On arrival at Cairo International Airport, for those on the group transfer, a local representative will meet you just before you enter the baggage hall.
Today we visit the incredible Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which contains relics dating back to 4000 BC, including the fantastic riches of Tutankhamun's tomb. Here is the unique opportunity to survey the many fabulous treasures of Egypt in one place and to set the scene for the rest of the tour. After lunch we continue with a visit to Cairo's Citadel and lively Khan El Khalili bazaars.
A memorable day tracing the history of Pyramids. The day (and story) starts at Saqqara where we visit the Step-Pyramid that was constructed in 2780BC. From here we head to the little-visited pyramids at Dashour. In particular we will concentrate on the Red & Bent Pyramids -the first 'true' pyramids. In the afternoon we visit the best-known site at Giza on the western outskirts of Cairo. Home to the Great Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus and the timeless and enigmatic Sphinx, these great monuments to the afterlife defy the imagination. Only the throng of sightseers, Egyptian and foreign, milling around their huge foundations keep the viewer in the 21st century. This evening we travel by sleeper train to Aswan. Please note that dinner is served on the sleeper train this evening.
We arrive at Aswan, the most southerly city in Egypt and the traditional trading post linking Nubia and Black Africa with the Nile River. The desert sands come almost to the water's edge in this quiet but ever- growing city. Before arriving at Elephantine Island we stop at the Necropolis of The Nobles, a necropolis of rock cut tombs on the high cliffs on the West Bank of The Nile. These were only discovered in the last century. Although much of the stonework in the Necropolis has survived in good condition, the artwork in the tombs has not fared so well. Elephantine Island was reputed to have been the home of locally revered gods and temples, such as the Temple of Khnum, were built in their honour. Excavation of the island's ancient town is still being carried out.
Today we visit the remote temples of Philae and Kalabsha. For over 50 years the island of Philae and its monuments were submerged in water as a result of the Aswan Dam. In the 1960s the temples were dismantled and rebuilt to the original orientation on the nearby island of Agilika. The oldest part of Philae dates from the 4th Century BC and the rest of the remains were built by the Ptolemis and Romans up to the 3rd Century AD. Kalabsha temple is another Nubian temple, like Abu Simbel, which was also rescued from the waters of the dam and reconstructed. It was built in the Roman period for Caesar Augustus and dedicated to Isis. Made of sandstone, it was built in the traditional Egyptian style. Lunch box is included today.
Today many people will take the chance for an optional visit to Abu Simbel, 300 km to the south through the Nubian Desert. The road to Abu Simbel is now open and the temple can also be visited by air. Built by Ramses II, the two temples are certainly some of the most spectacular in Egypt. Originally on the banks of the Nile, the temples were raised stone by stone to a new site above the lake in the late 1960s by UNESCO as the waters from the new Lake Nasser rose behind the Aswan High Dam. The four great-seated statues of Ramses II now stare east towards the rising sun. Please note that the excursion to Abu Simbel can be a very early start (3/4/5am): the exact time depends on the flight or convoy departure times from Aswan. These vary from season to season. Back in Aswan by early afternoon we then board our cruise boat.
A cruise down the Nile offers the opportunity to view the traditional rural lifestyles of the riverside population. It is a time to relax on one of the great rivers of the world and enjoy two of the best preserved Ptolomeic temples. These few days are spent slowly cruising down the Nile with visits to the temples of Edfu, famous for its roofed inner temples and huge Pylon, and Kom Ombo. The time at sunset gives us a chance to savour the tranquillity of the Nile. We arrive in Luxor in the evening of day 8 and spend our last night on the cruise boat.
Day 8 - 9
We disembark from our cruise in the early morning and transfer to our hotel. After this we begin our tour of Luxor with a visit to Luxor Temple and the huge Karnak Temple complex. Both are dedicated to three Theban gods - Amun, Mut and Khonsu, and there are statues that attest to this inside the complexes. Built over 1500 years, Karnak is a confusion of pylons, courtyards, halls and sanctuaries. Its Hypostyle hall has 134 columns 23 metres high and 15 metres in circumference!
We cross the Nile in the morning to the West Bank. Here we see the Valley of the Kings, which contains the once hidden tombs of over 62 Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Ramses III and IV. A discreet entrance in the hillside takes the visitor underground, through a series of corridors and anti-chambers that lead us down to the burial chamber and sarcophagus. The walls are covered in brightly painted images and hieroglyphs - a map of the afterlife to ensure the king's safe passage. One ticket allows us to see three tombs. Visits to tombs are now strictly controlled to halt further deterioration of wall paintings - each tomb is periodically closed for a number of weeks. Our guide will attempt to choose three tombs which represent a range of styles. Tutankhamun's tomb is visited with a separate ticket. We then drive to Queen Hatshepsut's Temple at Dehr El Bahri. Cut from an east-facing cliff, the temple is famed for its carved reliefs and paintings, as well as its impressive proportions, best viewed from above. The half day finishes with a visit to the Colossi of Memnon and a view of the Ramesseum - a now fittingly dilapidated epitaph to Ramses II, who built so much for his own glory.
Medinet Habu is the name commonly given to the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. Second only to Karnak in size and complexity, the temple sheltered the entire population of Ancient Thebes through the 20th Dynasty's Libyan invasions. The temple is impressive with its inscribed reliefs, architecure and art - many bright colours still remain. The workmen's village, also on the West bank, across the river from modern day Luxor, comprised of over 70 homes. Excavation started on 1905 and a number of tombs were also found. The tombs here are heavily decorated and are truly some of the best preserved, and excavation here has provided a great insight into matters of everyday life and society in the New Kingdom.
Today is free to explore Luxor at your own pace. You may wish to visit the Luxor Museum (optional), which has a fantastic collection of relics from the Theban temples and necropolis. The objects are displayed with much thought and even Tutankhamun's funerary boats are on view. Alternatively you may wish to wander through some of Luxor's quieter streets. We can also offer an optional trip to Dendara and Abydos. Abydos served several dynasties of Egyptians and its huge necropolis was, for many years, a place where only the affluent and influential were buried. It was important too for the Romans because of the cult of Osiris and it became a place of pilgrimage for most Egyptians. The wonderfully preserved complex at Dendera is awesome; indeed the Temple of Hathor is almost intact. Hathor was the god of love and pleasure and this temple is a beautiful monument to an ancient goddess. In the evening we return to Cairo on the overnight sleeper train. Please note dinner is served on the overnight train.
We arrive in Cairo in the early morning and head for Al Fayom (approx 100km), Egypt's largest oasis. It was a holiday resort of sorts for the 13th dynasty pharaohs and many fine palaces were built for them here. It is a beautiful area, well known for its fertile land. We then drive to Maydom Pyramids - the fourth dynasty pyramids - and on to Lake Karoun (100 metres below sea level). We continue our drive to visit the remains of the ancient city of Karanis before returning to Cairo.
For those on group flights, these depart in the afternoon and will arrive in the UK the same day.