Memphis, Egypt – The Ancient Capital Of The Old Kingdom

Memphis Egypt served as the country’s capital during the Old Kingdom. For this reason, many tourists see the ancient city of Memphis (which is an open air museum today) as a great starting point of their Egypt vacation. Most of our existing Cairo tour packages also include a visit to Memphis.

Statue of Ramses II in Memphis, Egypt

Statue of Ramses II in Memphis, Egypt.

Memphis, which today is located approximated 20 kilometers south of modern day Cairo, was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom era. Most historians believe that the city was founded by the first pharaoh of the first dynasty, and later went on to become the first capital of a united Egypt. If this is indeed so, then that would mean the city over 5,000 years old. Not surprisingly, the area is today one of the most visited Cairo tourist attractions.

Archeological studies have shown that the city extended approximately nineteen miles along the eastern shore of the Nile River. While that might not appear to be much by today’s standards, it does tell that the city was enormous by comparison to other cities at the time.

A Brief History Of Memphis Egypt

The ancient city of Memphis Egypt remained the capital of Egypt for several centuries, and as such, it was the political and administrative heart of the country. The nearby Saqqara necropolis which is home to several royal burial sites further emphasizes the significance of the area.

Egypt’s capital was later moved to Thebes during the turbulent reign of Akhenaton which lasted for 17 years. Despite all his best efforts to lead Egypt away from traditional Egyptian beliefs and religion, he was never able to succeed. Future rulers that formed new dynasties, discredited Akhenaton, and declared him and his decedents the real enemy of Egypt.

Many years later, when Tutankhamen became king, he once again made Memphis capital of Egypt. One of the biggest ironies here, is that DNA testing carried out in 2010 proved that Tutankhamen was in fact one of Akhenaton’s sons. Sadly, the end of Pharaonic Egypt was to a large extent, also the end of Memphis as the ancient capital Egypt.

As medieval construction boomed in nearby Cairo and in Alexandria, many of Memphis’ iconic temples and other large structures were systematically dismantled and transported to these new cities. Today, Memphis Egypt has long since lost its grandeur, but nonetheless, it is definitely worth visiting.

Memphis As It Stands Today

While very little remains of the original city the site has been listed as a World Heritage Site, along with the Giza pyramids. To this end, Memphis Egypt now enjoys an “open air museum” status, and it’s visited by millions of tourists every year.

Visitors can still find and admire some of the ancient city’s remaining wonders, including a monumental statue of Ramses II and a beautiful sphinx carved from a single, enormous piece of alabaster. Weighing in at around eighty tons, the sculpture is one of the most visited and most photographed attractions in the city.

In addition to being Egypt’s capital, ancient Memphis also served as a center for the worship of the god “Ptah”.  In fact Memphis was seen as being the official “seat” of the Ptah. Today, the remains of a great temple to Ptah as well as some royal palaces, and a large necropolis are also available for visitors to explore.

Saqqara Necropolis And Giza Pyramids

Both the Giza necropolis and the Saqqara necropolis are close to Memphis, and both are attractions you really don’t want to miss. In fact, we even offer a special Giza; Memphis & Saqqara Day Trip which has proven to be very popular with tourists spending a few days in Cairo. Several of our Egypt tour packages, including most of our Nile cruise packages also include a visit to these infamous attractions, either at the beginning of one’s vacation, or towards the end, prior to flying back home.

Some people refer to Egypt as the Cradle of Human Civilization; some people refer to it as the Land of the Pharaohs, but the truth is, Egypt is indeed both. It is a country that well and truly has something special in store for anyone who visits. Whether you’re an adventurous solo travel, or whether you’re traveling as a family, Egypt never lets you down.

We’ve been planning and offering Cairo tour packages and other more extensive Egypt tour packages for decades already, so you can be absolutely certain your dream vacation will become a living reality. Come and visit this ancient land with us, and experience Memphis in Egypt in a way you never thought possible.

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Last Updated on March 26, 2024