Those who are on the group flights will be met on arrival into Cairo, and transferred to the hotel. Those not on the group flights will join the group at the hotel in Cairo. This family friendly hotel is close to the pyramids so there is less distance to cover for the sightseeing the next day.
With a population of around eighteen million people, Cairo is Africa's largest city by far. Yet despite its size, Cairo retains a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Its long and colourful history dates from the 7th century AD, when it was established by the Arab leader Amr ibn al-As, and called Fustat (the tent). Today you'll enjoy a half-day sightseeing tour of two of the city's most celebrated sights, which help to show the contrast between ancient and modern Cairo. 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. 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 for his journey into the afterlife. A wonderful experience for all, it will bring to life the things that the kids may have been learning about 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 Aswan.
Arriving in Aswan in the morning, you see that it is here that the Nile runs deep and fast between granite rocks as the desert encroaches on the river. Even to travellers in ancient times, the town was legendary as the entrance to the kingdom of Nubia. Today it's still something of a frontier town, where the Arab Middle East meets black Africa. With its mixed population of Egyptians and Nubians, Aswan is quite unlike any other town in the country, and a fascinating place to visit. By virtue of its position on the old caravan route, it has always been a trading centre and we thoroughly recommend a visit to the packed bazaar where merchants display a wealth of exotic spices, carpets, leather goods and countless other wares. Kids will be thrilled by the sight of donkey carts and men in flowing robes and turbans. The climate in winter is almost perfect, hardly a drop of rain falls here and the temperature hovers around 25 degrees celcius. In the afternoon there may be time to take a taxi out to visit the temple of Isis at Philae. There are many other sites to be seen around Aswan and your leader may be able to organise some for you, for example to the remarkable Unfinished Obelisk or a fun camel ride (all additional charge). In the evening there is a trip across the river to a Nubian village where you enjoy dinner at one of the local houses.
A very early start usually allows for an optional excursion to Abu Simbel, just 50 kilometres from the border with Sudan. Alternatively, kids will love the optional camel ride to St. Simeon's Monastery - a real desert experience! By late morning you board the feluccas and settle down to relax. The Nile has a fascination all of its own and remains the principal focus for most visitors to Egypt, as it has provided the basis for life in this area for many centuries and continues to do so. 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. You will sleep on mattresses on the deck of the felucca, under the stars.
This morning you'll visit the temple at Kom Ombo, uniquely dedicated to two gods: Haroeris (Horus the elder) and the crocodile-headed Sobek, god of the Nile. Kids and adults alike will cringe at the mummified crocs on display here! On the east bank around Kom Ombo, reclaimed land is fed by canals to keep the harsh, dry landscape of the desert at bay - it supports not only crops of sugar cane but also a large Nubian community displaced from their homeland by the rising waters of Lake Nasser. You transfer by bus to Luxor, travelling as part of a convoy (approx. four hours). Following the path of the Nile you retrace your route northwards. Known in ancient times as Thebes, Luxor was the capital of Egypt's New Kingdom for some 500 years. Upon arrival, there will be time to look around the town's monuments and museum, and it may be possible to visit Karnak temple to witness the memorable sound and light show (optional) which relates its history in suitably 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. This visit to the Valley of the Kings brings to life much of what you saw in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. On your way back to the river, you can see the imposing funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's first female ruler. This afternoon you're free to explore Luxor, or relax by the hotel swimming pool if you prefer. It may also be possible to take an optional hot air balloon ride early one morning during your stay in Luxor.
In the early morning, horse-drawn carriages drive you 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, many colossal statues of deities, and the beautifully carved obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut. The sheer scale and massive bulk of these monuments testifies to the wealth and the level of organisation of early Egyptian civilisation.
This afternoon you say farewell to the Nile and drive eastwards to Hurghada (5 hours). The green Nile valley is soon left behind as you head out into the barren Eastern Desert. Passing through rocky hills, the glittering waters of the Red Sea soon come into view and the rugged bulk of the Sinai Peninsula looms through the haze on the opposite shore. Hurghada is a vibrant beach resort. Although by no means a typical 'adventure destination', enjoying the superb snorkelling on offer here is a great way to round off your trip.
This morning you take to the waves and head out to the lovely offshore reefs of the Red Sea. Here you can swim and snorkel to see the abundance of vividly coloured marine life that inhabits the warm waters. You take snorkels, masks, and fins with you to give you the best opportunity to see the marine life (or you can bring youe own from home if you prefer). Lunch is provided on the boat. Pods of frolicking dolphins are not an unusual sight and there are colourful fish in abundance.
Very early this morning, you make the short drive to Hurghada's airport and take a flight back to Cairo. Once back in the capital, there should be time for further exploration; your leader can help you arrange a sightseeing trip if you like. Later this evening your leader will usually organise a traditional 'last supper' for the group.
For travellers who are not on the group flights, your trip ends in Cairo after breakfast. Those travelling on our group flights will be transferred to Cairo Airport for your flight home.