Saqqara !


A huge, wonderful sight.

Quite hard to find though. On this and my previous visit some years ago, the taxi driver had to ask several times for directions. In principle it's quite easy: as you approach the Giza Pyramids, there's a canal in the North-South direction; go South along this and you'll eventually reach Saqqara and spot the step Pyramid which you can't really miss. It's a bit tricky as I don't think you can actually drive along the canal the whole way, and as you approach the main step Pyramid you see other, smaller ones, which might fool you into thingking you're there. You're not. The Saqqara compley covers a very large area indeed, and if trekking in the sand under a beating sun isn't really your thing, you need to aim correctly.

I'd never seen the Giza Pyramids (yesterday) with so few people (a huge majority of which were locals) - but in Saqqara, I think I was actually the only visitor around when I finally left.

Of course it's quite nice to visit the place in such circumstances - but at the same time you acutely feel the pain and desperation of all those whose livelihoods depend on tourism that, at least in Cairo, seems largely to have dried up.

Saqqara's so damn huge (7 x 1.5 km according to Wikipedia) it's impossible to fence-off and sign-post everything - much less keep everything free of sand and stones on the edge of open desert. So you can walk around for hours on end, stumbling upon things (buildings, entrances to tombs or caves half sanded-up, etc.), often with no one else in sight, and thus feeling a bit like Indiana Jones.

As the wind and sand aren't very kind on anything, and as Egyptians, hardly wanting for space out there in the open desert, errect newer strucures rather haphazardly, it's not always easy to tell the extremely old from the newish-but-dog-eared.

Whilst the passing of eons can thus become an abstract notion sometimes devoid of apparent significance, it becomes very real and very significant indeed on the other hand as you survey the Pyramids, their sheer, weathered hugeness a metaphore of the millenia they've traversed.

With that, the scaffolding clinging to the Step Pyramid (which was there last time I visited about 5 years ago) seems almost comical, a testament only to the vanity of men believing they can stop or reverse ageing begun over five and a half millenia ago. So absurd is this notion that the scaffolding rather brings to mind the building of the stone beast all that time ago.

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All photographs on this site copyright of Antoine Boesch