Guide to a Perfect trip in Egypt!
Userkaf was the founder of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. He ruled Egypt only for 7 years, from 2494 – 2487 B.C, as per the Turin King List. He is known to start the new tradition of building royal necropolises called Sun temples at Abusir. He is also famous for the construction of the Pyramid of Userkaf, in Saqqara. His name meant ‘His soul is strong’ in old Egyptian, the word ‘ka’ meaning ‘soul’. He succeeded Pharaoh Shepseskaf, the last king of the Fourth Dynasty. But some Egyptologists believe that he actually succeeded Djedefptah, the son of Shepseskaf. Userkaf was succeeded by his son Sahure, whom some scholars believe to be his brother as well.
Userkaf's father remains unknown, but there have been disputes regarding the actual name of his mother. According to some historians, Userkaf was a direct descendant of Djedefre, the third king of the Fourth Dynasty. These scholars believe that Neferhetepes, the daughter of Djedefre was the mother of Userkaf. But according to the ancient Egyptian story that is mentioned in the Westcar Papyrus, the name of the mother of Userkaf was Raddjedet, whose connection with the royal family is still unknown. Some scholars even believe that Khentkaus I was the mother of Userkaf, who was the daughter of Menkaure. But most of the Egyptologists have the common opinion that Queen Khentkaus I was actually the wife of Userkaf, who married her before ascending the throne of Egypt. Sahure was known to be the only son of this ancient king, as the evidence of the presence of any other son is not yet found. Some historians believe that Neferirkare Kakai was also the son of Userkaf, though it is commonly accepted that he was the son of Sahure.
The Pyramid of Userkaf was built in 2490 B.C, in the royal necropolis of Saqqara, near the Step Pyramid of Djoser. But this building is now almost completely destroyed and looks like a mound of sand, among the desert sands. Hence, it is known as ‘El-Haram el-Maharbish’, in the local Egyptian language, which means the ‘Heap of Stone’. It was discovered as an ancient royal pyramid in the 19th century, by the archeologists of the European countries. This pyramid complex originally consisted of the main pyramid and mortuary temple of the Pharaoh, along with a chapel for worship. There was also a separate pyramid and mortuary temple, built for Queen Neferhetepes, all of which are now completely in ruined condition. The design of this pyramid complex was almost same as that of the pyramids, built by the earlier kings of Egypt.
The Sun Temple of Abu Gorab was definitely the most incredible architectural piece, constructed by Userkaf. Here, the king was depicted as the son of Re, the Sun-God; instead of a powerful God himself. The setting sun was worshipped here and hence, the altar is arranged towards the west. The basic architectural characteristics of this Sun temple greatly resemble those seen in the pyramids of the Egyptian kings; as the Sun temple too was comprised of a high temple, valley temple and a causeway, much like the pyramids.