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Memphis City of Egypt

Memphis City of Egypt

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Memphis is an old city. During the time of the Pharaohs, Memphis was Egypt’s first capital, near the Giza plateau, south of the delta of the Nile River. More than 100 of the pyramids in the Cairo area date back to when Memphis was the most important city in Egypt and probably the world. The town was built around 3100 BC and stopped being used around 641 BC after Luxor and Alexandria were built.

Throughout most of Egypt’s history, Memphis was an important place. The archaeological site of Memphis was put on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1979. The main god of the capital was Ptah, who was thought to be the god who made everything and gave life to all the other gods. Ptah was also considered to be able to hear his followers when they were praying. Because of this, he is often shown with big ears.


Location of Memphis city: 

Memphis is about 24 kilometers south of Cairo and 3 kilometers north of Saqqara on the west bank of the Nile River. The Memphis Tombs are close to where the famous Egyptian pyramids were built. Many significant, old tombs near the town show how long it has been around. Abu Rawash is in the north, the Giza plateau is in the middle, Abu Ghorab is in the middle, Abu Sir is in the east, Saqqara is in the west, Mit Rahina is in the south, and Dahshur is in the south.


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Who built the city of Memphis?

From what we know about history, the mythical Pharaoh Narmer ( Mena ) united Upper and Lower Egypt, leading to Memphis’s creation in 3100 BC. Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the Early Dynastic Period (3100-2686 BC) and the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC), and it remained one of the most important cities in Egypt for more than three thousand years. 



Why was Memphis built?

Because it was where the Nile Delta met the valley, it was in a good spot for the economy and trade because it had a port. Traces show that this city’s port had workshops, shipyards, and even warehouses that sent goods to the Old Kingdom. People say Memphis had many palaces, gardens, and temples, making it one of the most important cities in ancient times. Herodotus, a Greek historian and traveler, wrote about Memphis in the 5th century BC. It was a long time after it had been at its best. Even after Thebes became the capital of the New Kingdom, Memphis stayed Egypt’s second city. It grew until the first Muslim invasions in the 7th century AD, when it was finally abandoned.


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Name and Importance

Manetón, a historian who lived in the 3rd century BCE, says that Egypt’s first king, Menes, built the city after Egypt became one country. During this time, the town’s name was Hiku-Ptah or Hut-Ka-Ptah, which means “Mansion of the Soul of Ptah.” During the Predynastic Period, Ptah was likely a god of fertility. At the start of the Early Dynastic Period, however, he became known as the “Lord of Truth” and “Creator of the World.” He was the god who watched over the area around Memphis. After the city was built in his honor, he became the city’s patron god. Other inscriptions say that Menes’s successor Hor-Aha built Memphis.

It is noted that Hor-Aha visited the site, not the city, and liked it so much that he changed the path of the Nile River to make a broad plain for building. Several inscriptions say that Hor-Aha was the same as Menes, but “Menes” seems to have been a title, not a person’s name. It means “He Who Endures” and may have been passed down from the first king. Narmer, who united Egypt and was also Menes, was likely the first to build the city.

Most likely, the story of Hor-visit Aha and how he changed the river’s flow was based on an earlier story about Menes (Narmer), around whom many miracle stories would grow. Egypt got its Greek name from the city’s ancient name, Hut-Ka-Ptah. The Egyptians called their country Kemet “black land” because the soil was so dark and rich. The Greeks changed the name Hut-Ka-Ptah to “Aegyptus,” which became “Egypt.” The fact that the Greeks named the country after the city shows how powerful and well-known it was back then.



A Brief History of Memphis, Egypt 

Menes, the first pharaoh of Egypt, built the city around 3100 BC. Its ruins are on the west bank of the Nile, 19 km south of Cairo, and Ptah was the god of the area. Memphis was the most important city in Egypt for a long time, and it was the economic center of the kingdom. It was the undisputed capital from Dynasty I to Dynasty VIII, and it came back during the rule of Ramses II and Merenptah.

Even when the capital was somewhere else, like Thebes, Pi-Ramsés, Tanis, or Sais, it was still called the Balance of the Two Lands because it was the most critical place in the country. Memphis was the most populated city in the world until 2250 BC, and at its peak, more than 500,000 people could have lived there. During the eleventh Egyptian Dynasty, which started around 2040 BC, Thebes took over as the capital from Memphis. It was the capital of Ancient Egypt, with a few short breaks, for about 1500 years. In 661 BC, Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, and Ashurbanipal sacked the city, which led to its fall.

When Alexandria was built in 331 BC, the Memphites lost their power. The Ptolemies and the Roman emperors thought Alexandria was Egypt’s most important city. The rest of the country, including the 3000-year-old town of Memphis, fell into poverty and obscurity. It stopped being used in 641, and its ruins became a place nearby towns could get building materials. Much of what was left of it was used to build Cairo, the new capital of Egypt. The ruins of the temple of Ptah have been dug up, and statues like those of Ramses II have been found and put on display in different museums.


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Memphis was an important city in ancient Egypt.

Memphis was the home of the pharaohs and the capital of Egypt at the start of the dynastic period and the Old Kingdom. Many later rulers also had palaces there. Some of the most important temples in the country were in the city. Memphis had a high level of prestige from the time it was founded until the end of the New Kingdom and the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 BCE). Many cities were ignored during this time, but Memphis’ status didn’t change.

When the Assyrian king Esarhaddon invaded Egypt in 671 BCE, he made sure to sack Memphis and take important people back to his capital city, Nineveh. Because it was so important to religion, it was rebuilt after the Assyrians destroyed it. Memphis became a place where people fought back against the Assyrians, and Ashurbanipal (668–627 BCE), who came to Egypt in 666 BCE, destroyed it. Memphis became a religious center once more, and during the 26th Dynasty (664-525 BCE), the Senate pharaohs rebuilt and fortified the city.

Egypt’s gods, especially Ptah, were still prayed to, and more shrines and monuments were built to honor them. Memphis was always one of the most populated and well-known places in Egypt and, by extension, the world. It was home to a truly international group of people, and Egypt did a lot of business with other countries through its port and local shops. The fact that Memphis’ cemeteries stretch for more than 30 km along the edge of the desert and the western bank of the Nile shows how big and important the city was.


Museum of the Old City of Memphis

The Memphis Museum is a beautiful open-air museum that was established to protect the statue of Ramses II and other archaeological remains.

In the area where Memphis was built, there is now a town called Mit Rahina. As a result of different excavations, an open-air museum and a covered room have been set up to protect a giant sphinx, several huge statues of Ramses II, and other archaeological remains.


1-The Sphinx of Alabaster

The Sphinx of Memphis is the giant sculpture ever made out of alabaster.

This sphinx is made from a single piece of alabaster and stands 4 meters tall and 7 meters wide. It weighs 80 tonnes. She is considered Queen Hatshepsut because of her face and other details.


2- Ramses II’s statue “Giant Statue and Great History.”

The Colossus of Ramesses is a giant statue made of limestone. It’s about 10m (33.8 ft) long, and it’s being kept safe in a museum in Memphis.

The figure of Ramses II, which was found there and is over 30 meters tall, is undoubtedly the most impressive. Ramses II ruled from Thebes, near where Luxor is now, around 1300 BC. The huge statue shows that the city was still important 1500 years after the Pyramids of Giza were finished. In 1820, an Italian archaeologist named Giovanni Caviglia found a 10-meter-long limestone statue near the temple of the god “Ptah,” who was the god of builders and craftsmen, in the ruins of the ancient city of Memphis. Another giant statue of Ramses II was found in the temple of the god “Ptah.” It was close to its original shape, and until 2006, it was the centerpiece of Ramses Square in the Cairo Museum.

This statue is now the most exciting at the Grand Egyptian Museum’s front door. There are also statues of other kings and queens, like Hatshepsut. Ancient Egypt’s history will always be fascinating to us. If you ever get the chance to go to Egypt, you will be able to see this fantastic story and many others that have been important to the development of our society. Egypt has many old cities, tombs, museums, temples, treasures, and famous buildings that tell us a lot about its history over thousands of years.


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Facts of Memphis, Egypt:

  •  Memphis was the cultural and political center for more than 3,000 years.
  • Memphis was first called Ineb-hedj, which means “white walls.” The name Memphis now comes from Men-nefer (established and beautiful).
  • Memphis was a city with many royal pyramids, private tombs, and a necropolis of sacred animals. However, the city has changed significantly over the years due to stone-seeking builders, annual Nile floods, and greedy hunters.
  • After Luxor and Alexandria were built, the city was abandoned around 641 BC.
  • Memphis is a unique open-air museum built around a vast, now-collapsed statue of Ramses II made of limestone.
  • A stone sphinx from the New Kingdom, two statues of Ramses II that were used to decorate Nubian temples, and the substantial travertine tables on which the sacred Apis bulls were mummified before being put in the Serapeum are some of the highlights of the Memphis museum.


Memphis, Egypt, as a World Heritage

In 1979, UNESCO named the Ancient City of Memphis in Egypt, with its graveyard and pyramid fields in Giza, Abusir, Saqqara, and Dahshur, a World Heritage Site. Memphis and its necropolis, which includes the area of the pyramids from Giza to Dahshur, are part of this site. Visiting the open museum of the ancient city of Memphis and seeing the statues of the Sphinx and Ramses II is a great way to feel the Pharaonic civilization’s masterpieces.




Memphis was one of the oldest and most important cities in Egypt. The city was important for religion, business, and the cult of the god Ptah. The ancient city of Memphis still has something unique to show its visitors. In the open-air museum of the site, you can see rare pieces of the town, like a big sphinx made of alabaster and a huge statue of Ramses II.


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