DAY 01: Arrival CAIRO
We are welcomed at the airport and transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Conrad Cairo Hotel (4 nights)
DAY 02: CAIRO
Giza, the capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the pyramids were considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We drive to the Necropolis of Giza* and explore the Great Sphinx of Giza and the Great Pyramids. We may take an optional camel ride in Giza. In the afternoon we visit the Egyptian Museum. (B)
DAY 03: CAIRO
We take a full day excursion to Memphis and its Necropolis*, the necropolis of Sakkara and Dahshur*, home of the oldest pyramids. Of the grandeur of Memphis, as it was known to the ancient Greeks, all that survive today are a few ruins of the sanctuary of Ptah, from which have come many votive statues depicting pharaohs and dignitaries and monumental necropolises. In the necropolis of Saqqara, the closest to the capital and the largest in the land, stands the first great stone pyramid. It was built as a mausoleum by Djoser, the founder of the Third Dynasty. This was a transformation of the earlier tombs, shaped like great brick rectangles, with the walls sloping inward and a flat roof, commonly referred to as mastabas. For the first time brick was replaced by stone. The pyramid is located inside a funerary complex enclosed by a curtain wall rising to a height of 10 m built from a fine-grained limestone. There are 14 false stone doors in the enclosure wall and a monumental entrance consisting of a corridor and a hall flanked by columns. The entry path leads to a plaza known as the Courtyard of the Jubilee. One side of this is occupied by a great stepped podium upon which were arranged the thrones of the Pharaoh; to the east and to the west of the podium sanctuaries were constructed. In the necropolis of Dahshur stands the Red Pyramid, named after the reddish hue of the limestone that was used to build it. To the south is the Rhomboid Pyramid, with its double slope on each of the four faces, apparently an intermediate form. With Snefru for the first time the annex construction appeared. (B)
DAY 04: CAIRO
We explore Historic Cairo* visiting the Citadel with the Mohammed Ali Mosque, the Sultan Hassan & Al-Rifa'i Mosques, Beit El Suhaymi, the Old Gates of Cairo and Khan al-Khalili Bazaar. Tucked away amid the modern urban area of Cairo lies one of the world's oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains. Founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century. (B)
DAY 05: CAIRO / ABU SIMBEL / ASWAN
Flight to Abu Simbel to visit the temples of Abu Simbel*, a temple built by Ramses II in ancient Nubia; he chose to build the temple dedicated to himself on the site where there were two grottoes consecrated to the cult of the local divinities. The sovereign in this way reaffirmed the fact that Nubia belonged to the Egyptian Empire. The Great Temple has four colossal statues carved out of the living rock, fastened to the cliff wall, which depict Ramses II, seated with the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt. Standing between and on either side of the pharaoh's legs were depicted princes, princesses and Queen Nefertiti, much smaller in size and standing erect. When the High Dam was being constructed in the early 1960s, international cooperation assembled funds and technical expertise to move this temple to higher ground so that it would not be inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser. We then take the short flight to Aswan.
Overnight: Basma Hotel, Aswan (1 night) (B)
DAY 06: NILE CRUISE: ASWAN
Board our Nile cruise ship and visit the High Dam, the astonishing Granite Quarries of Aswan*, exploited by pharaohs from early antiquity, where colossal unfinished obelisk-like monuments have been discovered. We then explore the Temple of Philae*, located on an island in Lake Nasser. The approach by water is quite beautiful. Seen from the level of a small boat, the island, with its palms, its colonnades, its pylons, seems to rise out of the river like a mirage. In the afternoon we sail around the islands in Aswan on a traditional felucca.
Overnight: M/S Mirage I Nile Cruise (3 nights) (B, D)
DAY 07: NILE CRUISE: EDFU / ESNA
We sail to Kom Ombo to visit the Temple of Sobek and continue sailing until Edfu, where we visit the Horus Temple by horse carriage and then sail through to Esna. (B, L, D)
DAY 08: NILE CRUISE: ESNA / LUXOR
We sail to Luxor to explore the Necropolis of Ancient Thebes* on the West Bank of the Nile with visits to the Colossi of Memnon, the Valley of Kings and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. For almost 15 centuries, great funerary temples were built at the foot of the hills. They were entirely separate from their corresponding tombs, which were dug into the mountains, safe from violation and tomb robbers. To the north were built the Temple of Qurna al Gedida, dedicated to Amon-Re, and the temple consecrated to Hathor, the goddess of sweetness and joy who was venerated in the form of a cow. It was commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut for herself and her father Thutmosis I. Even better known is the magnificent funerary Temple of Ramesses II, a building situated at the edge of cultivated fields which, because of its courtyards, sacraria filled with statues, decorations and colossi, was admired by many ancient writers. All that remains of the temple of Amenophis III are the colossi of Memnon, two impressive quartz monoliths that depict the pharaoh sitting on his throne, accompanied by the figures of his mother and his wife. The tombs of the pharaohs and of their dignitaries, priests and princesses are instead hidden in the bowels of the mountains and form the great cemeteries of al-Asasif, al-Khokha, Qurnet Mura, Deir al-Medina, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Among the underground tombs of the Valley of Kings, the British explorers Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter found in 1922 a small tomb that soon became the most renowned in Egypt, that of the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Optional - Experience the Sound and Light show at Karnak Temple in the evening, as you wander around the illuminated monuments and towering obelisks. (B, L, D)
DAY 09: LUXOR / SHARM EL-SHEIKH
We explore the East side of the Nile, visiting the Karnak Temple Complex, composed of three temples, one of which is consecrated to Mut, one to the warrior god Montu, and one to Amon. The building dedicated to the father of the gods is the product of a series of ingenious project of expansion and renovation ordered by Pharaohs eager to leave behind marvellous testimonials to their reign: the immense courtyard at the centre of which stands the enormous aedicule of Taharqa; the portico of Bubastis; the temple of Sethi II; the colossi of the pharaohs Thutmosis III and Ramesses I and II; the great hypostyle hall with 134 colossal columns; the six monumental entrances; the granite pillars and obelisk; the rooms decorated with religious and military scenes and the hall of the botanical garden; the sacred lake flanked by storehouses; the temple dedicated to the hippopotamus goddess Opet, placed on the site in which she is said to have given birth to Osiris; and finally the Southern Propylaea, four portals adorned with bas-reliefs, columns, obelisks and colossi, which adorned the sacred way that led to the Temple of Mut. After our visit we head to the Temple of Luxor, built by Amenophis III and Ramesses II. The entrance to the temple is adorned with scenes from the Syrian and Hittite military campaign and leads to the great courtyard of Ramesses II and to the chapel that served as a storehouse for the boats, dedicated to the triad of Amon, the father, Mut, the mother, represented in the form of a vulture or a lion, and Khonsu, the lunar son of the couple. The second complex, with a magnificent and immense entrance and colonnade, a courtyard, and a hall crowned with tall columns, was built at the command of Amenophis III. We the are transferred to the airport for our flight to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Overnight: Sheraton Sharm Hotel, Sharm El-Sheikh (3 nights) (B)
DAY 10: SHARM EL-SHEIKH / ST. CATHERINE
We have all day to relax at this world-class resort before our night journey to St. Catherine. (B)
DAY 11: ST. CATHERINE / SHARM EL-SHEIKH
We arrive at St. Catherine early in the morning and begin our Mount Sinai hike to catch the sunrise. After our descent we visit the Monastery of St. Catherine*. The Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine stands at the foot of Mount Horeb where, the Old Testament records, Moses received the Tablets of the Law. The mountain is known and revered by Muslims as Jebel Musa. The entire area is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Monastery, founded in the 6th century, is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its initial function. Its walls and buildings of great significance to studies of Byzantine architecture and the Monastery houses outstanding collections of early Christian manuscripts and icons. The rugged mountainous landscape, containing numerous archaeological and religious sites and monuments, forms a perfect backdrop to the Monastery. After our visit we return to Sharm El-Sheikh for a free afternoon. (B)
DAY 12: SHARM EL-SHEIKH / CAIRO
Flight to Cairo, followed by an exploration of Coptic Cairo, including visits to the Hanging Church of the Virgin Mary and the Ben Ezra Synagogue.
Overnight: Conrad Cairo Hotel (1 night) (B)
DAY 13: CAIRO / WHITE DESERT
We travel to visit the Black & White Desert along with the Crystal Mountain.
Overnight: White Desert Camp (1 night)(B, L, D)
DAY 14: WHITE DESERT/BAHARIYA OASIS
Head for Bahariya Oasis to tour the Golden Mummies Museum, the Baouiti Temple, the tombs of Bannenteoui & Zed Amoun the Temple of Alexander the Great and the Temple of Bess. We conclude the day with a bath in the hot water springs..
Overnight: Sands Bahareya Hotel (1 night) (B, L, D)
DAY 15: BAHARIYA OASIS/WADI AL-HITAN / FAIYUM OASIS
We drive to Wadi El Rayyan and continue to the valley of Wadi Al-Hitan*, the Whale Valley that contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time. The journey day ends in Faiyum Oasis.
Overnight: Auberge El Faiyum Hotel, Faiyum Oasis (1 night) (B, L, D)
DAY 16: FAIYUM OASIS / ALEXANDRIA
We visit the Karanis archaeological site and the Pyramid at Meidum before our arrival in Alexandria. Evening free.
Overnight: Maritim Jolie Ville, Alexandria (2 nights) (B)
DAY 17: ALEXANDRIA
We visit the Catacombs of Kom El Shokafa, Pompey’s Pillar and the Roman Amphitheatre, Quaitbay Fortress, Montazah Park and the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina. We then head to the early Christian holy city of Abu Mena* (Subject to permit). The church, baptistry, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops in this early Christian holy city were built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria, who died in A.D. 296. (B)
DAY 18: ALEXANDRIA / CAIRO
After our incredible journey of marvelling at Egypt’s cultural and natural heritage, we are transferred to the Cairo Airport to catch our departure flight. (B)