Relax and watch life unfold on the banks of the Nile during a three-night river cruise, stopping at temples and villages by day and stargazing from the deck pool by night.. Take an included flight to Abu Simbel and feel tiny compared to the towering, mountain-carved statues of Ramses II that guard the Great Temple.. Journey into the red-desert wilderness of Wadi Rum and spend a night camping beneath the stars with your nomadic Bedouin hosts.. Wash off the dust of the desert with a float in the salty waters of the Dead Sea – a surreal experience that has to be felt to be believed.
Take an epic 26-day journey across lands of ancient civilizations, holy relics, cities carved from stone and sunrises over desert landscapes. Sip aromatic coffee in Cairo before you discover the pharaonic temples and tombs along the Nile River. Take jeep safaris in Wadi Rum and Negev, camping under unpolluted skies full of stars. Discover the Rose City of Petra and the Roman city of Jerash before arriving in Tel Aviv. Taste unbelievable falafel in Manger Square and take a walking tour through Jerusalem. Immerse yourself in the frequently misunderstood Middle East and gain an understanding you can’t get from news bulletins.
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Egypt. You'll be met on arrival at Cairo International Airport and transferred to your hotel, and your Egyptian adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6 pm this evening. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can be symbolised by two imposing landmarks – the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. If you have some time spare, perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts – from donkey carts to expensive cars, desert slums to modern shopping malls. You could also travel along the river by felucca – a traditional wooden sailboat – or head out to explore the Khan al-Khalili markets.
This morning after breakfast you’ll see some of the world’s most iconic sights – the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Explore these structures that have stood tall for over 4500 years, and for an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, although occasionally it’s closed to visitors. Afterwards, your adventure continues to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of ancient artefacts. Wander the treasure-filled halls, and make sure to check out the optional Mummies Hall for a close encounter with some of the country’s most important queens and pharaohs. The masses of gleaming artefacts recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun are an impressive sight – from jewellery to the famous golden death mask and his gilded sarcophagi, this pharaoh was certainly prepared for the afterlife.
Jump in a private van today and drive to the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria (approximately 3 hours). Egypt's second largest city and main port, locals call this vibrant city the Bride of the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek architect Dinocrates built Alexandria in 331 BC under the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalising Alexander's name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual, political and economic metropolis. On arrival, head underground and delve into the mysteries of the Kom ash-Shuqqafa catacombs. This Roman burial site is the largest of its kind in Egypt. The crypts are 20 metres below street level, and what probably began as a small family tomb grew into a labyrinth of chambers that could accommodate more than 300 bodies. Afterwards, stop by the strikingly modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina, inspired by the original great library of Alexandria and built to hold over eight million books. Take some time to stroll along the Corniche and around Fort Qaitbey to enjoy the fresh Mediterranean air.
This morning, pay a visit to Al Montazah Palace and Gardens. Montazah Gardens is home to two palaces, one built in 1892 and another in 1932 by King Fuad I, and acres of manicured gardens. They are located along the shoreline and flow from splendidly landscaped gardens into great beaches. Soak up the surroundings before returning by private van to Cairo (approximately 3 hours). Take some time to relax or get some snacks before you board an overnight sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours).
The Nile, Elephantine Island and white-sailed feluccas. Welcome to Aswan – Egypt's southernmost city. Its easy-going charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. The city is Egypt's southern gateway to Africa and an important market town, so take time here to check out one of the country's best bazaars. When you arrive, you’ll explore the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom), which was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. In any free time, you might choose to visit the excellent Nubian Museum, which showcases the history, art and culture of the Nubians. This evening you’ll experience modern Nubian culture firsthand with a visit to a nearby village. Join a local Nubian family for a memorable dinner and get an insight into the daily life of the local people.
This morning, take a short flight (approximately 45 minutes) from Aswan to Abu Simbel, where you’ll explore some magnificent temples. Built by Ramses II, it was the gateway to Egypt for Southern Africans and its imposing facade clearly delineated the line between what was the Pharaoh's land and what was not. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, carved directly out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Return from Abu Simbel and transfer to meet your Nile cruise boat. Enjoy a fantastic mix of total relaxation and organised sightseeing on a Nile River cruise to Luxor.
Continue your leisurely cruise down the Nile, with today’s stop at Kom Ombo Temple, north of Aswan. Built on a high dune overlooking the Nile, the complex sits picturesquely ruined on the river's edge and dates back to the second century BC. The complex is unique because it has a mirror-image design, divided down the middle, with either side dedicated to a different set of gods. One half is known as the Temple of Sobek (the crocodile-headed god of fertility), and it includes details on the Ancient Egyptian's relationship with crocodiles, whom they revered and feared in equal measure. The other half is dedicated to Haroeris (also known as Horus the falcon god), and the whole temple is full of fascinating reliefs. Afterwards, return to the boat and travel upriver, with free time relaxing on the sundeck and taking in the surrounding sights – desert hills forming a backdrop to lush riverbanks, fishermen casting their nets and farmers working their land. This is living.
Today finds you moored near Edfu – a beautifully preserved temple also dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god. You will disembark and discover the lively streets of Edfu town, so get acquainted the bustling town centre and the bazaar. You’ll have time to visit the City of Edfu if you wish (please see our notes below regarding visiting Edfu Temple) Back on board, continue towards Luxor passing through the Esna Locks. It is not uncommon to have to queue to proceed through the locks, a great opportunity to check out the process from deck with a cool drink in hand, and listen to the shouts of the many captains as they navigate their way through the various small boats of merchants selling their wares to a captive audience – life on the Nile. Chill out and make the most of the incredible views across one of the world’s greatest rivers and your last night onboard.
Edfu Temple: In the past some of our customers have made the decision to walk to the Temple. The duration of the walk is about 30 mins each way, but be aware the road is busy and there is the risk of getting hassled from the carriage drivers. If you choose to walk please inform your Leader before you depart and ensure you are carrying water and have comfortable shoes and a hat and sunscreen.
Your Nile cruise comes to an end in the open-air museum of Luxor – from the spectacular temple complex of Karnak to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is full of wonderfully preserved reminders of the Pharaohs. Today you'll explore the Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient Pharaoh’s monumental works. One of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, Karnak is a house of the gods built over a period of some 200 years. Your guided tour of this vast temple of impressive pylons, obelisks and chapels will reveal its finest sections, such as the Avenue of Sphinxes and the Great Temple of Amun. The rest of the day is free for you to relax, shop in the excellent bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Today you’ll hop in a private minivan and discover ancient Thebes. Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon – two 17-metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank. Continue on to the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. With your leader, explore this place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made. Your group leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics, still well preserved in the deepest tombs. You will visit three of the royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut – a colonnaded building set against high cliffs that create a spectacular natural amphitheatre. The afternoon is yours to explore – perhaps you'd like to shop in the market or visit the world's first Mummification Museum to discover the secrets of pharaonic preservation.
Catch a short flight back up to Cairo this morning (approximately 1.5 hours). On your return to the capital, visit the Islamic parts of the city and the frenetic backstreets of the bazaar with your leader. A labyrinth of narrow streets and passageways, Khan is one of the biggest and oldest markets in the world. The 'Khan', sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. You might explore the gold market, ‘Perfume Street’ and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth – which you could purchase next door in the cloth market! Tonight, perhaps gather together you fellow travellers for a celebratory kebab, kofta, sheesha, or all of the above.
This morning take a short flight from Cairo to Amman. On arrival you will have some free time before the welcome meeting at 6pm. Take some time to start doing some sight seeing. Some of the highlights include the Citadel, with its sweeping views of Amman, the Jordan Museum (home to the Dead Sea Scrolls), or the Roman Theatre, right in the middle of downtown Amman.
Meet your new leader and new group members at the welcome meeting at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Your new leader will be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.