Visit to Egyptian Museum, Al Azhar mosque and lively Bazaar. We begin with a visit to the incredible Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which contains relics dating back to 4000 BC, including the fantastic riches of Tutankhamun's tomb. Here is a unique opportunity to survey the many fabulous treasures of Egypt in one place and to set the scene for the rest of the tour. Following our visit to this amazing museum we experience modern day Cairo with a visit to Al Azhar mosque, Cairo's oldest mosque and university, and the small alleyways and streets that make up Cairo's popular bazaar. Dating back to AD970, Al Azhar mosque is a busy and popular mosque today, frequently visited by locals and thus well worth a visit. We will need to cover up (long sleeves and trousers) as when entering all mosques. Women will also need to cover their hair with a scarf. In the afternoon we visit the Pyramids at Giza. 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.
In the morning we transfer to Cairo airport for our flight to Luxor. We arrive in Luxor and cross the Nile to the West Bank. Here we see the Valley of the Kings, which contains the once hidden tombs of over 62 Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Seti I, Ramses III and IV. A discreet entrance in the hillside takes the visitor underground; a series of corridors and ante-chambers leads 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. The ticket usually allows entry into what are regarded as the most impressive tombs, but if you have time a visit to the tomb of Ramses VI is highly recommended. Visits to tombs are now strictly controlled to halt further deterioration of wall paintings - each tomb is periodically closed for a number of weeks. In the afternoon we cross back to the east bank of the Nile and visit Luxor Temple and the huge Karnak Temple complex. 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 diameter! Both temples are incredibly impressive. In the evening we settle into our accommodation on the cruise boat.
Day 4 - 5
On the Nile. We will spend these days on our cruise boat, travelling upstream from Luxor to Aswan. Exact sailing and excursion times cannot be guaranteed for each individual trip but we will visit the temples of Edfu, famous for its roofed inner temples and huge Pylon, and Kom Ombo. The cruise boat has good facilities: a sundeck with sun loungers, bar and small pool, restaurant, gift shop and library - these can all be taken advantage of when the cruise boat is docked or during sailing. The sunsets over the Nile are truly stunning and travelling from Luxor to Aswan, watching traditional Egyptian life pass by and the beauty of the lush verdant landscape make this journey special.
Today we end our time on the Nile and spend the evening discovering the bazaar and corniche in Aswan. Aswan is a laid-back, sleepy town that reflects the character of its largely Nubian inhabitants, and enjoying its atmosphere is a highlight for many on this trip
Traditional felucca and optional afternoon visit to Philae temple. This morning we have time once again on the Nile, but this time to we travel by felucca, the traditional Egyptian sailing boat. Travelling by felucca, we can truly savour the tranquillity of the Nile and the beauty of the surrounding landscape, where the vast desert almost reaches the water's edge. In the afternoon there is the option to visit the Nubian Museum, situated opposite the hotel. Opened in April 1998, the museum chronologically charts the history and culture of the Nubian people. Alternatively, we can arrange an optional visit to Philae Temple. Relocated in the 1970s by UNESCO to Aglika Island after it became evident that the original site of Philae would submerge on completion of the Aswan High Dam, Philae is a magnificent and enduring testament to both ancient and modern engineering. During this excursion we will also visit Aswan High Dam and Cleopatra's unfinished obelisk.
Optional visit to Abu Simbel. Today there's the option of a visit Abu Simbel, 300 km. to the south through the Nubian Desert. 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 to a new site above the lake in the late 1960s, as the waters from the new Lake Nasser rose behind the Aswan High Dam. The four great seated statues of Ramses II stare east towards the rising sun. Please note that the excursion to Abu Simbel is always 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.