During Egypt’s Old Kingdom period, Memphis, located near Cairo, was home to the pharaohs who built the pyramids. But domestic architecture didn’t last like the pyramids did, so most all that remains of Memphis today is the Mit Rahina open-air sculpture museum.
On the site of ancient Memphis, the Mit Rahina open-air museum is an impressive, if bewildering, jumble of ancient statues. Highlights include an alabaster sphinx and beds used to mummify sacred bulls for the Serapeum temple at Saqqara.
Some tours enable travelers to check off the Giza pyramids, Saqqara, Dahshur, and Memphis in a day, but most visitors prefer to spread out the sightseeing. To move at a more leisurely pace, choose a tour of Memphis, Saqqara, and Dahshur, and save the other sites for another day. Most tours provide round-trip transport from Cairo or Giza.Things to Know Before You Go
- Memphis is a must-see for fans of ancient Egypt.
- The attractions at the Mit Rahina open-air museum are sculptures, not architectural remains of the former city.
- Some pieces from Mit Rahina will move to Giza's Grand Egyptian Museum, slated to open in 2020.
- Mit Rahina is flat but sandy, possibly challenging for travelers who use wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There
The Mit Rahina open-air museum sits around 18 miles (29 kilometers) south of downtown Cairo, 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Dahshur, and 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of Saqqara. 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.When to Get There
A compact site, the Mit Rahina museum feels crowded much more quickly than the vast expanses of Saqqara and Dahshur. It’s open every day, morning through afternoon, with reduced hours during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. To enjoy the sculptures in relative solitude, visit early in the day.Key Ancient Egyptian Sites Near Cairo
While you’ll find ancient sites all over modern-day Egypt, they cluster around two areas: Cairo, the capital during the Old Kingdom period, and Luxor, the capital during the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom periods. In Cairo, the three main royal burial grounds were at Giza, Saqqara, and Dahshur. The pharaohs who built the pyramids lived in Memphis.