“When we talk about the cradle of civilization, we normally talk about countries, what if we talked about two rivers joining into one, the Blue and White Nile, merging near Khartoum Sudan where my mother was born, that serve as the connection between Ethiopia, Egypt and Jordan. This program goes beyond the normal Nile Cruise and Cairo, and into something much deeper. One of my favorite parts are the bleeding heart baboons in the Simien Mountains.”
While the world has been changing, we have been exploring.
Price starts at $1000 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.
Day 1: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A visa is required to enter Ethiopia and it can be obtained upon arrival. Upon arrival, you are welcomed by our representative, who transfers you to your hotel. Addis Ababa, “New Flower”, is Ethiopia’s capital city, located at 2,700 m/8858 ft above sea level. It is a pleasant city with wide avenues, interesting museums and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, “Merkato”. Founded by Emperor Menelik II in 1887, the site was chosen because its location within the Entoto hills, long the center of Shoan politics. It is Africa’s diplomatic capital with headquarters for the Organization of African Union and the United Nation Economic Commissions for Africa. The capital is rich in impressive statues and monuments. The remainder of your day is at leisure. Note: A visa is required to enter Ethiopia and it can be obtained upon arrival. Sheraton Hotel – Classic Room (B,L,D)
Day 2: Addis Ababa
Today after breakfast begin your exploration of Addis Ababa with a drive to Entoto Hills. Mt. Entoto is the highest peak in Addis Ababa, reaching 3,200 m/10,500 ft above sea level, and offers views over the city and the surrounding areas. It was the first settlement in Addis Ababa where Emperor Menelik II resided and built his palace in 1887. This historical place presents a unique glimpse into the history of Ethiopia’s distinct culture. The compound at the peak hosts the Entoto Mariam Church, an Ethiopian artefact museum as well as Menelik II palace.
In addition to its historical significance, as you drive up the hill you’ll notice an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees lining line the road. Drvie past roadside stalls offering fresh Ethiopian coffee. Also, if you have an interest in Ethiopian traditional clothing, with time availability, you can stop by at Shero Meda Market, with its wide variety of vivid fabrics, shawls, scarves, dresses, tops and jewelery.
After lunch, visit The National Archaeological Museum, ranking among the most important museums in sub-Sahara Africa. It houses the famous 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy. Lucy is believed to be the ancestor of the humans. The museum has many exhibits that reflect the importance of Ethiopia as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’. Its historic room features finery worn in wars, including such as crowns, weapons, and pictures of wartime heroes and kings. Enjoy lunch at the gate of the Museum, at the famous Lucy Gazebo Restaurant, which serves local favorites and international dishes.
Then visit St. George’s Cathedral (Giorgis Cathedral) at the north end of Churchill Road. Designed in the traditional octagonal shape, it was built in 1896 to commemorate Ethiopia’s victory at the Battle of Adwa over Italians. The Cathedral houses the work of Afewerk Tekle, the renowned Ethiopian artist responsible for the stained glass windows of the Africa Hall and also houses a small museum. Sheraton Hotel – Classic Room (B,L,D)
Day 3: Addis Ababa / Axum
Today, after breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Axum. After freshening up at the hotel, you begin your discovery of Axum, known for the St. Mary Zion Catherdal, where, as legend has it, the original Ark of the Covenant was housed. There are several standing monolithic stelae which are made of single pieces of granite, on which three have identical decoration. Another treasure includes The Queen of Sheba’s Palace. The site contains the remains of what was once a massive palace with finely-mortared stone walls, deep foundations and its own impressive drainage system. It is believed to be the oldest building in Axum. Sabean Hotel – Classic Room (B,L,D)
Day 4: Axum / Lalibela
Today after breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Lalibela. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Lalibella is rightly acknowledged as being one of the Wonders of the World. Legend has it that at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, King Lalibella of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock-hewn churches here, calling it New Jerusalem. Crafted from the rock in which they stand, these towering edifices seem to be superhuman creations in scale, workman ship and concept. Eleven churches in the town are named after the King.
The first group of six churches in town lie in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem. These remarkable structures are the biggest monolithic temples in the world, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Maribela Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5: Lalibela
In the morning, visit the second group of the rock churches. The southeast cluster of churches is more irregular in design than the northwestern cluster. Several of the individual churches in this cluster are thought to have been secular in origin, and some predate the reign of King Lalibela by five centuries. The churches in the southeast group include Bet Gebriel-Rafael, Bet Abba Libanos, Bet Lehem, Bet Emanuel, and Bet Mercurios. According to legend, Bet Abba Libanos was built overnight by Lalibela’s wife, Meskel Kebre, who was assisted by a group of angels.
Then, visit Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant and majestic of all the Lalibela churches, which lies somewhat isolated in the southwest part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached through a tunnel.
After lunch, visit the monastery of Nakuto Laab, located six kilometers/3.73 miles outside Lalibela and is accessible by car. It is a simple, yet fascinating example of Lalibela’s eastern group of rock hewn churches. In the late afternoon, stroll the open market of Lalibela, after which you enjoy Ethiopian hospitality at a traditional coffee ceremony. Maribela Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6: Lalibela / Gondar / Simien Mountains
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Gondar. En route you will stop in town for a last visit of the area. Upon arrival In Gondar, meet your guide and set out for Simien Mountains National Park, about two hours away. Check in to your lodge.
The Simien Mountains in the northern part of Ethiopia consist of some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1978. With a total area of 190 square kilometers/73 square miles, the Simien Mountains boast 57 tree species, a wealth of herbaceous plants, 22 large and 13 small mammals and about 180 recorded bird species. Of these, the Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Menelik’s Bushbuck and the Gelada baboon are endemic. After lunch you’ll drive to Sankaber. Here you can observe the beautiful landscape and animals such as the Gelada Baboon (or the ‘bleeding-heart’ Baboon) and the lion monkey. Limalimo Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 7: Simien Mountains
After breakfast, drive to Chenek, some 3620 m/2.25 mi above sea level. This spectacular site encompasses scenic mountain ranges, impressive escarpment, unforgettable views, and mountain summits such as Mount Buhit. Here, too, are rich varieties of plant and animal species. Chenek is home to the endemic Walia Ibexes, which you may spot. You’ll spend the day at Chenek exploring this unparalleled environment. Limalimo Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8: Simien Mountains / Gondar
After breakfast, travel to Gondar, less than two hours by road. Check in to the hotel before embarking on an exploration of Gondar, the imperial city of Fasilides. The city was the first capital of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632, with the reign of Fasilides. The kings of Ethiopia based their power here for more than two centuries.
In Gondar, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. Many picturesque ruins lie in the royal enclosure, like fairy-tale castles dating back to the 17th century. The castles reflect the glory of Gondarine kings and is characterized by its distinctive architectural style. The other place of interest is the Fasilides pool, in which pilgrims still take a plunge during the Timket (Epiphany) celebrations.
See Debre Birhan Trinity Church, rewarding for the magnificent murals adorning the roof and the wall, and Kuskuam Church, situated on a hill just outside the town. During this day of remarkable sights, you pause for lunch at the Four Sisters Restaurant, which offers the finest cuisine in Gondar. Mayelko Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 9: Gondar / Bahir Dar
Today, after an early breakfast, drive 180 km/112 mi to Bahir Dar. The journey takes about four hours, including stops for photos. Bahir Dar means “by the side of the sea” in the Amharic language. Before you check in to your hotel, take a detour to the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tissiat, which means “The Smoking Water.” The falls are 100 meter/328 feet wide and the water plunges some 45 meters/150 feet, giving rise to picturesque steam clouds and rainbows.
In the afternoon, embark by boat to Lake Tana to visit two of the renowned island monasteries of the Lake: Ura Kidane Mihret and Azua Mariam. Both have wonderful wall paintings depicting scenes from the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible. Kuriftu Resort (B,L,D)
Day 10: Bahir Dar / Addis Ababa / Cairo, Egypt
Today after breakfast you’ll transfer to the airport for your return flight to Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The afternoon is free. Your last night in Ethiopia will be a memorable farewell dinner at one of Addis Ababa’s wonderful cultural or international restaurants. Afterwards, you will be transferred to the airport for your overnight flight to Cairo. Sheraton Hotel (B,D) / Inflight
Day 11: Cairo
A visa is necessary to enter Cairo and it can be obtained upon arrival. Upon arrival in Cairo, you will be met right before Immigration Hall and assisted with customs and immigration formalities and then you will be transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon, visit the Museum of Antiquities to explore the unique collection of Pharaonic art, starting with the Old Kingdom Collection, onto the Middle and New Kingdom Galleries, Greco-Roman periods and the famous Tutankhamen golden treasures. Visit inside the noted Mummies room.
This evening, you will be met by Big Five Country Manager, Farah Abouseif, who previously worked for the United Nations defending women’s rights in Egypt. She will take you for a fascinating night out in Cairo to introduce you to the city. Four Seasons Nile Plaza Hotel – Nile View Room (B,D)
Day 12: Cairo
Today visit Old Cairo, starting with the Citadel where you get a view of all of Cairo from that hill. Visit Mohamed Ali’s Alabaster Mosque, and continue to the famous Suspended Church (Hanging Church), dating to the late 4th and early 5th century. This basilica was named “Al Muallaqah” because it was built atop the south gate of the Fortress of Babylon.
Continue to the Church of St. Sergius, a 5th-century Coptic Church. This basilica is built on the cave in which the Holy Family stayed and is regarded by visitors as a source of blessing. As you stroll along, you come to the recently restored synagogue of Ben Ezra, which marks the place where Moses was saved from the water by the daughter of the Pharaoh.
Following this, is the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, one of the largest mosques in the world, and El Refaie Mosque, which served briefly as the resting place of Reza Shah of Iran, who died in exile in South Africa in 1944. He was buried in Cairo following the Iranian Revolution of 1979. You will continue to Khan El Khalili, where you will enjoy dinner at Naguib Mahfouz restaurant, after you explore the bustling warren of shops where you can bargain for rugs, copper and leather crafts, perfumes and other goods both exotic and familiar. Take in a performance of Tanoura, a traditional national dance in Egypt that first appeared in the 13th century. Performed by men, it was thought to be a bridge to God. This form of Tanoura is distinguished by the use of multi-colored skirts. In fact the etymology of the word has Arabic roots and is translated as a skirt. The basis of the dance is a counterclockwise circling of an artist. The dance carries a religious meaning, and symbolizes, among other things, the rotation of the Earth around the sun. The traditional music of the dance also has Arabic motifs. Traditionally, music is played to the accompaniment of drums, flutes and tambourines. Four Seasons Nile Plaza Hotel – Nile View Room (B,D)
Day 13: Cairo
After breakfast, you will meet your Egyptologist tour guide and travel back to ancient Egypt on a full day touring sites dating a 1,000 years. Drive to Dahshour to visit the Red & Bent Pyramids, the first attempt at building those structures. This is a royal necropolis located in the desert in the west bank of the Nile, approximately 40 kilometers/25 miles south of Cairo. Return to Cairo where the remainder of the day is free. Mena House Hotel – Garden Wing Pyramids View Room (B,L)
Day 14: Cairo
Today take in the fabled the grand Pyramids of Giza, where you have the chance to go inside the Great Pyramid and see the King’s Chamber. Cheops Pyramid, the largest and oldest of the three, is one of the seven wonders of the world, comprised of some 2.5 million stone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.3 tons. You will be allowed to enter the 2nd or the 3rd pyramid, to compare between the biggest structure and the others – all of which were built as tombs for their kings!
In front of the Pyramid of Chephren (Khafra) is the colossal statue of the Great Sphinx, which has stood guard over the pyramids for more than 4,500 years. The Sphinx, carved from an outcrop of rock, is a lion with Pharoah’s head. You have the chance to ride a camel in this area and view a panoramic landscape of all the three pyramids together.
Later, in the company of your private, Egyptologist guide, you enjoy a fascinating exploration of the newly opened exquisite Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) just outside of Cairo on the Giza Plateau, next door to the pyramids. This stunning museum has already become the crown jewel of Egypt and it is one of the largest, most modern, and most renowned museums in the entire world. The ceremonial cornerstone of the museum was laid in early 2002. A team of some 300 people from 13 companies in six different countries contributed to the design phase of the project.
One of the first artifacts to be transferred to GEM was an enormous 3,200-year-old, 83-ton statue of Ramses II that had previously stood in the middle of a traffic circle in Cairo known as Ramses Square. In 2018, the statue was transferred to its final resting place at the museum’s main entrance. GEM houses about 100,000 ancient artifacts, 4,549 of which are from the tomb of the famous King Tutankhamun. This is the first time ever the complete collection of the famous King Tut is on display in one place along with artifacts dating from pre-historic times through millennia of pharaohnic civilization to the ancient Greek and Roman periods of Egyptian history. The museum is expected to welcome around 15,000 visitors per day, more than five million visitors annually. The new GEM is conveniently located just two kilometers from the great pyramids, making it easier to travel between the two sites and easing traffic congestion in both Cairo and Giza. Mena House Hotel – Garden Wing Pyramids View Room (B,L)
Day 15: Cairo – Al Fayoum – Cairo
After breakfast you are transferred to Al Fayoum. After breakfast, you will meet your Egyptologist tour guide and travel back to ancient Egypt on a full day touring sites dating a 1,000 years. The Tunis Village was first created in the 1960s by two famous Egyptian Poets who encouraged the locals to become artists, but it is more famous now for the arrival in the 1980s of Evelyne Porret, a Swiss woman and potter who opened her own pottery studio with her husband. It quickly turned it into a pottery School to teach all the local children how to make pottery items and encourage them to become budding potters. It still exists today with all the children in the village creating pottery and earning money for their families.
Qarun Lake is located on the northwestern part of Fayoum. It is considered one of the oldest natural lakes in the world, the third largest lake in Egypt and the rest of Lake Old Maurice. It is considered an interior lake, which is not related to any sea, and has an area of around 53,000 acres in Fayoum Down. The lake level average about 44 meter/144 feet below sea level. The lake’s main sources of water are from agriculture drainage and domestic wastewater.
Meidum, or Maidum, is the location of a large pyramid and several large mud-brick mastabas — ancient Egyptian rectangular tombs with sloping sides and flat roofs. About 100 km/62 mi south of modern Cairo, the pyramid at Meidum is thought to originally have been built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty, and was continued by Sneferu. The architect was a successor to the famous Imhotep, the inventor of the stone-built pyramid. The collapse of the pyramid is likely due to the modifications made to Imhotep’s pyramid design as well as the decisions taken twice during construction to extend the pyramid. Because of its unusual appearance, the pyramid is called el-heram el-kaddaab — (Pseudo Pyramid) in Egyptian Arabic.
Amenemhet’s pyramid at Hawara, as usual for the pyramid, was built of mud brick and cased with limestone. It was built with a base length of 105 m/344 ft and a height of 58 m/190 ft rising with a slope of 48o 45o, as the king built another pyramid in Dahshur which had been abandoned because its lack of suitability so the fear of collapse probably what caused the builders of the Hawara pyramid to lower the slope with as much as 9o 30o. The pyramid’s core was built entirely of mud brick stones with only an outer in limestone. The limestone encasing had been pillaged by stone robber’s centuries ago but the limestone core still remains, giving the modern visitor the impression of Amudbrick Mountain. Mena House Hotel – Garden Wing Pyramids View Room (B,L)
Day 16: Cairo / Alexandria
Today you will be transferred to Alexandria by car, about three hours. The afternoon is at leisure to relax and enjoy the hotel. Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria – Superior Sea view Room (B)
Day 17: Alexandria
This morning join your Egyptologist guide for a special tour inside this ancient city on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. This city was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., and was where his embalmed body was laid to rest eight years later after his conquest of Asia. It subsequently became the capital of Egypt under the ptolemic dynasty until the last of the line Cleopatra, who ended her life and the city was taken over by the Romans. Today, Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city.
First, you will visit the National Museum, Catacombs of Kom El-Shogafa, Roman Amphitheatre, Pompey’s Pillar and finally the Bibliotheca of Alexandria.
The Alexandria National Museum (ANM) was inaugurated in 2003 by Hosni Mubarak and it’s located in a restored Italian-style palace in Tariq Al-Horreya Street. It contains about 1,800 artifacts that narrate the story of Alexandria and Egypt. Most of these pieces came from other Egyptian museums.
Pompey’s Pillar is one of the best-known ancient monuments still standing in Alexandria today. It sits on Alexandria’s ancient acropolis, a modest hill located adjacent to the city’s Arab cemetery. It was originally part of a temple colonnade. Including its pedestal, it is 30 m/99 ft high, and the shaft is polished red granite, 2.7 meters/8.9 feet in diameter at the base, tapering to 2.4 meters/almost 9 feet at the top.
The Roman Amphitheatre is in the modern area of Kom El-Dikaa, almost in the center of Alexandria. Dating from the 2nd century A.D., it has a large auditorium, with the outer face of this building once likely adorned with columns located in several stories. In later times, the theater was rebuilt with a smaller auditorium with 16 rows of marble seats.
The Catacombs are in the district of Karmouz to the east of Alexandria in an area called Kom El-Shouqafa, or “a pile of shards”. The cemetery dates back to the 1st century A.D. and was used until the 4th century A.D. It was discovered in 1900 when by pure chance when a donkey-drawn cart fell into a pit. The Catacombs in Alexandria are so called because the design was very similar to the Christian Catacombs in Rome. Most likely it was a private tomb, later converted to a public cemetery.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Greek for “Library of Alexandria”) is a major library and cultural center located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is both a commemoration of the Library of Alexandria that was lost in antiquity, and an attempt to rekindle something of the brilliance that this earlier center of study and erudition represented.
The Citadel of Qaitbay, or the Fort of Qaitbay, is a 15th-century defensive fortress located on the Mediterranean sea coast, which was built both upon and from the ruins of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. It was established in 1477 A.D. by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay. The Citadel is situated on the eastern side of the northern tip of Pharos Island at the mouth of the Eastern Harbour. The Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It was an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the 15th century A.D. Lunch will be served during tour at Fish market restaurant. Afterwards visit the Montaza district and the Royal Jewelry Museum. Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria – Superior Seaview Room (B,L)
Day 18: Alexandria / Cairo / Aswan
Today you will be transferred to Cairo’s airport to take your flight to Aswan. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel with the remainder of the day at leisure. Sofitel: Old Cataract Hotel – Luxury Palace Wing (B)
Day 19: Aswan
After breakfast, begin your discovery of Aswan with a tour of a Nubian Village on an island., the origin of the name of the island is still a mystery. First it was called Khnum (khnemu), but since the Greek times it is known as the Elephantine island. And there have never been elephants here! Some historians say it is because there used to be an elephant market here; others say it is because there are large boulders in the river near the island which resembled bathing elephants. The island is also famous for its Nubian villages. Nubians are the ancient inhabitants of this region.
Due to the quantities of material recovered from tombs, temples and settlements, UNESCO was encouraged in the 1980’s to plan a new Nubian museum in Aswan where the objects could be stored and exhibited. It was universally felt at the time that they should be kept as close as possible to their principal places of origin. Nearly twelve years later, the museum became a reality and opened its doors in November 1997. It was designed by the late Egyptian architect Mahmoud al-Hakim, and Mexican architect Pedro Vasquez Ramirez designed the museum’s interior display. The Museum won the Agha-Khan Award of Architecture 2001.
The riverscape of Aswan is dominated by the sand-covered hills of the West Bank, which is strewn with rock-cut tombs of high-status officials of the Old and Middle Kingdom. At the crest of the hill is the domed tomb of a Muslim prophet that gives the hill its local name, Qubbet el-Hawa or ‘Dome of the Winds’. At the northern end of the tomb area, a steep climb up several flights of stone steps leads to the upper level of the cemetery where there are half a dozen tombs open to visitors. You usually begin at the southern end of the upper level where the most interesting tombs can be seen. They are roughly cut from the natural rock, and although they are not as well preserved as some in the Luxor or Cairo, they are well worth seeing. Tombs of this period are usually fairly inaccessible in most places south of Cairo. These show fine examples of hieroglyphic texts detailing the careers of their owners, as well as scenes of daily life in the earlier periods. Many of the tombs are linked together as family members added their own chambers. Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel – Luxury Palace Wing (B)
Day 20: Aswan – Abu Simbel – Aswan
You will be transferred to Cairo airport for your short flight to Abu Simbel. Upon arrival, you are met by your guide and set out to take in the Abu Simbel temples. Two massive rock temples in southern Egypt near the border with Sudan are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, some 230 km/143 mi southwest of Aswan. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Nubian Monuments, and run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century B.C. during the 19th dynasty reign of Ramses II. They serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari, commemorating his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic. The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968 to an artificial hill made from a domed structure high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid them being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, a massive artificial water reservoir formed after construction of Aswan High Dam.
You will be transferred to Abu Simbel airport for your short return flight to Aswan. Back in Abu Simbel continue your discovery with a visit the Temple of Philae and the High Dam. The Temple of Isis in Philae is one of the greatest temples in Egypt and occupies about a quarter of the island. It is the main temple on the island and features huge complete pylons. It is built in the same style as the temples of the New Kingdom, as well as some other elements, which appeared in the Greco-Roman period such as the Mamisi (House of the divine birth of Horus), and a Nilometer (a graduated pillar or other vertical surface, serving to indicate the height reached by the Nile during its annual floods). In 1906, the temple became submerged after the first Aswan dam was built.
The High Dam of Aswan was one of the most important achievements of the in the last century in Egypt. For many years it was a symbol of the New Era of the Revolution of 1952. It provided Egypt with water and electricity and secured the country of the risk of the destructive inundation of the River Nile. Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel – Luxury Palace Wing (B)
Day 21: Aswan / Luxor
Today you travel by road to Luxor. En route, stop to see the temple shared by two gods, Sobek and Haeroris, in Kom Ombo. The Temple of Kom Ombo stands on the east bank of the Nile, next to the river. It was dedicated to the two but mainly to the God Sobek, the crocodile God, together with his wife, in another form of the Goddess Hathor. The temple is a Greco-Roman structure, dating back to 119 B.C., when Ptolemy VI, began the construction of limestone. The site of Edfu Tell was known as Wetjeset-hor (classical name Apollinopolis Magna), the place where the god Horus was worshiped and where the battle between Horus and his traditional enemy Seth in ancient mythology took place. The Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most well-preserved and the only one we know to have been completed. Built from sandstone blocks the huge Ptolemaic temple was constructed over the site of a smaller earlier temple, oriented east to west, to the river. Sofitel Old Winter Palace – Nile Room (B)
Day 22: Luxor
Today you encounter the fabled Valley of the Kings and Queens, which encompasses the East Valley, where most of the tombs of the New Kingdom Pharaohs; and the West Valley, which has only one tomb open to the public, the tomb of Ay, who succeeded Tutankhamun to the Egyptian throne. Tutankhamun was buried in a tomb that was unusually small considering his status. His death may have occurred unexpectedly, before the completion of a grander royal tomb, so that his mummy was buried in a tomb intended for someone else. This would preserve the observance of the customary 70 days between death and burial. King Tutankhamun’s mummy still rests in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. On the November 4, 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter’s discovery, the 19-year-old pharaoh went on display in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. The case was designed to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.
The tomb of Seti I is the longest tomb in the valley, at 137.19 m/450 ft, and contains very well preserved reliefs in all but two of its eleven chambers and side rooms. One of the back chambers is decorated with the Ritual of the Opening of the Mouth, which stated that the mummy’s eating and drinking organs were properly functioning. Believing in the need for these functions in the afterlife, this was a very important ritual. A very long tunnel (corridor K) leads deep into the mountainside from beneath the location where the sarcophagus stood in the burial chamber. Recently, the excavation of this corridor was completed. It turned out that there was no ‘secret burial chamber’ or any other kind of chamber at the end. Work on the corridor was just abandoned upon the burial of Seti.
The Colossi of Memnon are two huge ruined statues, around 17m/56 ft tall, that once stood at the entrance gate of the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, although very little of the nearby temple remains. They were cut from two massive granite blocks brought from quarries near Cairo, and carved to represent the pharaoh Amenhotep III of Dynasty XVIII.
The valley of the queens is located near the better known Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes (modern Luxor). This barren area in the western hills was chosen due to its relative isolation and proximity to the capital. The kings of the 18th dynasty, instead of the traditional building of pyramids as burial chambers (perhaps because of their vulnerability to tomb robbers), now chose to be buried in rock-cut tombs.
The tomb of Nefertari is one of the largest in the Valley of the Queens, and covered with pictures of the queen. Her pharaoh husband is not represented. Nefertari can be seen wearing Greek silver earrings in one of the portraits. These would have been sent to her as a gift for diplomatic reasons. The tomb was robbed in antiquity. In 1904, it was rediscovered and excavated by Ernesto Schiaparelli. Several items from the tomb, including parts of gold bracelets, shabti figures and a small piece of an earring or pendant are now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Additional shabti figures are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The temple of Queen Hatshepsut of Dynasty XVIII was built just north of the Middle Kingdom temple of Mentuhotep Nebhepetre in the bay of cliffs known as Deir el-Bahri. In ancient times, the temple was called Djeser-djeseru, meaning the ’sacred of sacreds’. It was undoubtedly influenced by the style of the earlier temple at Deir el-Bahri and Hatshepsut chose to site her temple in a valley sacred to the Theban Goddess of the West, but more importantly it was on a direct axis with Karnak Temple. Sofitel Old Winter Palace – Nile Room (B)
Day 23: Luxor
Take in the great Temple of Karnak, largest in the world. The complex contains a group of temples such as the Great Temple of Amon Ra, Temple of Khonso, Ipt Temple, Temple of Ptah, Temple of Montho and Temple of the God Osiris. A 20m/65 ft high, mud brick enclosure wall, surrounded all of these buildings.
The temple of Luxor is close to the Nile and parallel with the riverbank. King Amenhotep III, who reigned 1390-53 B.C., built this beautiful temple and dedicated it to Amon-Re, king of the gods, his consort Mut, and their son, Khons. This temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. It was completed by Tutankhamun and Horemheb and added to by Ramses II. Towards the rear is a granite shrine dedicated to Alexander the Great.
The Tombs of the Nobles actually comprises a number of distinct areas on the West Bank in modern Luxor (Ancient Thebes). They rest in five different regions. Furthermost north is an area known as el-Tarif, where large, row tombs were dug during the late Second Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom. Just south of el-Tarif is Dra Abu el-Naga, a hillside with about 80 numbered tombs most belonging to priests and officials of the 17th through 20th dynasties, including some rulers of the 17th dynasty. Just southwest of Dra Abu el-Naga is an area called El-Assasif, with 40 tombs, mostly from the New Kingdom and later. Just south of El-Assasif is El-Khokha, a hill with five Old Kingdom tombs and 53 numbered tombs from the 18th and 19th dynasty. Directly west of El-Khokha is Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. This hill was named for a mythical Muslim sheikh, and has 146 numbered tombs, most of which are from the 18th Dynasty. Here are some of the most beautiful private tombs on the West Bank.
King Ramses II called his temple “The Temple of Millions of Years of User-Maat-Ra”, which was one of his titles. Work in the temple continued from the beginning of the reign of Ramses II until the 22nd year of his reign. But not long after the end of the New Kingdom, the Ramesseum was stripped of its wealth by hungry citizens and its buildings were used as quarries for the construction of other monuments. Tombs for major and minor court officials were put into the bedrock beneath it, small shrines built from its stones, and a Christian church built within the ruins. Today, the entrance to the temple is a narrow doorway in the northeast corner of the enclosure wall. The huge First Pylon (now badly damaged) is 67 m/220 ft wide and originally about 24 m/79 ft high. Similar to the scenes of many other monuments of Ramses II, those of the Ramesseum depict the wars of the King against the Hittites.
Luxor Museum stands on the corniche, overlooking the west bank of the River Nile, in the center of the city. Inaugurated in 1975, the museum is housed in a small, purpose-built building. The range of artifacts on display is far more restricted than the country’s main collections in the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo. This was, however, deliberate, since the museum prides itself on the quality of its pieces and the uncluttered way they are displayed. This evening enjoy a night horse carriage. Sofitel Old Winter Palace – Nile Room (B)
Day 24: Luxor / Cairo / Amman, Jordan
Today you will be transferred to the airport to take your flight to Amman via Cairo. A visa is needed to enter Jordan and it can be obtained upon arrival. Welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! Upon arrival, you are met by your Big Five representative and assisted though immigration and customs formalities before transferring to the hotel.
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a fascinating city of contrasts: a unique blend of old and new, ideally situated on a hilly area between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley. In the commercial heart of the city, ultra-modern buildings, hotels, smart restaurants, art galleries and boutiques rub shoulders comfortably with traditional coffee shops and tiny artisans’ workshops. Everywhere there is evidence of the city’s much older past. Due to its modern-day prosperity and temperate climate, the city and surrounds are home to almost half of Jordan’s population. The residential suburbs consist of mainly tree-lined streets and avenues flanked by elegant, almost uniformly white houses, in accordance with a municipal law, which states that all buildings must be faced with local stone. The downtown area is much older and more traditional with smaller businesses producing and selling everything from fabulous jewelry to everyday household items. The people of Amman are multi-cultural, multi-denominational, well-educated and extremely hospitable. They welcome visitors and take pride in showing them around their fascinating and vibrant city. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. *A breakfast lunch will be handed to you at reception prior departing Luxor. Four Seasons Hotel – Premium Room (B,D)
Day 25: Amman
After a morning at leisure, enjoy a tour of Amman, which was known in eras past as Rabat and in Greco-Roman times as Philadelphia. Sites of specific interest include the colossal Roman Amphitheater and the Citadel, which offers sweeping views of the capital. North of Amman is Jerash, the Roman city of Gerasa. Jerash displays some of the finest, most extensive and well-preserved remains of the former Roman Empire to be found anywhere. The colonnaded streets, temples, theaters, bathhouses and magnificent oval plaza are complemented by the superbly restored hippodrome, which in ancient times seated up to 15,000 people. Here, take in the Roman Army and Chariot Experience. The Roman army spanned the centuries from around 700 B.C. to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D. – more than 2,000 years. Four Seasons Hotel – Premium Room (B,D)
Day 26: Amman / Dead Sea
Today you will be transferred to the Dead Sea (1.5 hours). The afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy time on the Dead Sea. This 5-star luxury hotel is situated on the edge of the famous salt lake, the lowest point on earth. It provides uninterrupted views across the vast sea towards the West Bank and access to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, including religious sites and majestic countryside. Kempinski Hotel – Dead Sea View Deluxe Room (B,D)
Day 27: Dead Sea / Wadi Rum
Today you will be transferred to the stunning desert country of Wadi Rum on a drive of about four hours.
En route, first you will visit fabled Mt. Nebo. From Mount Nebo’s windswept promontory, overlooking the Dead Sea, Jordan River Valley, Jericho and the distant hills of Jerusalem, Moses viewed the Holy Land of Canaan that he would never enter. He died and was buried in Moab, “in the valley opposite Bethpeor”. His tomb remains unknown. After consulting the Oracle, Jeremiah reportedly hid the Ark of the Covenant, the Tent and the Altar of Incense at Mount Nebo. The Serpentine Cross, which stands just outside the sanctuary, is symbolic of the bronze serpent taken by Moses into the desert and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
Continue to Madaba, most known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. Madaba is home to the famous 6th-century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. The Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, located northwest of the city center. The church was built in 1896 over the remains of a much earlier 6th-century Byzantine church.
Arrive at your desert camp this afternoon and enjoy a camel ride upon arrival. Relax to the changing colors of the setting sun and settle in for a night under the stars. Wadi Rum Tented Camp – Martian Tent (B,D)
Day 28: Wadi Rum / Petra
Today you will head to Petra, about a two-hour drive. Although much has been written about Petra, nothing can completely prepare you for its sheer grandeur. This incredible 2,000-year-old city of stone has often been described as the eighth wonder of the ancient world. It was carved into the rock face of a narrow canyon by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here more than 2,000 years ago. Petra became a vibrant and vital junction of the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.
The main entry into the rose-colored city is an almost theatrical experience as you walk through the Siq, a narrow gorge, more than a kilometer/3,280 ft in length. You are flanked on either side by soaring cliffs some 80 meters/262 feet high. As you move along the rock corridor, the colors and formations of the rocks are dazzling. Near the end of your walk, you glimpse the extraordinary Al-Khazneh (Treasury). A massive façade carved into the sheer, dusky pink, sandstone dwarfs everything around it. It was carved early in the first century as the tomb of an important Nabataean king and demonstrates the engineering genius of these ancient people.
As you enter the Petra Valley, you will be overwhelmed by the natural beauty as well as its outstanding architectural achievements. Hundreds of elaborate rock-cut tombs are intricately carved. Unlike the houses, which were destroyed mostly by earthquakes, 500 of the tombs have survived. These tombs stand as a bewitching reminder of an ancient world. The Roman-style theater once sat up to 3,000 people. While more impressive Roman theaters are located in Amman and Jerash, this theater is important when one considers the cultural importance it would have played in the Nabataean city. While some people have assumed that this was built by the Romans, the theater is actually Nabataean and was constructed long before the Romans entered Petra. One of the most impressive facades in all of Petra is the massive Nabataean-built Qasr el-Bint, the temple of Dushares. It boasts the largest facade in Petra, wider both than the Khazneh and the great temple. It belongs to the Parthian ‘flight’ type of temples with two staircases giving access to a flat roof. The central column spacing of this temple is much greater than the same span in the Artemis temple at Jerash and the Hercules temple in Amman.
The Mövenpick Resort Petra is located directly at the entrance to the historic Jordanian city of Petra. This resort with an oriental flair features an exciting combination of natural stone, handcrafted wood and Middle Eastern fabrics and textures. Tonight, you will have the experience of a lifetime – strolling through Petra by candle light. Petra is spectacular by daylight, but wait until you try Petra by candlelight. This evening you can enjoy the mystery of the Nabatean City by the glow of candles through a tour led by storytellers. Approach Petra by foot through some 1,500 candles lighting the way as you walk through the Siq, while along the way hearing a flute playing from the mountain tops above the gorge. After this spectacular experience, you will return to your hotel. Moevenpick Hotel Petra – Classic Room (B,D)
Day 29: Petra / Feynan
Today you will be transferred to Feynan. Deep in the heart of the mountainous Dana Biosphere Reserve, at the end of a rugged track is an idyllic candle-lit lodge resting in the magnificent Wadi Feynan. Hailed as one of the best 25 ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine, the award-winning, solar-powered Feynan Ecolodge offers the most developed eco-experience in Jordan, an experience only made possible by a unique partnership between EcoHotels and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, a Jordanian NGO devoted to the protection of the Kingdom’s finest natural landscapes. Here, set against the glorious desert landscape, guests staying at the 26-room lodge can be found adventuring through the untouched outdoors, sipping sweet tea with the native Bedouin, exploring local archaeological sites or simply unwinding in the serene courtyards and terraces of the candle-lit complex, safe in the knowledge that their travels in Jordan are socially and environmentally responsible. Feynan Ecolodge (B,L,D)
Day 30: Feynan
An exciting mix of activities is included in your stay and ensures you get a true taste of life in Feynan. Whether you are into a physically challenging adventure, a leisurely stroll, a deep cultural experience, time off from the hectic life, oneness with nature, or learning something new… Feynan has something for you. The reserve and its surroundings offer an incredible array of hiking and biking trails with a variety of difficulty levels and duration. The rich archaeology, history and culture in Feynan is fascinating and you can join a tour to ancient copper mines, join in a cooking class, learn how to make kohl (Bedouin eyeliner), or simply have a conversation with one of our local staff members, delving into this remote culture. The lodge also offers endless options of lounging spots with different views where you can read a book or just relax and take in the soothing atmosphere. At night, there is that incredible sky. You can lie down under a sea of stars and listen to a local guide take you through a tour in the sky or share travel stories around the fireplace in the winter. Feynan Ecolodge (B,L,D)
Day 31: Feynan / Amman / Dubai, UAE / Depart
Today you will be transferred back to Amman’s airport (3.5 hours drive) to take your flight to Dubai to connect with your flight home.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$1,000 per person per day.