|Zoser's stone stairway to heaven|
Friday 21: For all map-makers out there, not surprisingly, Mubarak metro station has changed it's name but at other stations down the line the name 'Mubarak' has simply been crossed out, not yet replaced. I'm taking the cheap and surprisingly clean Metro (92nd mode of transport) southbound to Giza Station and, once there, I find myself sitting in one of those noisy taxis, radio blaring, driver chain-smoking, but I'm happy, I'm on my way to Saqqara.
My reason for travelling to this remote spot, southwest of Cairo, is that I want to to see the Step Pyramid, or Zoser's Pyramid, the world's earliest cut-stone structure. Also it's the world's oldest pyramid, built in 2,650BC (nearly five-thousand years ago) by 3rd Dynasty royal architect Imhotep as the tomb for his pharaoh, Zoser. In Old Kingdom Egypt royals were normally buried in underground vaults marked only by a mud-brick mastaba but Imhotep originated two innovations. Firstly, he used quarried stone as a building material and, secondly, he constructed a pyramid-shaped structure with it. This was a colossal step both in tomb design and also in project management. This innovation heralded not only the construction of all of Egypt's later architectural wonders but many other pyramids including the world's newest and Europe's highest, London Southbank's glass-clad skyscraper, The Shard.
Interestingly, despite much research over many years, the location of Imhotep's own tomb remains a mystery. Don't you just love it? I've been here before, years ago, but since then several new discoveries have been made and I'll soon be coming back to investigate them.
Slideshow of Saqqara.