NileGuide Expert Says:

Although not much remains of Memphis, the incredible significance of the ancient city might justify a visit, time permitting. Consider picking up a guide to help bring the past to life for you.

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24 kilometres south of Cairo
Cairo, Egypt


Legend has it that Memphis was founded by King Menes around 3100 BC, when he unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Memphis was the capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, and remained an important religious and administrative centre throughout the whole of the Pharaonic period. Memphis is a Greek name; the ancient Egyptians knew the city as Ineb Hedj ("The White Walls"), and later as Ankh Tawy ("That Which Binds the Two Lands").

No-one knows for sure how large the city was, with population estimates ranging from 6000 to 30,000. It is known to have been advanced, cosmopolitan, and teeming with palaces, temples and gardens; given the size of the associated necropolis, stretching from Dahshur to Giza, Memphis itself was probably very large.

Sadly, most of the city now lies under fields, Nile silt and nearby villages – and only a few ruins hold testament to the ancient splendour that was Memphis. Although there is not much here anymore, the incredible significance of the site might justify a visit. As well as pretty gardens and the odd statue and temple fragment, there is a huge colossus of Ramses the Second, and a large alabaster sphinx ascribed to Thutmosis III.

The present-day site is about 20 km south of Cairo, and is best visited by taxi. If you are going to go, it's a good idea to combine it with a visit to nearby Saqqara.


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