Abu Simbel: The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples in Abu Simbel in Nubia, southern Egypt. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser southwest of Aswan. The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Nubian Monuments,” which encompass the area from Abu Simbel to Philae. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BCE. In a colossal undertaking, the complex was painstakingly relocated in its entirety in 1968 to an artificial hill made from a domed structure above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their total loss during the creation of Lake Nasser.
Alexandria: This ancient port, the second largest city in Egypt, nicknamed the “Pearl of the Mediterranean,” was the center of learning in the ancient world. It was once home to the legendary Ancient Library of Alexandria, a remarkable library founded by a pupil of Aristotle in the fourth century BCE. By the middle of the firstt century BCE, the library is thought to have contained anywhere from 40,000 to 400,000 or more manuscripts on papyrus. Fire was the worst enemy of papyrus and the library burned down, although there is debate about by whom and when. Pompey’s Pillar rests in a small park near city center. The largest known Roman burial sites in Egypt are the Catacombs of Komel El Shokfa. Three tiers of rock-cut tombs and chambers date from the second century. The Fortress of Qait Bay, on the Island of Pharos, is an impressive 15th-century stronghold that stands on the site of the Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Aswan: Egypt’s southernmost city has among its many sites Philae Temple, the Unfinished Obelisk, intriguing tombs, the granite quarries of the pharaohs and the famous High Dam. Aswan has also become a popular winter resort and features a busy market. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine. The quarries of ancient Egypt were celebrated for their stone, and furnished the colossal statues, obelisks and monolithic shrines that are found throughout the country, including the pyramids.
Cairo: Africa’s most populous city, Cairo was founded in 969. The timeless and energetic city occupies the banks and islands of the Nile River in northern Egypt. The oldest section of the city has grown haphazardly over the centuries, creating small, crowded lanes, curio shops, old mosques and tenements. Using Paris as a model, western Cairo was built in the mid-19th century, incorporating boulevards, public gardens and grand, open spaces. In the desert west of Giza, the ancient necropolis of Memphis encompasses the three great pyramids. The pyramid of Djoser, the Sakkara Step Pyramid, is the world’s oldest known pyramid. The wealth of ancient rulers is housed in the renowned Egyptian Museum, including its fascinating collection of mummies. Khan el Khalili bazaar is a unique adventure on its own.
Edfu: The Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved. Built from sandstone blocks, the huge Ptolemaic temple was constructed over the site of a smaller New Kingdom temple, oriented east to west, facing towards the river. The later structure faces north to south and leaves the ruined remains of the older temple pylon to be seen on the east side of the first court.
Egypt Oases: Dotting the Egyptian desert, each oasis shows its own unique personality. Bahariya Oasis is rich in wildlife and has several small villages, mosques, health springs and unique rock formations and rock crystals. El Kharga Oasis has important sites such as the sixth-century Temple of Hibis, which is the finest and best example of a Persian Period temple in Egypt. Farafra, a small oasis in the White Desert, is known for its wind-carved rocks shaped into forms from pebbles and giant mushrooms. Al-Bagawat Necropolis contains hundreds of Egyptian tombs made with traditional mud and brick, as well as chapels and murals. In El Dakhla, El Qasr is an old Islamic town that was once an important trading center. Fayoum occupies part of the ancient site of Crocodilopolis, the oldest city in Egypt, founded around 4000 BCE. It also encompasses Wadi Al-Hitan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with fossils of some of the earliest forms of whales, as well as other early animals such as sharks, crocodiles, sawfish, turtles and rays.
Esna: The temple of Esna, which has only been partially excavated, is noted for the beauty of its site and its architecture. It was built of red sandstone, and its portico had six rows of four columns. Esna is also known for its lively tourist market.
Hurghada: Founded in the early 20th century, this resort area on the Red Sea coast is known for water sports: sailing, windsurfing, and deep-sea fishing, glass-bottom boat tours, swimming, snorkeling and diving. The warm waters support a variety of rare fish and coral reefs, including offshore underwater gardens. The town has a bazaar, museum and aquarium as well as fine resorts and restaurants.
Kom Ombo: The Temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple built during the Ptolemaic Dynasty in the Egyptian town of Kom Ombo. The building is unique for its design that incorporates courts, halls, sanctuaries and rooms duplicated to accommodate two gods. The southern half of the temple was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, and the northern part of the temple was dedicated to the falcon god Horus the Elder. Much of the temple has been destroyed by the Nile, earthquakes and later builders who used its stones for other projects.
Lake Nassar: The man-made lake was created from the construction of the Aswan High Dam between 1958 and 1971. A cruise on Lake Nasser offers the opportunity to explore ancient temples and monuments including the temples of Amada, Dakka and Meharakka and Wadi El Seboua. The lake shelters the last colonies of Nile crocodiles, monitor lizards, gazelles, jackals, fennecs and the famous Nile Perch. The West Bank has stretches of shoreline that shelter some of the 100 species of birds.
Luxor: Luxor, ancient Thebes, was the seat of the Middle Kingdom and the site of the pharaohs’ glorious temples and tombs. It became a prosperous city known for its high social status and luxury. The ruins of the temples at Karnak and Luxor sit across the Nile River from the richly decorated temples and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis of the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Nile River Cruise: One need only set sail aboard one of the luxury ships to experience the grandest monuments between Aswan and Luxor – the masterpiece rock-cut temples of Abu Simbel; Aswan’s High Dam; Temple of Philae, dedicated to Isis the Great Mother; and the statues and sanctuaries of Ramses II and his young queen, Nefertari.
Sharm El Sheik: Sharm el Sheikh sits on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on the coastal strip between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai. This is another stand-out resort area that features diving, snorkeling and other water sports. Ras Mohamed, once an important city for travelers heading for Mecca, became a national park in the 1980s to protect the region’s marine and desert life. Fox and gazelle were reintroduced. Hotels and restaurants are clustered around the center of Sharm, known as Naama Bay, with golf courses and other leisure facilities further up the coast.
Best Time to Go
In Cairo, and along the Nile River Valley, the climate is hot desert, but often with high humidity due to the Nile River Valley’s effects. Wind storms can be frequent, bringing Saharan dust into the city during the months of March and April. Rainfall is sparse, but sudden showers can cause flooding. In the coastal region average annual temperatures range from a maximum of 37° C/99° F to a minimum of 14° C/57° F. Wide variations of temperature occur in the deserts, ranging from a maximum of 46° C/114° F during the day to a minimum of 6° C/42° F after sunset. During the winter season, desert temperatures often drop to 0° C/32° F.
Day 1: Cairo, Egypt
Egypt’s capital is the largest city in the Arab world, and has long been a focal point in history for its strategic location.
Days 2/3: Cairo
Cairo offers a lavish banquet of ancient sites from Memphis and old Coptic Cairo to the phenomenal pyramids of Giza.
Day 4: Cairo / Abu Simbel / Aswan
Abu Simbel’s massive rock temples and Aswan’s graceful island Temple of Philae and High Dam never fail to awe.
Day 5: Aswan / Kom Ombo / Edfu / Esna / Luxor
The temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple; Edfu’s Temple of Horus is the most completely preserved; and the temple of Esna was known for its beauty and architecture.
Days 6/7: Luxor
Luxor, ancient Thebes, was the seat of the Middle Kingdom, and is still the site of the pharaohs’ glorious temples and tombs.
Day 8: Luxor / Cairo
Among the many treasures of the Cairo Museum of Antiquities is the enthralling mummy room.
Day 9: Cairo / Depart
Custom Tour Options
Alexandria (4 days)
Called the "Pearl of the Mediterranean," this was the center of learning in the ancient world, and is home to striking antiquities.
Egypt Oases (2-5 days)
The oases have always been critically important to the ancient trade routes through the desert; and these distinctive settlements offer a blend of history, fascinating geology and rich cultural traditions.
Hurghada (4 days)
This secluded haven on the Red Sea Coast enjoys the beauty of white sand beaches and an aquamarine sea alive with exotic marine life.
Lake Nassar Cruise (4 days)
Lake Nasser is one of the largest manmade lakes in the world, and is set in the middle of the largest desert on our planet.
Nile River Cruise (4 - 5 days)
Explore the ancient waterway that has served as Egypt’s life’s blood for millennia.
Sharm El Sheik (4 days)
This city on the coastal strip between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai is a stand-out resort area, featuring diving, snorkeling and other water sports.
$500-$600 per person, per day. Land only, double occupancy.