Egypt - Land of the Pharaohs - 11 Day Tour
Pyramids, tombs and mummies – the archaeology of ancient Egypt is one of the most instantly recognisable of all the great civilisations. This is a narrative of power, vision and ambition.
The monuments of Egypt are so much more than dry and dusty stones – through the real expertise of Guide Lecturer Lucia Gahlin we ‘meet’ the real ancient Egyptians: from the legendary pharaohs to the humble workers who laboured to build their tombs and palaces. We have also arranged special access inside the Great Pyramid and out of hours at Cairo Museum, making this a very privileged introduction to the long vanished kingdoms along the Nile.
- Enter the inner chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza during a special morning visit
- Enjoy exclusive access to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, in a special opening, where we enjoy the museum to ourselves and the many treasures found inside.
- Led by seasoned Egyptologist, Lucia Gahlin, a wonderful travel companion who has lectured extensively throughout Egypt & excavated Tell el- Amarna for several years.
Please note: Egypt will be warm with average daily temperatures between 20 and 30 c. Extreme temperatures are however moderated by the prevailing northern winds. Sun protection is the most important thing to consider and wearing a sunhat is essential. Cheap, and pure cotton, sunhats are made locally and available everywhere. Travel clothing should be light and comfortable, 100% cotton clothing is the best.
- Ancient Egyptians
- Special Access
- Low Single Supplement
- All Inclusive
We arrive in Cairo, the buzzing, energetic, metropolis that is Egypt’s extraordinary capital – a city that Egyptians admiringly refer to as ‘the Mother of the World’.
The first stop on our action-packed adventure is Saqqara, vast necropolis to the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. Many wonderful sights can be seen from this compact location, including the recently constructed Imhotep Museum, the incredible Step Pyramid of Djoser, a mastaba ‘eternity house’ (a flat-topped tomb) and the smooth-sided Pyramid of Teti, within which is inscribed a mass of sacred texts.
After lunch we enjoy special private access to the remarkable collections of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where the world’s most extensive exhibitions of pharaonic artefacts can be seen – all ours away from the usual hubbub and crowds. Among the many treasures on display are the solid gold mask of Tutankhamun, and the Narmer Palette, thought to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Today we continue on to Dahshur. Here we discover several pyramids, two of which – the aptly named Bent and Red Pyramids – are widely considered to be the earliest and best preserved examples of the form in the country.
This afternoon we visit Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, to visit the Great Pyramid, which stands alongside five smaller pyramids – a true wonder of the ancient world. We have privileged access to the Great Pyramid’s interior, where atmospheric passageways lead to royal chambers and the breath-taking grand gallery. We also explore the Solar Boat Museum, which houses an original pharaonic ship and the enigmatic Great Sphinx, whose limestone form has occupied this spot for more than 4,000 years.
For our final stop of the day, we have special sccess to the inner chambers of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
We set off for Minya this morning, stopping en route at Meidum, where a collapsed three-step pyramid looms. Its ruinous state is thought to have come about at the time of its construction, when expansions were made to transform it into a ‘true’ (i.e. un-stepped) pyramid shape. It has been noted that certain aspects of the pyramid’s walls and interiors appear unfinished, adding weight to the idea that this major project was never completed. On site we also find several mastabas, one of which – the tomb of an unknown noble – still contains an imposing red granite sarcophagus, accessible via a tunnel dug by robbers long ago.
Our drive south takes us to Beni Hasan, a cemetery of Middle Bronze Age tombs cut high in the cliffs overlooking the gleaming Nile. Some of these rock-carved tombs bear their original inscriptions, as well as painted scenes of ancient life.
Today we spend our time exploring Tell el-Amarna, generally thought to be the most significant city site surviving from ancient Egypt. The original name of the city was Akhetaten, the ‘Horizon of the Aten’, a title corresponding to the actions of the so-called ‘heretic pharaoh’ Akhenaten, who built it to honour his newly chosen god after abandoning his worship of Amon. The city itself was abandoned after the pharaoh’s death, only 16 years or so after its creation.
The full and thorough excavations of Tell el-Amarna’s expansive grounds mean there is much here to see on our visit.
After breakfast we head to Abydos, one of ancient Egypt’s holiest locations. Rising from the sand here is the remarkable Temple of Seti I, a memorial to the otherwise often overlooked King Seti. Inside we find towering columns, elaborately carved, alongside vividly painted hieroglyphs and scenes of pharaohs past.
Behind this temple is an intriguing subterranean structure known as the Osireion, a megalithic monument built in dedication to Osiris, the god of the dead. Its moated design seems to mimic that of an island surrounded by water – and the nearby presence of the Nile keeps it lined with water still.
Continuing on to Dendera we view the Temple of Hathor, with a grand layout built to include several halls and shrines – and even a laboratory. The temple is famed for its depictions of Cleopatra VII and Caesarion, excellent examples of Ptolemaic Egyptian art.
Our day draws to a close at Luxor, a city often cited as ‘the world’s largest open-air museum’. Tomorrow’s exploits can’t come soon enough!
Our adventures kick off straight after breakfast, as we visit the famous Colossi of Memnon on the West Bank at Thebes. These two enormous statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III stand at a towering 18-metres high, and were erected to guard the entrance to the pharaoh’s vast and opulent memorial temple. Alas, only traces of that once-great temple remain.
We move on to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, a stunning funereal shrine which has largely been restored to its former glory. The temple is cradled by the dramatic natural sculptures of neighbouring cliffs. An unparalleled desert vision.
The wonders of the region continue to amaze us this afternoon, as we proceed into the Valley of the Kings. This was the final resting place of royals and nobility for almost 500 years, with excavations dating the site back as far as the 16th century BC. Its most notable occupant is, of course, King Tutankhamun, so famously discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, and since returned to his original grave where he now lies undisturbed.
We round off the day by exploring Luxor Temple, with its avenue of sphinxes, military reliefs and gorgeous papyrus columns.
We pay a visit to Deir el Medina this morning. This ancient village on Luxor’s West Bank is the former home to the workers who constructed tombs nearby in the Valley of the Kings. These artisans were operating at the height of their profession, and substantially better off than the average workers in Egypt at that time. That is until the conditions of their employment began to deteriorate, and many turned to looting the graves they had made…
We journey on to Medinet Habu, arguably the best preserved temple of the New Kingdom, filled as it is with a wealth of exemplary paintings, carvings and sculptures. In total, the precinct contains over 7 square kilometres of decorated reliefs. Our next stop is the Ramesseum, with its fallen colossus of Ramesses II, an astounding testament to the pharaoh’s reign – and the inspiration behind Percy Bysshe Shelley’s masterpiece ‘Ozymandias’.
After a day spent roaming the sunlit ruins there’s no better reviver than a boat ride on the Nile. Relax on the water, watching the birds and desert banks glide by.
This morning we lose ourselves in the captivating complex of Karnak, the second largest religious site in the world after Angkor Wat. Here we encounter the cult temple of Amun-Ra, chief of the deities of the New Kingdom. This is a spectacular multi-period location with wealth of religious and historical inscriptions at every turn. Chapels, gateways, halls and obelisks stand side by side. Sturdy pillars touch the African sky. Palm trees shimmer, reflected in the waters of the Sacred Lake.
Following this, we enter Luxor Museum, a masterfully arranged collection of archaeological artefacts, and home to many celebrated works of art. Highlights include the famous statue of Tuthmosis III, an extraordinarily realistic figure carved out of greywacke.
We rise early to beat the heat and the crowds on a visit to the temples of El Kab, one of the oldest settlements of Upper Egypt. We seek out hidden rock-cut tombs with colourful interiors, and find traces of inhabitants from both the prehistoric and Greco-Roman eras.
The Temple of Edfu is our final destination, and the perfect last note on which to end our Egyptian explorations. This is a site simply bursting with superlatives. We step into one of the country’s most magnificently preserved shrines, the construction of which is thought to have spanned an incredible 180 years, from the 3rd to the 2nd century BC. Towering at a jaw-dropping 37 metres, its pylon, or gateway, is the highest among all of Egypt’s surviving temples, and is decorated with vivid scenes of King Ptolemy VIII destroying his enemies before Horus. The complex even houses a Nilometer, a structure made to measure the depth and clarity of flooding Nile waters.
Our cups runneth over this evening in a joyful farewell dinner – an opportunity to celebrate our many recent discoveries with our excellent group and guide lecturer.
The modern world calls. We take our leave from ancient Egypt and catch our return flights home.
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach; boat down the Nile;
- Meals - All meals included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
- Hotels - 3 nights in a famous and historic 5* hotel in Giza, furnished with antique and handcrafted touches, 1 night in a centrally located hotel in the small city of Minya, 1 night in a comfortable hotel in Assiut, 5 nights in a luxury resort in Luxor on the banks of the Nile
- Flights - Scheduled flights London to Cairo; internal flights: Cairo/Luxor
3 nights in a famous and historic 5* hotel in Giza, furnished with antique and handcrafted touches
1 night in a centrally located hotel in the small city of Minya
1 night in a comfortable hotel in Assiut.
5 nights in a luxury resort in Luxor on the banks of the Nile
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