The ancient city of Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the Old
Kingdom and most of the Pharaonic period. It is thought it was
founded in about 3100 BC by King Menes, the ruler responsible for uniting
Upper and Lower Egypt. Situated at the head of the Nile Delta, this
city controlled important overland and river routes. While Thebes
(the site of modern Luxor) became the ceremonial centre of Egypt during
the new Kingdom, Memphis was still an important administrative and
commercial centre until well into the Ptolemaic era. There are
countless descriptions of the city in classical texts from Greek writers
and historians such as Plutarch and Strabo. In the 5th century AD,
the historian Herodotus described Memphis as a "prosperous city and
cosmopolitan centre." The extent and grander of the city's
necropolis, centered on Sakkara, give some indication of how large and
prosperous Memphis must have been. Sadly, there is little remaining
evidence of this former glory. The city has almost completely
vanished. Its magnificent temples and palaces were torn down and
pillaged by foreign invaders from the Romans onwards, and the ruins were
then buried under the alluvial mud deposited by the annual flooding of the
Nile. Palm groves, cultivated fields and villages now cover the site
of this once impressive city. What little has been discovered at
Memphis is gather together in a small open-air museum.
The showpiece is the colossal limestone statue of Ramses II (Above Right) which lies, truncated at the , in a viewing pavilion. The statue is similar to the colossus of Ramses II found in Memphis and replicated in Midan Ramses. In the garden there are more statues of Ramses II (Below Right) and an 18th Dynasty sphinx (Below Left), at 80 tons the largest calcite statue ever found. The garden also contains several calcite slabs, on which the sacred Apis bulls were mummified before being buried in nearby Sakkara.
Right is a picture of some of the cultivated fields that once were the city of Memphis.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a local carpet factory where we observed the artisans hand knotting carpets and had a chance to purchase some as well. Since I was heading back to Kabul for another two months I didn't purchase any carpets, but others in the group did.