You are free to arrive in Cairo at any time. You will be met at Cairo airport and transfered to your hotel. There are no planned activities today, 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, no worries, the leader will leave a message 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.
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: 580 Miles (930 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, we visit the ancient granite quarries where you will see the famous unfinished obelisk and then visit the High Dam, built in the 1970s to control the Nile's water flow, a massive engineering feat at the time. We then 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. Estimated Travel Time: Aswan to Abu Simbel, 25mins each way (flight time)
We travel to Luxor, stopping on the way at the Kom Ombo and Edfu Temples. 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. In the middle of a bustling village, Edfu, the Temple of Horus is the most completely preserved temple in all of Egypt. On arrival in Luxor this afternoon, we check-in to our hotel and the remainder of the afternoon is ours to explore. We can hire a horse and carriage (calèche) ride, wander through the bazaar or just relax at a cafe with a small, strong local coffee. Estimated Travel Time: Aswan to Luxor, 8 hours (including time at the temples). Approximate distance: 140 Miles (230 km)
This morning we visit Karnak Temple, the center of all religious life in ancient Egypt. Built and extended by successive generations of rulers, we will be awed by the massive columns and painted hieroglyphs. Continue on to tour the 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. This evening we enjoy a fun dinner of Egyptian pizza called manakish at a local restaurant.
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. In the late afternoon, we transfer to Luxor airport and board our return flight to Cairo. Estimated Travel Time: Luxor to Cairo, 1 hr (flight) Approximate distance: 440 Miles (710 km)
This morning we 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.
We are free to depart at any time today. Check-out time from the hotel is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage facilities are available. Our tour leader can easily assist with booking a transfer to the airport if required.