Memphis, founded by Mena or Menes, traditionally the first king of the 1 Dyn., on land reclaimed from the Nile in about 3200 BC. Memphis or Menufer became the capital of the country during the Old Kingdom and probably during the 12 Dyn. When the capital was moved to Thebes during the New Kingdom Memphis remained an important provincial city, as indeed it did even after the foundation of Alexandria as the capital by Alexander. It was finally deserted during the early Muslim era.
Today little remains of the garden city of Memphis grouped round the vast temple of its patron god Ptah, protector of craftsmen. A small museum on the left of the road shelters a colossal limestone Figure of Ramesses II, of excellent workmanship, depicting the king when young, discovered by Caviglia and Sloane in 1820. It lies on its back and must have been originally about 12.8m high, the feet and the back much-eroded by water. Given to the British Museum by King Mohamed Ali, it was raised to its present position by the Royal Engineers in 1888. Various other granite statues of the king were found when clearing a space to build a cafeteria opposite and these lie in the enclosure beside the museum. The high water table has hindered excavation there.
The uninscribed Alabaster Sphinx inside the enclosure weighs 80 tons and was excavated by Petrie in 1912. It is either 18 or 19 Dyn. probably of Amenhotep II, but it has also been greatly damaged by water. Other stone objects and sarcophagi can also be seen. The Temple of Ptah before which these colossal figures stood was excavated by Petrie before World War I and now lies half-covered with water beside the village of Mit Rahinah. Beyond the village, Petrie found the Saite palace of Apries, very much ruined but with the plan still visible, unrewarding except for the archaeologist. Just to the N of the road the Department of Antiquities discovered in 1951 the Embalming Place of the Apis Bulls, contained Within a mud-brick wall, with immense alabaster embalming slabs, decorated with lions.
At Miqyas on the E side of the site ‘the EBS survey discovered the Roman Port, with quay and nilometer.
W of Mit Rahinah the road crosses the Bahr al-Libayni and the road running N to S (from Shº. al-Ahrám). Turn N. After 2km another road leads W to the N—S road on the edge of the cultivation. It terminates here on the E edge of the vast cemetery of Saqqârah. The site lies on a plateau at the edge of the Libyan desert directly W of the ancient city of Memphis. It is part of the necropolis of that city