Be amazed by the beautiful scenery as you cruise down the Nile on a felucca.. Explore vibrant Cairo with its bustling markets and colourful streets.. Experience the feeling of weightlessness as you float in the super-salty Dead Sea.. Spend the night trying to count the billions of stars or chat with the locals at our Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum.
Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine are ancient lands that conjure images of river valleys, powerful Pharaohs, pilgrims and cities carved from stone. Dive headfirst into Cairo, sail up the Nile on a felucca, party in Tel Aviv, take a jeep safari across Wadi Rum and experience more World Heritage Sites than you can shake a stick at: Battir; Petra; the Old Cities of Cairo, Acre and Jerusalem; the Church of the Nativity… it goes on – and so will you as you trek, swim, explore, photograph and taste your way across the best of the Middle East. This adventure will leave you with a greater appreciation for life here and a hands-on experience of some of the most significant religious and human history in this part of the world.
Welcome to Egypt! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 4 pm this afternoon. For those arriving early, why not take a walk to get your bearings of the neighbourhood, or escape the hustle and bustle and explore the Christian Coptic sector. After your important meeting, head out with your new travel buddies and discover Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, located in Cairo's Islamic centre. This traditional souk is a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with local merchants; a perfect place to get introduced to daily Egyptian life.
This morning, head to Giza and some of the world’s most iconic sights. Approach the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx by camel, with panoramic views across the dunes. Explore these structures that have stood tall for 4500 years, and for an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, although occasionally it is closed to visitors. Afterwards, make your way to the Egyptian Museum – home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the museum, 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. Later in the evening, meet your leader and travel to the nearby train station, where you will board an overnight sleeper train bound for 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. Today is a free day so take the opportunity to see such Aswan sites as the unfinished obelisk or the High Dam. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is top of many visitors’ lists. Highly recommended is the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan's Corniche, runs alongside one of Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. This evening you’ll experience modern Nubian culture first-hand with a visit to a nearby village. You’ll join a local Nubian family for a memorable dinner and get an unforgettable insight into the daily life of the local people.
Today perhaps head out of Aswan and book in to visit stunning Abu Simbel in the morning. 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. Please note this optional activity has a very early start (but it’s totally worth it). There’s two ways to get there – a 40-minute flight, or renting a minivan with your group and leaving very early. The journey by land is 3–4 hours each way, with an early departure from Aswan at 4 am. Instead, you could take a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Or, take a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned seventh-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Otherwise, simply relax and take in the beauty of the Nile or do some shopping in the local bazaar.
With some free time this morning, perhaps head down and grab a motor boat out to the Tomb of the Nobles or stock up on snacks for your evening on the Nile. Board your included felucca journey just before lunch and spend the afternoon out on the river, watching Egyptian daily life play out on the banks, then spend a night under the stars. Your Nubian sailing crew provides all the meals which are hearty and delicious. Being a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails, your felucca offers some shade and protection from the elements. However, there is no cabin or enclosed section. Nonetheless, watching the sun setting across the Nile in the evening is a sight you won't forget. This is the absolute highlight of the trip for many, especially with some local Nubian entertainment from your crew.
This morning, say goodbye to your Nubian friends and take a private van to the ‘open-air museum’ of Luxor (approximately 3.5 hours travel time). From the spectacular temple complex of Karnak to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor is full of wonderfully preserved reminders of the Pharaohs. On the way, there's the option to visit either the unique mirror-image design of the Temple of Kom Ombo, or the beautifully preserved Temple of Edfu. This afternoon you will explore the magnificent Karnak Temple, which is perhaps the most impressive of all the ancient Pharaohs' 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. The rest of the day will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar, which is open until quite late, or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local teahouse.
Today you’ll hop in a private minivan and discover some of the wonder of ancient Thebes. Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon – two 17-metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank. Carved from granite blocks, they represent the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and were once part of an impressive colonnade. Continue on to the spectacular royal burial site of the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 richly decorated tombs of pharaohs. With your leader, explore this sprawling and spectacular 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. Afterwards, join a local family for lunch to try some traditional home cooking. The rest of your afternoon is free to explore – with the Luxor Museum a great place to visit. Keep in mind that tonight you’ll board an overnight sleeper train from Luxor back to Cairo (approximately 10 hours).
Today you will farewell Egypt and take a short flight to Jordan. This flight is currently scheduled for the afternoon to allow for delays from the overnight train. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your Amman hotel, where your Jordanian Group Leader will be waiting for you. There may also be new group members joining the trip in Jordan. Welcome to Jordan, cosmopolitan and contemporary, yet steeped in biblical history. Tonight consider a visit to Rainbow Street where you will hear “Welcome to Jordan” from the locals, and maybe pick up a coffee from one of the cafés and partner it with an ara’yes, a toastie filled with spicy mincemeat
Follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia with a journey to Wadi Rum (approximately 5 hours). A half-day jeep safari will take you through some of the most striking desert scenery on the planet. Wadi Rum is full of weird and wonderful lunar-like rock formations, and traces of ancient civilisations can be seen in the many carved inscriptions found throughout the area – from pictographs to Thamudic, Nabataean and Arabic texts. The most enduring monuments in Wadi Rum are those carved by nature – the natural rock bridges, towering rose-coloured sand dunes and scattered rocky peaks. Tonight, sleep in a simple Bedouin desert camp, with the choice of sleeping under a camel hair tent or out under the stars. Enjoy dinner cooked in an earthen oven by your Bedouin hosts. Meaning ‘desert dwellers’ in Arabic, the Bedouins are a semi-nomadic people, and in Jordan up to 40 per cent of the general population is thought to have Bedouin ancestry. Conditions are basic at the desert camp, but the hospitality of your hosts as well as the chance to sleep beneath the twinkling desert night sky will sure make up for it.
After waking up in the unique surrounds of the camp this morning, head out on a trek around the area (approximately 12 to 15 kilometres), with a stop for tea and a lunch break. You might scale one of the large sand dunes for sensational views of the valley – the perfect chance to snap some unbelievable pictures. Explore the distinctive rock formations and bask in its eerie silence. Wadi Rum is probably best known for its connection with the enigmatic British officer T E Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917–18. Tonight is again yours to enjoy the traditional Bedouin hospitality and the clear night skies of the desert.
This morning you'll leave your desert camp, taking 4WDs to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom – the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor's centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women's co-operative aimed at supporting local industries. Continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra by private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was discovered by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt – a Swiss explorer. In 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage-listed site. Once arrived, spend the afternoon on a guided tour of Petra. Squeeze through a mile-long narrow path, known as the Siq, through huge towers of rock and get your first glimpse of the iconic Treasury complex. It’s amazing to think that this enormous, intricate building entrance was hand carved out of the rock.
Enjoy a free day of self-discovery as you explore Petra on your own. The site is surprisingly big, and so it is up to you to choose your own route around the complex. You could explore the old Roman road, other smaller temples and several old tombs, as well as the rock-hewn amphitheatre. For those who are feeling a bit more active, there's the challenging but highly rewarding 1-hour walk up the steps to the secluded yet stunning Monastery.