Memphis was the ancient capital of Egypt well-known anciently as 'Inebu-hedj', the first nome of Lower Egypt at that time. Its ruins are located near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 km south of Giza. It was founded by the pharaoh Menes and was the Capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, it remained an important city throughout ancient Egyptian history. It is at a strategic position at the mouth of the Nile Delta. Its principal port contained a high density of workshops, factories, and warehouses that distributed food and merchandise throughout the ancient kingdom. During its golden age, Memphis thrived as a regional centre for commerce, trade, and religion.
Memphis became the capital of Ancient Egypt for over eight consecutive dynasties during the Old Kingdom. It reached it's peak of prestige under the 6th dynasty as a centre for the worship of Ptah, the god of creation and artworks. The alabaster sphinx that guards the Temple of Ptah serves as a memorial of the city's former power and prestige. The Memphis triad, consisting of the creator god Ptah, his consort Sekhmet, and their son Nefertem, formed the main focus of worship in the city.
Memphis declined briefly after the 18th dynasty with the rise of Thebes and the New Kingdom, and was revived under the Persians before falling firmly into second place following the foundation of Alexandria. Under the Roman Empire, Alexandria remained the most important Egyptian city. Memphis remained the second city of Egypt until the establishment of Fustat (or Fostat) in 641 CE. It was then largely abandoned and became a source of stone for the surrounding settlements. It was still an imposing set of ruins in the 12th century but soon became a little more than an expanse of low ruins and scattered stone.
Memphis was believed to be under the protection of the god Ptah, the patron of craftsmen. Its great temple, Hut-ka-Ptah was one of the most prominent structures in the city. The ruins of the former capital today offer fragmented evidence of its past. They have been preserved, along with the pyramid complex at Giza, as a World Heritage Site since 1979. The site is open to the public as an open-air museum.
Today the open air museum where Memphis used to be is among one of the most visited places during many Cairo Day Tours.