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Pyramid of Djoser (Step Pyramid)
Pyramid of Djoser (Step Pyramid)

Pyramid of Djoser (Step Pyramid)

Saqqara, Egypt

The Basics

A trip to Egypt isn’t complete without seeing the pyramids. Most tours of Saqqara include the Pyramid of Djoser, alongside the Pyramid of Teti and the tombs of Old Kingdom nobles. Guides sometimes tell the story of the Heb-Sed, a ritual race that the ruling pharaoh ran.

Tours of ancient Cairo often stop at the Pyramid of Djoser, the famous Giza pyramids, and Dahshur (home of the Bent Pyramid). Alternatively, spend one day touring Saqqara, Dahshur, and Memphis (a capital of ancient Egypt), and visit the Giza pyramids on another.

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Things to Know Before You Go

  • The Pyramid of Djoser is a must-see for anyone interested in ancient Egypt.

  • If possible, go to Saqqara and Dahshur before visiting the Giza pyramids to see how the pyramids evolved.

  • There’s little shade in Saqqara. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

  • It’s unsafe to enter the Pyramid of Djoser; however, you can enter the Pyramid of Teti.

  • Rough tracks make Saqqara, including the Pyramid of Djoser, mostly inaccessible to wheelchairs and strollers.

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How to Get There

The Pyramid of Djoser sits within the Saqqara necropolis (city of the dead), about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Cairo, 6 miles (9 kilometers) north of Dahshur, and 3 miles (4.5 kilometers) west of Memphis. Public transit can be difficult if you don’t speak Arabic. Most travelers visit on a full- or half-day tour from Cairo or Giza.

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When to Get There

Saqqara is open every day, morning through afternoon. It’s much less crowded than the Giza pyramids, so if you have only one day to visit a wealth of ancient Egyptian sites, visit Saqqara in the afternoon. If you have more time, arrive at opening to beat the buses.

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What Did the Pyramid of Djoser Look Like Originally?

When Pharaoh Djoser’s architect, Imhotep, completed the pyramid, it towered 197 feet (60 meters) above the land, encased in shining limestone and surrounded by temples and ritual structures. Today, the bright white limestone facing is gone—only crumbling bricks remain. But you still get a sense of the scale, as you approach through a hypostyle hall and a vast open court. Don’t miss the serdab, a room that houses a replica statue of the pharaoh.

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