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Egypt In Depth



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  • Day 1
    Day 1 - Cairo
    Your trip starts today in Cairo. No activities are planned so you may arrive at any time. Rooms are generally available after 1.00 pm. If you have not pre-booked an arrival transfer you will find taxis available on arrival at Cairo Airport. Make sure you agree the price before you set off into town! When you arrive in Cairo you are thrown headlong into the hustle and bustle of this wonderful city. As you wander the streets your senses will be assaulted on all levels – an endless cacophony of noise with cars tooting donkeys braying and the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer; the mix of smells like the aroma from cooking pots bubbling with 'foul' (pronounced 'fool' - a local bean paste dish that we will certainly get to sample); the delicious taste of mint tea as you sit in a shaded café to relax; and the endless river of life that you can watch roll past you – women haggling in the bazaars, men talking whilst enjoying a traditional sheesha pipe, cars vying for space on the crowded roads, camels ambling serenely along and children playing in the back streets.

    Day 2 - Memphis - Saqqara - Faiyoum Oasis
    Today we leave Cairo and visit the ancient capital of Memphis and the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, which is actually older than the Great Pyramids at Giza. Built of mud bricks as a tomb for King Zoser, it is not actually a real pyramid, but a series of mastabas. Saqqara was the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis and the site also has some well-preserved underground tombs and an excellent funeral temple. Little remains of the town of Memphis itself; the only things to see nowadays are a small alabaster sphinx and a statue of Ramses II, which although finely sculpted now lies on its back. As we enter Faiyoum Oasis, we will see Egypt's largest natural saltwater lake, Lake Karun, before passing through rich fertile farming areas teeming with crops, citrus orchards, a variety of vegetables and tall date palms. Since ancient times, Faiyoum has been an important agricultural region although unlike most oases, Faiyoum is not sustained by underground water. Rather it was originally connected to the Nile by a minor tributary and now by a series of man-made canals. Faiyoum gives us a great chance to experience the relaxed pace of Egyptian rural life. (Approx 9 hrs driving in total)

    Day 3 - Maidum - Minya
    We leave Faiyoum and continue our journey to Maidum (or Meidum), where we visit reputedly the earliest pyramid constructed. It is also a 'step pyramid' and was originally constructed for Huni, the last pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, but was ultimately used as a tomb for his successor, Sneferu. From there we head to the town of Minya, which lies on the border of the historic Upper and Lower Egypts, where we spend the night. (Approx 8 hrs driving in total)

    Day 4 - Tell el Amana - Sohag
    Approximately 40 kilometres from Minya, the small village of Bani Hassan is overlooked by limestone cliffs that contain 39 tombs dating from the era of the Middle Kingdom (2055 to 1550 BC). Frescos decorate the walls, showing events and campaigns in the lives of the nobility buried here as well as images of their journeys to the afterlife. Our next stop Tell el Amarna was the Pharaoh Akhenaten’s capital in the 14th century BC, but was effectively razed to the ground by his enemies. Akhenaten declared that the only god worth worshipping was Aten, who until then had had a fairly minor role in the pantheon of ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. Some tombs remain at the site and sculptures found here have a distinctively elongated head, reflecting images of Akhenaten. Examples of which can be seen in the National Museum in Cairo. Later we drive to Sohag, where we stop for the night. (Approx 10 hrs driving in total)

    Day 5 - Abydos - Dendara - Luxor
    Our first stop today is Abydos, the main centre for worshipping Osiris - the God of the Dead. As such this was the most popular place to be buried in the old days. The main temple here is the Great Temple of Seti I, which has been restored and certainly looks impressive. We also visit the Temple of Ramses II, who was the son of Seti I. Our next stop is Dendara, near the town of Qena, where we visit the beautiful Temple of Hathor. This magnificent structure is one of the best preserved in Egypt, with roof and columns still intact. We finish the day in Luxor, where we spend a night in a hotel. There cannot be anywhere else in the world that has the same number of awe-inspiring attractions as the small town of Luxor. This was the capital of Egypt in ancient times (then known as Thebes) and there are an endless number of temples, tombs and museums that could keep even the most avid sightseer busy for a week. This is just a transit stop and we will return to Luxor later on in our tour. (Approx 9 hrs driving in total)

    Day 6 - Aswan - Nile Cruise Boat
    We drive to Aswan where, on arrival, we are transferred to a five star cruise boat. Aswan is one of our favourite places. Despite the fact that it is Egypt's third largest city, it has an easy-going, laid-back atmosphere that belies its size. There is certainly a lot to see and do. In Aswan the Nile is at its most picturesque with golden sand dunes coming right to the waters edge and scores of white sailed feluccas gliding around the islands. The Nubian bazaar runs the whole length of town and is crammed with shops and stalls selling everything imaginable - a great place to hone your haggling skills! For those keen on visiting as many great sites of antiquities as possible, we highly recommend a visit to the exquisite Temple of Isis at Philae. Alternatively you can take a sailboat across to the Botanical Gardens on Lord Kitchener's Island and then continue to the other side of the river, where you can take a fun camel ride up to the Monastery of St. Simeon. (Approx 5 hrs drive)

    Day 7 - Aswan - Nile Cruise
    Today we have a free morning, so there is an opportunity to take an optional, but highly recommended excursion to visit the magnificent temples of Abu Simbel. The options include going by bus or by air. Travelling by bus will involve an early rise and a pre-dawn start. Abu Simbel is one of the highlights of any visit to Egypt and considered 'not-to-be-missed' by many travellers. Deep in the heart of the desert, miles from the nearest habitation is a gigantic monolith out of which are carved four colossal statues – each one the seated figure of Ramses II, one of Ancient Egypt’s greatest pharaohs. Built in the 13th century BC, the temples remained totally hidden by sand until 1813, and were almost destined to be submerged again, 150 years later, by the rising waters of Lake Nasser – a man-made lake formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam. Remarkably, a massive UNESCO project dismantled the entire temple and the cliff out of which it is carved, and reassembled it on higher ground redirecting the magnificent stare of Ramses II across Lake Nasser's blue waters. It is still possible to see just how close they came to being submerged by the watermarks around the base of the statues. Later we start our cruise on the Nile River towards Luxor, stopping off at Komombo and Edfu along the way to visit the riverside temples of Sobek and Horus. Komombo is a lovely temple located right on the edge of the Nile. It is a classic Greco-Roman temple with exquisite relief carvings and is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god. There is nothing in life better than lying on the deck of our privately chartered Nile cruise boat, watching the last golden rays of the sun reflect on the water with a cocktail in hand and friends around sharing the same moment of magic. The banks of the Nile play host to a whole different way of life and during the day we enjoy fantastic views of the small villages along the Nile Valley with palm trees nearly touching the sky and young children playing on the banks of the river.

    Day 8 - Nile Cruise - Luxor
    In the morning we have the chance to visit the temple at Edfu before continuing our cruise to Luxor. This is a magnificent temple dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god, and is also home of many ancient Egyptian legends. For centuries Edfu was almost completely covered with sand, which has protected the building from the elements. This means that Edfu is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. Reliefs carved into the temple walls depicting Horus and other gods on a grand scale, black granite falcon statues standing over two metres tall and a myriad of secret passageways and hidden rooms make Edfu a temple not to be missed. arriving in Luxor, we spend our first night there on board our cruise boat. There cannot be anywhere else in the world that has the same number of awe-inspiring attractions as the small town of Luxor. This was the capital of Egypt in ancient times (then known as Thebes) and there are an endless number of temples, tombs and museums that could keep even the most avid sightseer busy for a week! The many impressive sights include the massive Karnak Temple complex and the Valley of the Kings.

    Day 9 - Luxor
    We disembark from our cruise boat and check into a hotel in Luxor, before enjoying a free morning to wander around the bazaars of the town. In the afternoon we ride on horse-drawn carriages along the banks of the Nile to Karnak Temple, where we have a guided tour around this magnificent complex. Arriving at the gates there is an avenue of lion statues leading up to the magnificent gates. But this doesn’t prepare you for the sheer size of the temple when you get inside. It was built by many pharaohs over a period of 2000 years with each one trying to outdo his predecessor in architectural achievement. You could lose yourself inside but we have an Egyptologist who takes us around, pointing out all the most impressive parts of the temple and giving a full insight into the lives of the pharaohs who worshipped there. For those who wish to experience it (optional), there is a sound and light show held at Karnak every evening (cost US$28). The show is unlike other sound and light shows in Egypt - instead of sitting throughout the performance, you walk through the temple as the show progresses. The smaller, but equally interesting Luxor Temple is located on the southern part of town. It is missing one obelisk, which is today residing on the Place de la Concorde in Paris!

    Day 10 - Luxor - Valley of the Kings - overnight train
    The Valley of the Kings is on the other side of the Nile, on the West Bank. To get there we rise at around 4:30 am (to avoid the heat) and meet up with our donkeys who will be our favored (and most fun!) method of transport. Each member of the group will be assigned a donkey and given a quick lesson in how to control them, before we set off on the seven kilometer ride. We take quiet roads, with lovely views of the green fields leading to the edge of the Nile and the sheer cliffs of the desert beyond. We are not the only people up at this time and will pass villagers on their own donkeys on their way to the fields. Arriving at the Valley of the Kings, there is not much to see above the ground. But corridors carved deep into the valley lead to the burial chambers far underground. The walls of the tombs are covered in incredibly well preserved paintings depicting the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt and complex hieroglyphics which our guide will help us decipher. We visit three different tombs and there may also be the chance to visit the tomb of Tutankhamun, the famous boy king (additional cost), and spend some time exploring on your own. Our route back takes us past the Colossi of Memnon. We return to the East Bank, where the afternoon is free to explore the town further. In the evening we catch our first-class sleeper train and travel north back to Cairo. Our journey will take approximately 10 hours. Sleeping berths (beds and linen) are provided in private cabins and an airline-style dinner is served on board.

    Day 11 - Cairo - Alexandria
    Arriving in Cairo we are met by our vehicle and driven to Alexandria - Egypt's second largest city. Our journey will take about three hours. As we walk along the clean wide corniche during sunset or sample a delicious seafood meal in a local backstreet restaurant, we'll soon understand why Alexandria has been called 'the Pearl of the Mediterranean'. It certainly is a cosmopolitan city with a striking Mediterranean influence. We can swim at one of the amazing beaches. Our tour includes a visit to the National Museum. Though much smaller than the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, this museum contains many fine examples of craftsmanship from Egypt's Greco-Roman Period and the best of Alexandria's treasures. As we walk around the museum it is easy to feel like we have stepped back into old Roman times. There are also varieties of Islamic and Pharaonic collections. The Roman Catacombs of Kom el Shuqafa (meaning the 'hill of pot shards') are beyond anything we will imagine. These catacombs, the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt, were discovered accidentally in 1900 when a donkey disappeared through the ground. They consist of three tiers of tombs and chambers cut out of the rock to a depth of 35 metres. Although the bottom level is flooded and inaccessible the areas above are very impressive. Pompey's Pillar is a massive pink granite pillar, 30 metres high pillar, mistakenly credited to Pompey by the Crusaders although it was erected in 293 AD as part of a larger temple complex. The pillar is the only ancient monument remaining whole and standing in Alexandria. After our sightseeing we can sip mint tea in a café on the corniche overlooking the site of the lighthouse of Pharos, one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

    Day 12 - Cairo
    We travel back to Cairo and the rest of the day is free to explore. In the older part of the city there is a lot to see, including some beautiful old mosques and, of course, the fantastic Khan El Khalili bazaar – an amazing mix of shops and stalls that have traded goods and gossip since the Middle Ages. There’s time for everything and our tour leader can help organise taxis: but be prepared to bargain! (Approx 3 hrs driving)

    Day 13 - Cairo
    In the morning we enjoy a guided tour to the Egyptian Museum followed by the magnificent Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza. We start by visiting the Egyptian Museum with an Egyptologist. What a museum, what a collection! This museum houses the world's greatest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts including many of the treasures discovered in the tombs of pharaohs, the amazing golden mask of Tutankhamun and a large number of mummies. To put that in perspective, if you spend just one minute at each exhibit it would take more than nine months to see everything! The Pyramids really do have to be seen to be believed! To get there we weave our way through the manic Cairo traffic, out into the suburbs and then, suddenly, there they are. Huge majestic tombs rising out the desert, towering above the modern city of Cairo, they are an incredible testament to the immense achievements of the Ancient Egyptians. Built over 5000 years ago the Pyramids are the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that is still standing. We explore the Pyramids and the Sphinx with our Egyptologist guide who can explain all the mysteries surrounding their creation – were they built by aliens or are they aligned to the stars? We also have the opportunity to climb inside the Great Pyramid (optional) and see for ourselves the burial chamber inside (not for the claustrophobic!). Tonight we can enjoy a final evening out together.

    Day 14 - Cairo
    Your trip ends today, after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12.00 noon and you are free to leave at any time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Cairo.