Egypt - Land of the Pharaohs

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Day 1: Arrive in Cairo

You are met on arrival at Cairo International Airport and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore on your own before meeting for dinner and our orientation meeting.

Overnight in Cairo.


Day 2: Cairo Sightseeing

After breakfast, we visit the world famous Egyptian Museum of Antiquities with exhibits and artifacts ranging from the pre-historic era, to Ancient Egypt, to the Graeco-Roman period. Highlights include King Tut's Golden Mask, the extensive contents of the only tomb left completely untouched, and the mummified body of Ramses II.

After lunch, we tour Islamic Cairo including the Citadel of Salah el-Din, and the Al-Azhar. We will also have time to visit the Khan-El Khalili Market.

Dinner and overnight Cairo.


Day 3: The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Step Pyramid

Today we head out to the Giza Plateau, where we visit the pyramid complexes of the Kings of the Fourth Dynasty (2575-2465 BC) Khufu, (Cheops), Khafre (Chepren) and Menkaure (Mycerinus). We may go into the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the only remaining wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, or possibly one of the smaller pyramids (Khafre or Menkaure), depending on which one is open. We stop to view the Sphinx with its features resembling Khafre and the body of a lion. Before heading back to the hotel we will stop to view the Step Pyramid.

Dinner and overnight in Cairo.


Day 4: Old Cairo Sites, to Alexandria

This morning we visit Old Cairo. Our first stop is at the Coptic Museum, to see its impressive collection of art ranging from the Graeco-Roman times to Islamic times. We then go to the Hanging Church which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is said to have been built between the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th centuries.

We see the Church of St. Sergius, one of the oldest churches founded in the 5th century and built over the crypt where the Holy Family took refuge from King Herod. We also visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue, dating back to the 9th century, and the spring beside it where Moses was found in the reeds. Should time allow we will stop in Souq al-Fustat for a look at the handicraft workshops and shops.

This afternoon we drive to Alexandria arriving for dinner.

Dinner and overnight in Alexandria.


Day 5: Alexandria Sites

Our first visit this morning is to Pompey's Pillar, made of pink granite and towering over the ruins of the Serapeum. A Graeco-Roman temple, the Serapeum was totally destroyed by the Christians in 391 AD. We then head to the Catacombs of Kom es-Shogafa. These tombs were tunneled into the bedrock in the 2nd century A.D. Discovered in 1900 when a donkey fell through a hole and into one of the catacombs, this complex, with its vast intricately decorated interior spaces, is so deep in the earth that it was considered an engineering marvel for its time.

After lunch, we visit the location of the site of Pharos Lighthouse, which is now the home of Fort Quaitbey. The fort has a small naval museum and some lovely views out over the harbor.

We then head to Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern library opened in 2002, to have a look at the Impressions of the Alexandria exhibit.

Dinner and overnight in Alexandria.


Day 6: To Siwa Oasis

After an early breakfast, we drive via the Mediterranean coastal road to Marsa Matrouh. Enroute, we visit the sight of the El Alamein war Cemetery and the War Museum. Marsa Matrouh is fringed with beautiful white sand beaches and sparkling blue-green water. We will stop to have our lunch and stretch our legs before our drive to Siwa.

Approaching Siwa is like an experience right out of a movie. We see the oasis shimmering in the heat and wonder if it is in fact real or a mirage, but as we get closer and see the many date palms, springs and streams, it seems like we have arrived in paradise in the sand dunes. Due to Siwa's isolated location, it has retained much of its Berber culture and tradition.

Dinner and overnight in Siwa.


Day 7: Mountain of the Dead, Cleopatra's Bath, Old Siwa (Shali)

Our first visit of the day is to Oracle Temple of Amun (Zeus), where Alexander the Great communed with the deity and was named king. Nearby is the Temple of Umm Ebeida, dating from the 30th dynasty. We climb Jebel al-Mawta, or Mountain of the Dead, which is riddled with rock tombs dating back to Roman and Ptolemaic times. Some of the tombs here still retain some of the paintings used to decorate the tombs. We also pay a visit to Cleopatra's Bath; a large natural spring.

Finally, we visit the remains of old Siwa (Shali). The name was dedicated to the old city by its settlers, which was used as a defense from neighboring tribes in the 12th century.

Dinner and overnight in Siwa.


Day 8: Siwa Museum, 4x4s to the Great Sand Sea

This morning we visit the museum of Siwa known as the Siwian House because it is built in the same style as the old houses in Siwa. The museum displays Bedouin handicrafts such as rugs, pottery, silver handicrafts and clothes.

In the afternoon, we go off-roading in 4x4 vehicles for a desert safari adventure, accompanied by the most experienced drivers on a thrilling ride as we race across the dunes. We stop to look at fossils and seashells along the seabed of the Great Sand Sea, take a dip in a natural spring in the middle of the desert, watch the sunset over the dunes and enjoy a dinner served under the stars by a campfire.

Dinner and overnight in Siwa.


Day 9: Return to Cairo

After breakfast, we depart from Siwa where our drive returns us to the coastal town of Marsa Matruh, located on the Mediterranean coast, where we enjoy beautiful views of soft white sand beaches and the calm transparent waters of the bay. We continue our drive along the coast and stop for lunch in Alamein. After lunch, we leave the Mediterranean coast and drive inland to arrive in Cairo in the early evening for dinner.

Overnight in Cairo.


Day 10: Fayoum Oasis or the Valley of the Whales

Today we visit Fayoum Oasis or the Valley of the Whales. (For security reasons, Valley of the Whales occasionally closes for visitors.) The Wadi al-Hitan, or Valley of the Whales, is named after the ancient whale skeletons that were found on the surface of the desert. An impressive UNESCO Site, these spectacular, 40-million-year-old remains are reminders that the entire area was once covered by a giant inland sea. As the climate changed 60 million years ago, food became scarce and dinosaurs vanished. In an effort to adapt and survive, these land mammals ventured into the sea for their food, yet still had to breathe air to survive. Over millions of years, they evolved into today's whales. The Wadi al-Hitan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 for its hundreds of fossils of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, the archaeoceti. No other place in the world yields the number, concentration, and quality of such fossils.

Alternative to Valley of the Whales visit - This morning after breakfast we drive to Fayoum Oasis, once considered an area of wealthy farmers and upper class citizens of Greek and Roman ethnicities. The history still remains in this region and serves as a reminder of times gone by and the influences of past rulers and their impact on Egypt. We will start our day by visiting Hawara Pyramid which was built by King Amenemhat III of Dynasty 12. The Hawara Pyramid, sometimes called the Black Pyramid, was influenced by the Skkara Step Pyramid in Cairo. We then continue to visit Karanis (Kom Oushim) situated 30km north of the city of El-Fayoum. In old Greek documents this region was called Karanis and it contains 2 temples, both dating back to the Ptolemaic Period. We will also see the cisterns, public baths and houses. After lunch we continue to see Fayoum Water Wheels, which convert energy from free flowing water to different forms of power.

Dinner and overnight in Cairo.


Day 11: Dahshur and National Museum

We visit the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in the ancient city of Fustat, now a part of Cairo. The museum offers an overview of the different historical periods that encompass Egypt as well as the Royal Mummies Hall, considered the crown jewel of the museum. We then continue to Dahshur to the Bent and Red Pyramids. The area of Dahshur is a royal necropolis located in the desert on the West Bank of the Nile and was founded by King Snefru, the founder of the Old Kingdom. Dahshur is known for its many pyramids, two of which are among the oldest, largest and best preserved in Egypt, built from 2613–2589 BC. Both pyramids create the link between the Step Pyramids at Saqqara and the Pyramids of Giza.

Dinner and overnight in Cairo.


Day 12: Fly to Aswan, Unfinished Obelisk, Philae Temple and Felucca Excursion

This morning we fly to Aswan, one of the prettiest locations along the Nile. We visit the Old Granite Quarries and the unfinished Obelisk, then continue on to the Aswan High Dam. 18 times the amount of material used in the Great Pyramid of Cheops was used to build the Aswan High Dam. It is 11,811 feet long, 3,215 feet thick at the base and 364 feet tall; an incredible engineering project during the 1960s. We have time to enjoy the view over the largest man-made reservoir in the world, Lake Nasser.

We then visit The Temple of Isis, another great UNESCO Site. This entire temple complex was also relocated to higher ground when the high waters meant that it would be lost forever.

In the afternoon we have a true Egyptian experience, sailing on a traditional felucca.

Dinner and overnight in Aswan.


Day 13: Nubian Village, Coptic Monastery by Camel

Today, journey by boat to a Nubian village where we will have the opportunity to visit with Nubian families in their homes. If it is a school day, we will visit the village school.

Later this afternoon, we travel across to the West Bank by ferry and then by camel to the monastery of San Simeon, a well preserved 6th century Coptic Christian monastery.

Dinner and overnight in Aswan.


Day 14: Fly to Abu Simbel, Ramses II Temple, Board Our Nile 5-Star Standard Cruise Boat

This morning we fly to Abu Simbel, giving us ample time to admire this world famous temple dedicated to Ramses II. We have plenty of time to relax and enjoy Abu Simbel after the early morning rush has subsided. Sitting in front of this most impressive site, the 4 massive statues of Ramses II are truly unforgettable.

Abu Simbel
Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Hathor are a part of the Nubian Monuments UNESCO World Heritage Site that runs down the Nile to Philae. Constructed in the 13th century BC by Ramses II, the monuments pay tribute to himself, his queen Nefertari and the gods Amun, Ptah and Ra-Harakhty.

The 4 famous 20m high statues of Ramses II, at the entrance to the Great Temple, are one of the most recognized symbols of Egypt today. When Abu Simbel was threatened by the rising levels of Lake Nasser with the creation of the Aswan High Dam, the entire complex was dismantled and reassembled in the 1960s, 65 meters higher up on a rocky outcrop.

In the afternoon, we drive back to Aswan to board our Nile 5-star standard cruise boat for the next 3 nights.

Dinner and overnight onboard our Nile cruise boat while docked in Aswan.


Day 15: Cruise Along the Nile, Kom Ombo and Edfu Temples

Our boat pulls up anchor today to sail along the Nile to Kom Ombo. The temple at Kom Ombo is made up of two structures, a temple dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile headed god of fertility and a temple dedicated to Haroeris, the falcon headed sky god. Kom Ombo is unique because the temples are duplicated side by side. There are two entrances, two courts, two halls and two sanctuaries. There is even a small museum here where we can see the mummified remains of the sacred crocodiles!

After lunch we sail on to Edfu Temple, dedicated to Horus. The temple is the second largest and the best preserved in Egypt. Begun in 237 BC by Ptolemy III, the temple was completed in 57 BC by Ptolemy XII.

We spend some time exploring the temple and viewing the impressive carvings and hieroglyphics which cover almost every wall. We return to our boat with time to relax before our dinner and Galabeya party (an Egyptian costume party).

Overnight onboard our 5-star standard cruise boat while docked in Esna.


Day 16: Karnak and Luxor Temples

After our very early morning cruise to Luxor, we visit the great temples of Karnak and Luxor, beginning with Karnak. Karnak is the largest temple complex in the world and its impressive size is testament to the power of the Theban kings during the Middle Kingdom.

The site is a vast collection of temples, obelisks, halls, chapels, pylons and pillars built over a period of 1500 years. We explore the Amun Temple, the Mut Temple and Montu Temple, the immense Great Hypostyle Hall (which contains 134 pillars) and the Great Festival Hall of Tuthmosis III, just to name a few of the sites! Karnak is an awe inspiring place. It is difficult to express in mere words just how impressive Karnak really is. We return to our boat for lunch. This afternoon is free to relax on board.

Late afternoon, we visit Luxor Temple, connected to Karnak by the "Avenue of Sphinxes", dedicated to the god Amen-Re, his wife Mut and son Khonsu. This temple was built at the site of ancient Thebes mainly by Amenhotep III and Ramses II and was one of the main centers for the Festival of Opet and a power base for the "living king".

We see many of the shrines and chapels that make up Luxor, including a chapel built by Alexander the Great. We visit Luxor in the late afternoon so that we can stay as the temple is lit up, making Luxor Temple even more spectacular and surreal.

Overnight onboard our 5-star standard cruise boat while docked in Luxor.


Day 17: The Valley of the Kings, King Tut's Tomb

After breakfast, we cross the Nile to the West Bank and explore the Valley of the Kings. The valley contains over 60 tombs of Egypt's pharaohs and nobles from the New Kingdom (18th, 19th and 20th dynasties).

We spend the morning seeing the three tombs that are open (they rotate which tombs are open between Ramses I, Ramses II, Ramses III, Horemheb, Amenhotep II, Seti I) and of course, the tomb of the boy king, Tutankhamen.

We then visit the temple of Queen Hatschepsut, the regent of Tuthmosis III. Queen Hatschepsut ruled as pharaoh for 20 years until she died in 1458 BC. We also stop at the Colossi of Memnon, two huge statues guarding what was once the largest temple complex on the West Bank, the funerary temple of Amenhotep III. These 18-meter high statues are all that remain of the site that was eroded away over the centuries by the rise and fall of the Nile.

Return to Luxor for a free evening to relax.

Dinner and overnight in Luxor.


Day 18: Fly to Sharm El Sheikh

Today we make our way to the airport to board our flight to Sharm El Sheikh. Located on the Red Sea, Sharm El Sheikh is known for its sheltered sandy beaches, clear waters and coral reefs.

Dinner and overnight in Sharm El Sheikh.


Day 19: Sharm El Sheikh

After breakfast we will explore Sharm El Sheikh with a city tour starting with Al Mustafa Mosque. This is considered the newest mosque in the city. We will visit the newly opened Sharm El Sheikh museum which contains over 5000 artifacts covering the span of the entire Egyptian civilization. We will journey to Al Noor district to visit the church before heading to Naama Bay, the most famous area in the city. Stop at the lighthouse where the views will take your breath away. In the afternoon we will wander around Sharm's Old Market with free time to explore on your own.

Our accommodations are at a beautiful resort on the Red Sea. You may choose to explore Sharm El Sheikh with the group or you also have the opportunity to stay at the resort to snorkel, scuba dive (extra cost) or simply relax by the sea.

Dinner and overnight in Sharm El Sheikh.


Day 20: St Catherine's Monastery (UNESCO), Farewell Dinner

Today we will explore St Catherine's Monastery a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed between 527 and 565 AD, it is located at the foot of Mount Moses. A chapel was built on top of the site where it was thought Moses' burning bush was. The greatest significance is one of the largest and most important collections of illuminated manuscripts in the world. This collection consists of approximately 4500 volumes in Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Slavic, Syriac, Georgian and other languages.

We return back to Sharm El Sheikh for a late afternoon rest before our Farewell Dinner by the Red Sea.

Overnight in Sharm El Sheikh.


Day 21: Fly to Cairo

We bid farewell to the relaxing setting of Sharm El Sheikh and depart for our flight to Cairo.

Dinner and overnight in Cairo at our airport location hotel.


Day 22: Depart Cairo

We bid a fond farewell to this ancient land and its warm people as we transfer to the airport today for our departure flight.

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