Delve into Abusir, Egypt's enigmatic necropolis. Uncover ancient secrets within its majestic pyramids, temples, and treasured papyri. Journey through royal burials, evolving pyramid constructions, and profound archaeological revelations near Cairo
|Location||Abusir, Near Cairo|
|History||5th Dynastie, Old Kingdom|
|Prominent Highlights||Sahura, Neferirkara & Nyuserra Pyramids|
|Other Highlights||Sun temple & Mastabas (Tombs)|
In the heart of Egypt, in the center of Cairo, just 25 km (15 mi) southwest of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile River, lies the majestic necropolis of Abusir. It has been dubbed the house of Osiris and is set just several km north of Saqqara.
Abusir Necropolis is one of the most incredible and poorly recognized destinations in Egypt. It was used as one of the official burial grounds and cemeteries for the elite residents of Memphis, the official capital of the old kingdom (2575-2150 BC), and the focus of all the burial rites operating across the capital.
Abusir is a magnificent archaeological pyramid complex filled with the ruins of four great pyramids of kings of the old kingdom (2700 – 2200 BC). It is known to be a vital part of the Pyramid Fields of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Memphis and its Necropolis. Abu-Sir is a highly important archaeological site located about 15 miles southwest of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile River. It holds several pyramids from the fifth Dynasty (2494-2345 BC), a sun temple, mastaba tombs, and shaft tombs from the Late Period (747-332 BC).
The name "Abu-Sir" is derived from the Egyptian "Per-Usire" meaning "The Place of Worship of the God Osiris" who was the ruler of the land of the dead. It acted as the main cemetery for elite members who lived in the ancient capital of Memphis. This elite cemetery was filled with many huge pyramids and great monuments of both the 4th and 5th dynasty pharaohs who desired a different place to hold their funerary monuments.
The place is renowned for discovering the oldest old kingdom papyri, which became known as Abusir Papyri. In the late 19th century, many Western museums were known to hold collections and fragmentary papyri taken from the administrative records of the Abusir funerary cult belonging to Pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai. In the 20th century, a Czech expedition revealed papyri from 2 other great cult complexes that belonged to pharaoh Neferefre and to the king's mother, Khentkaus II. Near the ancient town of Busiris, there are extensive catacombs, as documented by Pliny.
To the south of Busiris, a large cemetery seems to have extended across the plain. It's worth mentioning that Busiris, during the Heptanomite period, was a small settlement situated at one end of the Memphis necropolis. The Czech Institute of Egyptology, part of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, has a long history of conducting excavations at Abusir. Their work at this site dates back to 1960 when they started with the mastaba of Ptahshepses. Since 1976, their concession expanded to include the southern part of the royal necropolis. In 1991, the institute began excavating at Abusir South.
The magical land of Abusir, or the house of the temple of Osiris, is found in the Nile valley of Egypt which is 11 kilometers (7 miles) south of Cairo in the county of Badrashin in Giza within the western desert plateau. It was the main cemetery of Memphis, with the Giza pyramids on the north and Saqqara on the south.
The best way to reach the great lands of Abusir is by booking with a travel agency that will provide all the means of transportation and the experience of a seasoned tour guide who will uncover the historical significance and the presence of several ancient Egyptian monuments, including pyramids, temples, and tombs.
Abusir archaeological area contains famous pyramids made of four kings dating to the 5th dynasty, which are known as being of a lesser quality compared to the ones of the 4th dynasty, highlighting the decline in royal authority and economic prosperity. They are known to be smaller in size and made of local stone of very low quality. All the major pyramids of Abusir are known to be built in the shape of step pyramids. The most recognized pyramids belong to fifth Dynasty rulers who are Userkaf, Sahura, Neferirkara, Raneferef, and Nyuserra.
Sahure pyramid complex is considered a milestone in royal tomb development. While smaller than the fourth Dynasty pyramids which include a valley temple, causeway, mortuary temple, and pyramid. The pyramid of Sahure was constructed in ancient Egypt around the 26th to 25th century BC, which marked the beginning of a series of pyramids built by Sahure's successors in Abusir. The site was heavily excavated between 1907 and 1908. The mortuary temple had an impressive portico, red granite columns, and fine-painted decorations.
This complex served as a milestone in pyramid construction, with a reduced construction scale but an increase in decorative elements and storerooms. The site featured intricate relief carvings, some of which are considered exceptional in Egyptian art. It also employed valuable materials like granite, alabaster, and basalt. The primary pyramid was made of rough limestone blocks and encased in fine Tura limestone which had a base of approximately 78.5 to 78.75 meters and stood between 47 to 48 meters high, although architects had made an error in its base placement.
The internal chambers were damaged by stone thieves, thus making reconstruction impossible. Only stone fragments from the basalt sarcophagus were found. The mortuary temple included several elements, and a cult pyramid was situated nearby. The two temples were connected by a decorated causeway, and the valley temple had two entrances, one on the east and another on the south side, the purpose of the latter remains uncertain.
Sahure's mortuary temple became the center of a Sekhmet cult, which continued until the Ptolemaic Kingdom (305 – 30 BC). Its influence declined during the reign of Ramesses II. Despite waves of destruction on the Abusir monuments, Sahure's temple largely escaped harm. In later dynasties, there was renewed interest in these monuments, as demonstrated by the copying of their reliefs for other temples. The Roman period brought another round of destruction to the Abusir monuments, but Sahure's temple was spared.
In the Christian era, it became a Coptic shrine, and from the 4th to 7th century AD, evidence of pottery and graffiti from that period was discovered at the site. Throughout history, the monuments were periodically quarried for limestone until the late 19th century.
Neferirkara's pyramid rose to approximately 74 meters in height, but it remained unfinished due to the ruler's early death. His mortuary temple was constructed with mud bricks and wood. Papyrus archives were discovered in his temple, shedding light on temple personnel, inventories, and letters.
The pyramid of Neferirkare was built for pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai in the 25th century BC of the 5th Dynasty. It's located in the Abusir necropolis, between Saqqara and Giza, and is known for its height, making it the tallest structure in the area.
During the Fifth Dynasty, pyramid construction was transitioning to smaller, more standardized designs with intricate and magical relief decorations. Neferirkare's pyramid stood out because it was mainly created as a majestic step pyramid, a design outdated since the Third Dynasty, and later encased in a second step pyramid to change it into a true pyramid.
Unfortunately, the pharaoh's death led to rushed completion using cheaper materials, resulting in the pyramid lacking essential components of a pyramid complex, like a valley temple, causeway, and cult pyramid. Instead, a settlement of heavenly mudbrick homes was established nearby for cult priests, leading to the discovery of the Abusir Papyri.
The pyramid's excavation led to the finding of the incredible Abusir Papyri, an important collection of ancient documents. These papyri are significant as they span from the reign of Djedkare Isesi to Pepi II and provide insights into the management of the king's funerary cult, including offerings, letters, daily priestly activities, and temple inventories. They also shed light on the interplay between the mortuary temple, sun temple, and other institutions. For example, they suggest that goods for Neferirkare's funerary cult were transported by ship to the pyramid complex.
The initial findings were made in 1893 by illicit diggers and subsequent discoveries. The papyri were written in hieratic, a cursive form of hieroglyphics, and are still studied today. The full extent of the papyri's records remains unknown as more recent findings are yet to be published.
Neferefre pyramid, also known as the Raneferef Pyramid, was constructed in the 25th century BC for the Egyptian pharaoh Neferefre during the 5th Dynasty. It's the third pyramid in the Abusir diagonal, connecting the great Abusir pyramids with the marvelous Heliopolis within the necropolis. Neferefre's untimely death led to the pyramid remaining unfinished and being hastily transformed into a square mastaba, resembling a primeval mound. A limestone mortuary temple under King Shepseskare, and later expanded in three phases by Neferefre's younger brother, Nyuserre, who added features like a hypostyle hall, statues, and a five-niche statue temple.
One intriguing discovery near the pyramid is "The Sanctuary of the Knife" which was used for ritual animal sacrifices as part of the mortuary cult. Historical records mention a significant event involving 130 bull sacrifices during a ten-day festival. However, the abattoir closed during the Sixth Dynasty, and the mortuary cult saw a revival during the Twelfth Dynasty.
Neferefre's complex has remained relatively well-preserved despite centuries of limestone quarrying. In the substructure, there are some fragments of a marvelous red granite sarcophagus that held Neferefre's mummy. The mastaba tomb of Khentkaus III, who was Neferefre's wife, was discovered. There were also fragments of a mummy with inscriptions referring to the "mother of the king" found near his unfinished pyramid, though the identity of this particular king remains a mystery.
Newoserre's pyramid complex was constructed near Neferirkara's pyramid. It appropriated unfinished foundations for its temple and causeway. Newoserre's wife, Repulnub, does not appear to be buried nearby. Other family members, officials, and viziers were also buried in the area. The pyramid of Nyuserre, built in the mid-25th century BC, is a complex dedicated to the Egyptian pharaoh Nyuserre Ini of the Fifth Dynasty.
During his reign, Nyuserre completed the unfinished monuments of his family members before working on his own pyramid complex. Located in the Abusir necropolis, it includes a main pyramid, a mortuary temple with unique features, a valley temple, a causeway, and a cult pyramid. The main pyramid, once nearly 52 meters tall, is now reduced to ruins due to stone thieves. The mortuary temple's L-shape design accommodates nearby mastabas, and it features an antechamber carrée and an unexplained square platform. Pylon prototypes are found at the corners of the site.
A separate enclosure houses the cult pyramid, and a causeway connects the mortuary and valley temples. Other pyramid complexes and mastabas are nearby, possibly associated with Nyuserre's consorts and children. The tombs of priests and officials connected to Nyuserre's funerary cult are also located in the vicinity, and there is debate among Egyptologists about the survival of Nyuserre's funerary cult in the Middle Kingdom.
In the vicinity of the larger pyramids, there are several smaller pyramids and mastabas of notable individuals from ancient Egyptian history. These structures include:
In addition to the smaller pyramids, there are mastabas of courtiers and family members of these rulers. Notable tombs include:
The mastaba of Ptahshepses, who served as the vizier under Nyuserre.
These structures provide valuable insights into the royal and aristocratic figures of the time, shedding light on their roles and relationships within the ancient Egyptian civilization.
The Abusir area holds substantial remains of a gigantic temple that was constructed in the Ramesside period which is located 500 meters southeast of the pyramids and within the close range of the cultivated area of the Sahura. The temple was built over mudbricks by skilled builders from the 3rd and 4th dynasties which sheds light on the historical and archaeological importance of the attraction. The temple is made of limestone blocks and three callars.
There is a small hall which is supported by four columns, and a courtyard enclosed by great mudbrick that features ten limestone columns. This epic limestone structure was a vital part of a larger complex, which was constructed by mud bricks which also included pylon and storage chambers. The temple was dedicated to a solar cult that mainly focused on Amun, Ra, and Nekhbet. The archaeologists held fragments of inscriptions bearing the titles of Ramesses II and polychrome reliefs.
To the north of Saqqara lies a cemetery housing the funerary objects, mummies, and remains of lower-ranking officials from the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom. The earliest tombs from the First Dynasty are found in the "Bonnet Cemetery" named after Hans Bonnet, the scholar who documented the site. This burial ground was excavated in 1910 by Georg Steindorff and Uvo Hölscher.
Notably, recent research on artifacts from this location, held in Leipzig University's collection, revealed a peculiar vessel known as ÄMUL 2162, crafted from arsenical copper with nickel, which suggests the possibility of copper importation to Egypt.
In the Old Kingdom cemetery located at Abusir South, you can find several significant tombs:
In addition, there is a Saite-Persian cemetery located on a small hill just south of the pyramid of Neferefre, featuring several tombs from the Saite period:
These burial sites offer valuable insights into the history and culture of the region throughout different periods.
There are countless hidden attractions in Egypt that stand as living proof of the greatness of the ancient Egyptian civilization, so don't miss the chance to explore this wonderland through our Egypt vacations.
The entire country of Egypt deserve to be explored with its every heavenly detail but there are places that must be seen before any other such as the breathtaking Hurghada's red sea, The wonders of Cairo the pyramids of Giza, the great sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, Khan El Khalili Bazaar, the wonders of Luxor like Valley of the Kings, Karnak & Hatshepsut temple and the wonders of Aswan such as Abu Simbel temples, Philea temple, Unfinished obelisk and The Wonders of Alexandria like Qaitbat Citadel, Pompey's Pillar and Alexandria Library. Read more about the best places to visit in Egypt.
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Egypt has a variety of delicious cuisines but we recommend “Ful & Ta’meya (Fava Beans and Falafel)”, Mulukhiya, “Koshary”, a traditional Egyptian pasta dish, and Kebab & Kofta, the Egyptian traditional meat dish.
The best time to travel to Egypt is during the winter from September to April as the climate becomes a little tropical accompanied by a magical atmosphere of warm weather with a winter breeze. You will be notified in the week of your trip if the Climate is unsafe and if any changes have been made.
You should pack everything you could ever need in a small bag so you could move easily between your destinations.
We have been creating the finest vacations for more than 20 years around the most majestic destinations in Egypt. Our staff consists of the best operators, guides and drivers who dedicate all of their time & effort to make you have the perfect vacation. All of our tours are customized by Travel, Financial & Time consultants to fit your every possible need during your vacation. It doesn't go without saying that your safety and comfort are our main priority and all of our resources will be directed to provide the finest atmosphere until you return home.
You will feel safe in Egypt as the current atmosphere of the country is quite peaceful after the government took powerful measures like restructuring the entire tourist police to include all the important and tourist attractions in Egypt. Read more about is it safe to travel to Egypt.
Wear whatever feels right and comfortable. It is advised to wear something light and comfortable footwear like a closed-toe shoe to sustain the terrain of Egypt. Put on sun block during your time in Egypt in the summer to protect yourself from the sun.
The best activity is by far boarding a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan or Vise Versa. Witness the beauty of Egypt from a hot balloon or a plane and try all the delicious Egyptian cuisines and drinks plus shopping in old Cairo. Explore the allure and wonders of the red sea in the magical city resorts of Egypt like Hurghada and many more by diving and snorkeling in the marine life or Hurghada. Behold the mesmerizing western desert by a safari trip under the heavenly Egyptian skies.
There are a lot of public holidays in Egypt too many to count either religious or nation, the most important festivals are the holy month of Ramadan which ends with Eid Al Fitr, Christmas and new years eve. Read more about festivals & publich holidays in Egypt.
Egypt is considered to be one of the most liberal Islamic countries but it has become a little bit conservative in the last couple of decades so it is advised to avoid showing your chest, shoulders or legs below the knees.
Arabic is the official language and Most Egyptians, who live in the cities, speak or understand English or at least some English words or phrases. Fewer Egyptians can speak French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Professional tour guides, who work in the tourism sector, are equipped to handle visitors who cannot speak Arabic and they will speak enough English and other languages to fulfill the needs of all our clients.
The fastest way is a car, of course, a taxi. If you are in Cairo ride a white taxi to move faster or you could board the fastest way of transportation in Egypt metro if the roads are in rush hour.
The temperature in Egypt ranges from 37c to 14 c. Summer in Egypt is somehow hot but sometimes it becomes cold at night and winter is cool and mild. The average of low temperatures vary from 9.5 °C in the wintertime to 23 °C in the summertime and the average high temperatures vary from 17 °C in the wintertime to 32 °C in the summertime. The temperature is moderate all along the coasts.
It is the home of everything a traveler might be looking for from amazing historical sites dating to more than 4000 years to enchanting city resorts & beaches. You will live the vacation you deserve as Egypt has everything you could possibly imagine.