Memphis: Founded around 3,100 BC during the Old Kingdom, Memphis is the legendary city of Menes, the King who united Upper and Lower Egypt. According to tradition, he first created dikes to protect the area from Nile floods and then started building. Much of what we know of Memphis comes from its necropolis, texts and papyrus from other parts of Egypt, and Herodotus, who visited the city. Early on, Memphis was probably a fortress from which Menes controlled the land and water routes between Upper Egypt and the Delta. Later, this great city became the administrative and religious center of Egypt, was home to a cosmopolitan community and most likely one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient world.
Sakkara: Across the Great Court of the Pyramid Complex of Zoser in Sakkara, stands the Step Pyramid, the oldest known of Egypt’s 107 pyramids, which was built by Imhotep, one of the world’s most famous historical figures. This architect of the world’s first freestanding stone structure, which you will visit today with your Egyptologist, is often also recognized as the world's first doctor, as well as a priest, sage, poet, and astrologer. Although the original structure was a burial chamber 28 meters underground, Imhotep enlarged it several times to eventually reach a six tiered rectangle 60 meters high. Sakkara seems to have been the first area where limestone was employed, not only for the outer casing of the pyramid but also to cover interior walls.
Pyramids and Sphinx: The Great Pyramids of Giza are the only present-day survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built about 4500 years ago as giant tombs for the mummies of the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who were a father, son and grandson. (Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus are the Greek forms of their names.) In the ancient Egyptian religion, the sides of the pyramids were likened to sun rays on which the Pharaoh ascended to heaven. The pyramids are truly monumental in scale, with the largest, Khufu's, made of over 2 million blocks. The pyramids were not built by slaves but by Egyptian peasants who paid their taxes to the Pharaoh through this labor, and were fed, clothed and housed by him.
Nearby sits the enigmatic Sphinx with the body of a lion and the face of a man wearing a royal head cloth, which workers may have based on King Khafre to guard his enormous funerary monument. About a thousand years after the Sphinx was built it was covered in sand until a young prince had a dream in which the Sphinx told him that if he cleared the sand away, he would become Pharaoh. This story is told on the "Dream Stela" that was placed between the Sphinx's paws by King Tuthmose IV.