Arrive in Cairo at any time. An airport transfer is included. There are no planned activities, so check in and enjoy the city. In the evening meet our fellow group members and go over the details of the trip with the tour leader.Your tipping kitty will be collected as this time (please refer to the "tipping" section of these notes for more information) . Check the notice board to see the exact time and location of this group meeting. For late arrivals, your tour leader will leave a message for you at the front desk. If you arrive early there are plenty of things to see and do in this amazing city. Visit the Saladin Citadel of Cairo, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, or to really get a feel for the place, get lost in the bazaars and join the locals for a coffee in a local cafe.
After breakfast we depart Cairo and travel to the monasteries of Wadi Natrun. The history of the Wadi and its importance to Coptic Christians dates back to the fourth century AD and they constitute some of the earliest Christian monasteries in the world. We are extremely fortunate to be guided through Wadi Natrun by one of the monks who will explain the history and describe daily life for the men who call these monasteries their home. Please note that we should be modestly dressed this morning with shoulders and knees covered for our visit to the monastery. After, we continue on to absorb some of Alexandria's charming old-world grandeur. Egypt's only Mediterranean city has a European feel and refreshing sea breezes. The afternoon is at our leisure to take a walk along the corniche, perhaps enjoying an optional seafood dinner at one of the city's many outdoor seaside restaurants before retiring to our hotel for the evening. Estimated Travel Time: Cairo to Alexandria, 4 hrs (plus time at the monastery) Approximate distance: 135 Miles (215 km)
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel and visit the key historic and archeological sites in Alexandria including: Pompey’s Pillar, the Roman catacombs and amphitheatre, the Citadel of Qait Bay, the Montazah Palace and the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina (library). In the afternoon, we transfer back to the Cairo for the night. Estimated Travel Time: Alexandria to Cairo, 3 hrs Approximate distance: 135 Miles (215 km)
Enjoy a full day learning all there is to know about Egypt's mysterious marvel - the pyramids. Aside from the well known "big three", many people are not aware that Egypt is littered with hundreds of pyramids. We begin our morning exploring some of the lesser-known, but equally fascinating sites on the outskirts of modern Cairo. Our first stop is Saqqara, the fascinating city of the dead and home to the oldest pyramid in Egypt, Dsojer, which is a step pyramid. Pharaohs, their families and even pets were laid to rest here. We continue on to the Pyramids of Dahshur, where we get the chance to enter the red pyramid, and find out why it is one of the most mysterious and interesting pyramids in Egypt. All of this before the jewel in the crown, a visit to the famous Pyramids of Giza (with entrance into the Khafre pyramid) and the famed Sphinx. While once located in remote desert, the Pyramids of Giza now touch the suburbs of modern Cairo. No matter how many photos or documentaries we have seen, our first glimpse of these marvels of the ancient world will take our breath away. As a qualified Egyptologist, our tour leader is able to expertly explain the facts and myths behind these three mammoth works of art. We also visit the mysterious Sphinx, with its lion’s body and man’s face. Time permitting, there may be the chance for optional activities such as: entrance to one of the two smaller pyramids, a camel ride around the pyramids or visit the fascinating Solar Boat Museum, which displays one of the pharaoh’s funerary barges. In the evening, we transfer to the railway station to board our first class sleeper train. Our accommodation will be in comfortable twin-share bunk-bed compartments with lockable doors. The beds convert into seats when not in use and luggage is stored under the bottom bunk. Bedding is provided and there is a small wash basin with soap and a hand towel. Shared toilet facilities are at the end of each carriage. A simple “airline style” dinner is provided, but most guests prefer to eat before boarding the train. Drinks are available to be purchased and there is a bar car for socializing. In the morning a simple continental style breakfast is served around two hours before arrival. Estimated Travel Time: Cairo to Aswan, 12 hrs (overnight train) Approximate distance: 575 Miles (925 km)
Upon arrival we check into our hotel and the morning is free to explore the riverside, city and local market. Aswan has a distinctive African feel to it. Small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Spend time strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the sailboats etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish. Late in the afternoon, we board a local boat, known as a felucca, to take a trip along the Nile with views of the Agha Khan Mausoleum and Kitchener Island. Named after the British general Horatio Kitchener, the island is known for its botanical garden and the exotic plants he planted there 100 years ago, which continue to flourish today. Our final stop is the home of our felucca captain on Elephantine Island, the largest of the Nile islands in this area. We take a walk through the village and fields to learn more about the life of the Nubian people, before enjoying a traditional dinner at a local families home.
We take a short early-morning flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel. Not only are the two temples located at Abu Simbel among the most magnificent monuments in the world, but their removal and reconstruction was also an historic event in itself. Threatened by submersion in Lake Nasser, the temples were rescued from their plight and rebuilt with the support of UNESCO. After touring the temples we transfer back to Aswan by plane. In the afternoon, check-in to our Nile cruise boat, our floating home for the next three days and nights. We then take a tour of the ancient granite quarries where you will see the famous unfinished obelisk, and then visit the High Dam. After, return to the Nile where we take a boat ride to the Temple of Philae. This delicate temple of Isis was moved stone by stone from its ancient site (now submerged) to its present location on a Nile Island. Our cruise ship is modern and comes with everything we need for an enjoyable few nights on the Nile. The cabins are twin-share and comfortably equipped with air-conditioning and a full ensuite bathroom. There is a dining room and bar/lounge and the entire top deck of the boat is for relaxing, swimming in the rooftop pool or just watching life on the Nile go by. The ship actually covers remarkably little distance as all ships must, by law, dock each evening. It is more in line with a "floating hotel" than a traditional cruise. Estimated travel time: Flight Aswan to Abu Simbel and Abu Simbel to Aswan, 30 min O/W. Approximate distance: 175 Miles (280 km) O/W.
We continue our relaxing journey along the Nile. Today, make a shore excursion to the temple of Kom Ombo. In a scenic location, right on the banks of the Nile, Kom Ombo was dedicated to the Crocodile God and we can still view the remains of an ancient mummified crocodile, which was worshiped here thousands of years ago.
Following breakfast, the day starts with an excursion to the temple of Edfu. In the middle of a bustling village, Edfu is the most completely preserved temple in all of Egypt and thus fascinating to wander through. We continue sailing to the town of Esna where we cross the locks before sailing on to Luxor. We overnight onboard the boat in Luxor.
This morning, after checking out of the ship and settling into our Luxor hotel, we take a tour of Karnak - the center of all religious life in ancient Egypt. Built and extended by successive generations of rulers, one can't help but be awed by the massive columns and painted hieroglyphs. We follow this with a tour of Luxor temple, located near the Nile and right in the center of downtown Luxor. Later, learn all there is to know about the ancient art of embalming with a visit to the world's only Mummification Museum.
Our day starts with a visit to the exciting ancient sites located on Luxor's West Bank. We begin with the two mammoth statues of Amenophis II at the Colossi of Memnon. These statues stood at the front of a temple, which is no longer in existence. They have been famous since Greek times as they were said to have made a unique singing noise. We can even see ancient graffiti discussing this on the statues, from travelers of days past. Next stop is the famous Valley of the Kings. While the treasure is now gone, the tombs contain the most incredible paintings of the life of their encumbent and stories from the Book of the Dead. We also observe archeologists and workers, continuing in the search for new Tombs. There is also the option to visit the the Tomb of Tutankhamun, whose treasures we will see at the Egyptian Museum. We finish our day with the spectacular temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a reminder of the power women held in the Ancient Kingdom. This evening we enjoy a fun dinner of Egyptian "pizza" or "manakish" at a local restaurant.
Today, we transfer to Luxor airport for our flight to Sharm el Sheikh. Please note, on some days there are no direct flights, in which case we will connect in Cairo. Once in Sharm el Sheikh, we transfer to the town of St Catherine, our base for climbing Mount Sinai. Depending on the season, and group preferences, we may choose to climb the mountain this afternoon to catch the sunset, or we can be awoken at around 2:00am to trek to the summit for a fantastic and unique sunrise experience. Not up for a hike? Choose to relax and enjoy the hotel facilities at your leisure. Estimated Travel Time: Luxor to Sharm el Sheikh, 2-3 hr (approx. flight time depending on flight schedules) Sharm el Sheikh to St. Catherine, 2 hr Approximate distance: 135 Miles (215 km)
Those who are returning from a sunrise climb of Mount Sinai will be transferred back to our hotel in town for breakfast and to collect any non-climbers in the group. We then set off on a visit to the Monastery of St. Catherine, the smallest diocese and oldest Christian monastery still in use in the world. It houses not only a rich collection of icons and precious manuscripts but also the only existing relative of Moses' biblical burning bush. We then transfer to our beach resort near Dahab for 2 nights of relaxation. After all of our travels, it is time for a bit of rest and relaxation by the sea. Our resort on the outskirts of Dahab provides the perfect place, with plenty of time for snorkeling in the Red Sea, right on the resort grounds (snorkel equipment can be rented from the dive shop), swimming or just relaxing on the beach or around one of the three pools. There are regular shuttle buses into town for those who want to explore the nearby village of Dahab.
This morning we catch our flight back to Cairo and visit the world famous Egyptian Museum. With over 10,000 pieces from every period of Egyptian history, including the treasures from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the display can be a bit daunting. Our tour leader will direct us to the most important and magnificent items and there is free time for us to explore on our own. There is also the option to visit the famed Mummy Room where we can view the ancient remains of some of Egypt’s most important rulers. After the Museum, we lunch local style at a Kusharia restaurant which features a popular Egyptian meal, mixing rice, pasta and lentils, topped with a tomato salsa and fried shallots. In the afternoon, wander the alleyways of Khan El Khalili Bazaar, legendary for fine brassware, copper, perfumes, leather, silver, gold, antiques and more. We are sure to find a little something to take home. Estimated Travel Time: Dahab to Sharm el Sheikh, 2 hr Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo, 1 hr (approx. flight time) Approximate distance: Dahab to Sharm el Sheikh: 65 Miles (100 km) Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo: 365 Miles (585 km)