Those on the group flights will be met on arrival into Cairo Airport and transferred to the hotel, where the rest of the group will join us. This family friendly hotel is close to the pyramids, meaning that there is less distance to cover for the sightseeing the next day.
With a population of around 18 million people, Cairo is Africa's largest city by far. Yet despite its size, Cairo retains a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Today you'll enjoy a half-day sightseeing tour of two of the city's most celebrated sights. At Giza, to the west of the city, the enigmatic Sphinx and Great Pyramids stand on the edge of the empty desert overlooking the city, providing a great contrast between the ancient and the modern faces of Egypt. More than 4000 years old, the pyramids are the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that remain intact - a testimony to the ingenuity and skill of their builders. The famed Egyptian Museum holds many thousands of exhibits; your local guide will focus on the Tutankhamun collection - probably the world's greatest archaeological find. You'll see the treasure found in the tomb of the boy-king: the jewel-encrusted golden mask, the golden sarcophagus and throne, plus many everyday articles, which were entombed with him to be used in the afterlife. Although a wonderful experience for all, it will bring to life the things the kids may have been learning about ancient Egypt at school, and give you a taste for what's to come at the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of Tutankhamun! In the evening you board the overnight train to the southern city of Luxor.
Known in ancient times as Thebes, Luxor was the capital of Egypt's New Kingdom for some 500 years. Depending on your arrival time in Luxor, there may be time to look around the monuments and museum, explore the town's bazaar or visit Karnak Temple to witness the memorable sound and light show (optional, at additional charge) which relates its history in dramatic fashion.
This morning you visit the ancient tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings. Rising early, you cross the Nile and drive to the secluded valley where 63 Pharaohs were buried as part of their journey to the after-life. In the company of a local guide, you can explore some of the exquisitely decorated tombs of these ancient rulers. It is here that the burial site of the boy-king, Tutankhamun, discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, can be found. The visit to the Valley of the Kings brings to life much of what you saw in the Egyptian Museum. On your way back to the river, you see the imposing funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's first female ruler. This afternoon, you have the opportunity to board a felucca (at additional charge) and settle down to watch the sights of Egypt drift by. The Nile has a fascination all of its own and remains the principal focus for most visitors to Egypt. In ancient legend it was the very giver of life, and the rich silt deposited by its annual flooding created the fertile plain. This was cultivated intensely to sustain the population that lived along the river; even in modern times it both feeds and provides a livelihood for millions of people.
This morning we take a horse-drawn carriage, known locally as 'calesh', to the grandest of Egypt's historic temples - Karnak, which you explore with a local guide. Many architects and engineers contributed to its construction, a task that spanned the reign of successive Pharaohs over a period of 1400 years. The highlight of its many wonders is the Great Hypostyle Hall, which contains 134 huge columns, and the beautifully carved obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut. The sheer scale and massive bulk of these monuments testify to the wealth and the level of organisation of early Egyptian civilisation. Later we transfer by minibus across the desert region to coastal Hurghada (approx 4.5 hours drive) where you will stay in a beach resort.
Today you have a full day to enjoy the beach and swimming pools at your resort. You may wish to take a boat trip to go snorkelling and explore the amazing coral reefs and tropical fish of the underwater world of the Red Sea.
Today you make the short drive to Hurghada's airport and take a flight back to Cairo. There should be time for further exploration or one of several sightseeing options (at additional cost) to visit another of Cairo's remarkable attractions. Later this evening your leader will traditionally organise a 'last supper' for the group.
For those not on the group flights the trip ends here after breakfast. Those on the group flights will be transferred to Cairo Airport for your flight home.