You are welcome to arrive in Cairo at any time, as today is a designated arrival day with no planned activities. Please note that there will be an important welcome meeting this evening at our joining hotel. Please check the hotel notice board for more information on the location of this meeting or ask at reception. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to this meeting, as you will be required to fill out some important pre-trip admin documents. Your tipping kitty will be collected as this time (please refer to the "tipping" section of these notes for more information).After learning more about our tour and plans for the following day, you are welcome to join our leader and your travelling companions for an optional dinner nearby. 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. If this is your first visit to Cairo, we highly recommend that you book an airport transfer (please refer to the joining instructions section of tour dossier for more information).
Begin the day with one of the real highlights of any visit to Egypt, a visit to the three pyramids of Giza. Please note that while transport and the services of your tour leader are included, entrance fees are not. While once located in remote desert, they now touch the suburbs of modern Cairo. No matter how many photos or documentaries you have seen, your first glimpse of these marvels of the ancient world will take your breath away. As a qualified Egyptologist, your tour leader is able to expertly explain the facts and myths behind these three mammoth works of art. You will also visit the mysterious Sphinx with its lion’s body and man’s face. Time permitting there might be the chance to see inside one of the two smaller pyramids, take a ride around the pyramids on camel back or visit the fascinating Solar Boat Museum with displays on one of the pharaoh’s funerary barges - it may just be the oldest boat in existence! (NB. Extra entrance fees apply to all of these sites/activities) There will be time to grab a quick lunch before our afternoon visit to the 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. Your Tour Leader will direct you to the most important and magnificent items. There is also plenty of free time for you to explore on your own, including a chance to visit the famed Mummy Room where you can view the ancient remains of some of Egypt’s most important rulers (NB extra entrance charges apply). In the evening we transfer to the railway station to board our overnight train to Aswan. Accommodation on the train is in airline style seats. The seats are comfortable and resemble business class airline seats. The lights stay on all night in the carriage, so you may wish to being an eye mask and ear plugs. The toilets are at the end of each carriage. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board. Overnight on the train. Estimated Travel Time: Cairo to Aswan, 12hrs (overnight train)
Our train is due to arrive in Aswan early in the morning, but as ever we should be prepared for "Egypt time"! Beautiful Aswan has a distinctively African feel to it. Small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting right on the banks of the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. This evening we head over to Elephantine Island where our local friend will take us on a walk around his village before enjoying a traditional dinner at a local home. This is an unmissable experience - a great chance to find out more about life in this fascinating culture, as well as partaking in a delicious home cooked meal. In the meantime there is much to keep you occupied in Aswan. Explore the souk, full of the scent and colour of spices, perfumes, scarves and baskets or perhaps visit the modern Nubian Museum to learn more about Aswan's local people. Hire a local captain and take a ride to 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, and which continue to flourish today. Cross by local ferry to the opposite shore (west bank), where the cliffs are peppered with tombs of the local Pharaonic-era nobles and dignitaries. There are usually camel owners waiting here who will be only too happy to take you on a tour to the ruins of the sixth century Coptic monastery of St. Simeon. Upriver the hilltop is crowned with the beautiful tomb of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, who died in 1957. It is known locally as the Tomb of the Aga Khan. Aswan was the source of marble extraction for much of ancient Egypt's grand buildings. Close to town, in one of these ancient quarries lies a gigantic unfinished Obelisk half cut out of the local stone. Just to the south of this, two Graco-Roman sarcophagi and an unfinished colossus remain half buried in the sand. It is possible to take a half-day tour to visit the Unfinished Obelisk, the High Dam and the island Temple of Philae. Ask your tour leader for more details. If you have purchased the Temple of Abu Simbel Overland Theme Pack, you will visit the temple on Day 4. Leaving Aswan at around 4am you travel deep into the desert to the site of these enormous temples, on the shores of Lake Nasser. You can spend around two hours at the temples and then return to Aswan by about 2pm. The round trip drive is around 5 hours. Overnight in Aswan (2 nights).
This is truly the life as we board our feluccas to spend the next two days out on the river and nights under the stars. All meals are provided by our Nubian crew. Drinks, including beer, wine, water and soft drinks are available for you to purchase. Feluccas are very basic traditional Nile sailboats and make for an extremely relaxing and enjoyable way to travel down the river. You sleep on the deck of the boat (mattresses and blankets are provided, but if you prefer something between you and the blankets, you will need a sleep sheet/sleeping bag liner of your own). Please note that the Felucca itself does not have toilets or showers, however we will have access to a private support boat, travelling in close proximity to our Felucca. This support boat is equipped with toilets and a shower (please bring a towel) and an area to eat your meals, leaving you stress free to enjoy this tranquil and traditional experience on the Nile. Overnight on board our felucca (2 nights).
Our felucca journey concludes at the town of Kom Ombo where there is the chance to visit its Temple (entry fee not included). In a scenic location, right on the banks of the Nile, Kom Ombo was dedicated to the Crocodile God and you can still view the remains of an ancient mummified crocodile, which was worshipped here thousands of years ago. We continue on travelling by private bus towards Luxor, stopping en route at the town of Edfu. In the middle of a bustling village, Edfu Temple is the most completely preserved temple in all of Egypt and thus fascinating to wander through (entrance fee not included). On arrival in Luxor this afternoon, we check-in to our hotel and the remainder of the afternoon is yours to explore. Why not hire a horse and carriage (calèche) and take yourself off for an orientation tour. Perhaps take a wander through the bazaar or just relax at a cafe with a small, strong local coffee. Day 8 is free to explore all that Luxor has to offer. Why not cross to the West Bank and travel by "Egyptian Mercedes", otherwise known as a donkey! Be amazed at the mammoth eighteen-metre high Colossi of Memnon, which are all that remain of an ancient temple. Descend down the narrow rock-hewn corridors and experience the magnificent decoration and design of the tombs of the Pharaohs at the Valley of the Kings . Testament to the power of the queens in ancient Egypt, the impressive Funerary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut seems to rise out of the surrounding limestone outcrops. Perhaps ride a bike or catch one of the numerous taxis to the impressive Temple of Karnak, the centre of all religious life in ancient Egypt. Built and extended by successive generations of rulers, you can't help but be awed by the massive columns and painted hieroglyphs. You can’t miss Luxor temple, located near the Nile and right in the centre of downtown Luxor, it is beautifully lit up at night. Why not find out all there is to know about the ancient art of embalming with a visit to the world's only Mummification Museum or head into Luxor’s bustling bazaar to search out a bargain. The Luxor Museum is a small but beautifully presented exhibition of some of this region’s treasures. In the evening, why not head out to a restaurant for a local dinner and finish up with a coffee and sheesha pipe at one of the many cafes. Please refer to the optional activities section of these notes for more approximate costs for these optional activities during your time in Luxor. Overnight in Luxor (2 nights). Estimated Travel Time: Kom Ombo to Luxor, 4 hrs (including temple visits)
This morning is free to continue your explorations. Take an optional tour to the West Bank. Ride donkeys or even hire a bike to visit the Valley of the Kings and the spectacular temple of Queen Hatshepsut at nearby Deir El Bahari. This evening, we take an overnight train back to Cairo. Overnight on the train. Estimated Travel Time: Luxor to Cairo, 9.5 hrs (overnight train)
After checking-in to our hotel, we head off to explore Islamic Cairo on foot. Let your leader take you down bustling alleyways where life has changed little and streets are still named after their ancient crafts. Take the chance to wander inside a mosque and learn more about Egypt's principal religion. Take the chance to try a local lunch - Egyptian pizza is always a favourite! In the afternoon, wander the alleyways of Khan El Khalili Bazaar, legendary for fine brass ware, copper, perfumes, leather, silver, gold, antiques and more. You are sure to find a little something to take home! Overnight in Cairo.
Today is a travel day as we transfer by private bus to the town of St. Katherine's, our base for climbing Mount Sinai. Depending on the season, and group preferences, you may choose to climb the mountain this afternoon to catch the sunset, or if you like, you can be woken at around 2am tomorow morning to head to the summit for a fantastic and most unique sunrise experience. Not a problem if you are not up for a hike, you can also choose to relax at the hotel. Overnight in St Katherine's. Estimated Travel Time: Cairo to St Katherine's, 7 hrs
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 return to the mountain to visit the Monastery of St Katherine's, 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 Dahab for two nights of relaxation. After all of our travels, it is time for a bit of rest and relaxation by the beach. The chilled out village of Dahab provides the perfect location, with plenty of time for snorkelling in the Red Sea, swimming, or just relaxing at one of the many beach side cafes. Overnight in Dahab (2 nights). Estimated Travel Time: St Katherine's to Dahab, 1.5 hrs
Today we make our way back through the Sinai Mountains to the capital. We pass under the Suez Canal on our way today - don't miss the chance to have your leader explain this engineering marvel that changed the world. Tonight, why not celebrate our wonderful journey with a drink at one of Cairo's atmospheric old hotels and afterwards, perhaps enjoy dinner and a show while floating down the Nile. Overnight in Cairo. Estimated Travel Time: Dahab to Cairo, 9 hrs