaport, and the country’s window onto the Mediterranean Sea. The city is a faded shadow of its former glorious cosmopolitan self, but still worth a visit for its many cultural attractions and still-palpable glimpses of its past. Few cities of the world have a history as rich as that of Alexandria; few cities have witnessed so many historic events and legends. Founded by Alexander the Great (Iskander al-Akbar) in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Greco-Roman Egypt; its status as a beacon of culture is symbolized by Pharos, the legendary lighthouse. There had long been a fishing village here, called Rhakotis, but Alexander had greater plans for it. Its strategic value was obvious: it had a great natural harbour, a backing lagoon to prevent land attack, a fertile hinterland, and potential control of trade routes up the Nile and overland to the Red Sea and Arabia [read more].

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