We fly from London to Cairo. We are met on arrival and transferred to our hotel. Those not flying with the group will join us at the hotel in the evening.
We have a relaxing morning before heading to the famous Egyptian Museum of Antiquity in the centre of Cairo. The museum contains relics dating back to 4000 BC, including the fantastic riches of Tutankhamun's tomb. Here is the unique opportunity to survey many fabulous treasures of Egypt in one place and it will give you a good base to start your exploration of Egypt's impressive past. In the evening we travel by sleeper train to Aswan.
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. After we disembark the train and check into our hotel, we take a felucca ride to the botanical garden on Kitchener's Island and to the West Bank for excellent views over the Nile to the city. In the afternoon there is time to relax by the pool or for optional visits to Aswan's Nubian museum (close to the hotel) or to Aswan high dam and the unfinished obelisk, the largest known ancient obelisk.
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 1960's 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. Back in Aswan by early afternoon, the rest of the day is free to relax by the hotel swimming pool or explore the famous Nubian Bazaar in the back streets of Aswan. Alternatively for either morning or afternoon there is a possible optional trip to the Ptolomeic island-temple of Philae.
Today we travel by road to Luxor. The journey is approximately 3 hours but we make two important stops enroute to visit temples at Kom Ombo and Edfu. The temple at Kom Ombo is dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon-headed god. It is very special, and indeed unique, as it is in fact a double temple. Two temples are combined in one with each side having its own gateways and chapels. The temple of Horus in Edfu is the most completely preserved out of all the Egyptian temples and is equally impressive. In the afternoon we visit the stunning Karnak and Luxor temples. 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 64 Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Seti I, 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. The energetic can walk over a small but steep ridge (about 30 mins) to Queen Hatshepsut's Temple at Dehr El Bahri, otherwise we drive. 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. For the children, we also include a donkey ride today. In the afternoon we head to the mummification museum. The museum helps us to understand the ancient art of mummification and the techniques the Ancient Egyptians used. Ancient Egyptians didn't just mummify humans and at the museum we can also see cats, fish and crocodiles!
In the early morning leave the Ancient Egyptian sites behind and head along the Nile valley to Qena. We then turn into the Eastern Desert and travel through a dramatic range of mountains on to the Red Sea coastal resort of El Gouna - a total distance of about 300 km (approximately 4½ hours).
El Gouna is a small resort on the Red Sea offering access to the reefs, coral islands and beaches. El Gouna has a relaxed feel and we stay in a small hotel close to the marina, and there are some nice restaurants and cafes close by. The hotel has pool access and just a short walk from the hotel is a beach. Our day is free for relaxation or you can join an optional full day's snorkelling trip to a coral island and reef, with lunch of salad and fish freshly cooked on board. With respect for the environment, we would ask that passengers are very careful not to damage the reef and refrain from removing or taking home any coral. Snorkelling equipment of variable quality is available locally. Qualified divers should bring their BSAC or PADI certification card and logbook if they want to dive.
In the morning we will transfer to El Gouna airport where fly back to Cairo. Here your trip draws to a close in a dramatic fashion with a visit to the impressive Pyramids 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. We take a camel ride here too, the perfect opportunity to take a few classic photos! In the afternoon we also spend time in a local Papyrus institute, learning how papyrus is made and then having the chance to decorate our own papyrus.
Fly to London.