Day 1: Amman, Jordan
Welcome to the adventure! Upon arrival, you will be assisted with immigration formalities and transferred to your hotel in Jordan’s capital city. Amman 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.
In the afternoon, you will tour Amman, which was once known as Rabat and in Greco-Roman times as Philadelphia. It is hone to classic ancient sites such as the colossal Roman Amphitheatre 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, theatres, 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 BC to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD, more than 2,000 years. Four Seasons Hotel (B)
Day 2: Amman / Wadi Rum
Today travel to the Valley of the Moon. En route, visit Mount Nebo, the alleged burial site of Moses. It was from here that Moses saw the Holy Land for the first time. Continue to Madaba to view the oldest known mosaic map of the Holy Land, dating to the 6th century CE, at Saint George’s Greek-Orthodox Church. The Archaeological Museum of Madaba houses numerous mosaics from the Byzantine era. Then proceed to Karak to visit Kerak Castle, a massive crusader castle in the Karak Mountains. The locality of al-Kerak, now the site of a flourishing town, is known for the imposing fort erected in the first half of the 12th century by the Crusaders, and later conquered by the Arabs.
As you get to Wadi Rum, you cannot help but be impressed by this is startlingly beautiful, timeless place that has been virtually untouched by humanity and its destructive forces. Here, it is the weather and winds that have carved the imposing, towering skyscrapers of sand and rock. These landscapes were so elegantly described by T.E. Lawrence as “vast, echoing and god-like…” A maze of monolithic rock-scapes rises up from the desert floor to heights of 1,750 meters/5,742 feet, creating a natural challenge for serious mountaineers. Hikers can enjoy the tranquility of the boundless empty spaces, explore the canyons and water holes to discover 4,000-year-old rock drawings and the many other spectacular treasures this vast wilderness holds in store. Here you will have a pleasant jeep ride through Wadi Rum taking in the unbelievable scenery. Later, you will spend the night in a traditional Bedouin-type camp with an option to stay in a Bedouin tent or a domed tent, called a Martin Tent, since its views remind you of scenes from the movie. Sun City Camp (B,D)
Day 3: Wadi Rum / Petra
This morning, enjoy a jeep safari and explore the desert before driving to your hotel in Petra for dinner and overnight. Moevenpick Hotel (B,D)
Day 4: Petra
Today you savor a full day exploration of dramatic Petra. Although much has been written about this amazing sculpted city, 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 for 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 in length. You are flanked on either side by soaring, cliffs some 80 meters/263 feet high, and as you move through, the colors and formations of the rocks are dazzling. Near the end of your walk, glimpse the extraordinary Al-Khazneh (Treasury). A massive façade, 30 meters/98 feet wide and 43 meters/141 high, carved into the sheer, dusky pink, sandstone rock dwarfs everything around it. It was carved in the early 1st 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. Each of the column drums of the temple must have weighed around seven tons.
Tonight, you will have the experience of a lifetime – Petra by candle light. Spectacular by daylight, at night it is almost mystical by candlelight. This evening you can enjoy the mystery of the Nabatean City by the glow of candles through a tour led by storytellers. You approach by foot and walk through some 1,500 candles as you make your way through the Siq, all the while listening to a magical flute playing from the mountain tops above the gorge. Moevenpick Hotel (B,D)
Day 5: Petra / Amman / Cairo, Egypt
Travel to Amman to connect with your flight to Cairo. Welcome to Egypt! Upon arrival in Cairo, you will be met by your Big Five representative right before Customs and you will be assisted with customs and immigration formalities. Note: A visa is necessary to enter Cairo and it can be obtained upon arrival. Current price: $25 per person – subject to change. Afterwards, you are transferred to your hotel, just 12 kilometers from Cairo’s center in Maadi, a Nile-side suburb whose name means ‘ferry-boats’. Since its founding in 1907 along the river’s east bank, this meticulously planned quarter was and remains a popular residential area. It was here that wealthy, cosmopolitan Cairenes built their stately residences and filled their sprawling gardens with a stunning array of exotic plants and trees. Villa Belle Epoque
Day 6: Cairo
Today begins with by visiting Dahshur and its “Bent Pyramid.” Older than the great pyramids of Giza, it is thought to be the first true pyramid of Egypt – Dahshur’s Red Pyramid. You are allowed to enter the pyramid to see its amazing corbelled ceilings that form three large rooms. Then continue to Memphis, the site of Egypt's first capital where the remnants of colossal statues and temples are the only visible relics of the city's golden age some 5,000 years ago. Nearby is Saqqara, home of the world's oldest stone structure, the famed Step Pyramid of King Zoser. You drive through lush date palm groves to the pyramids of Giza guarded by the mighty Sphinx for thousands of years. Among the Seven Wonders of the World, these remarkable structures retain many of their secrets even today. In front of the Pyramid of Chephren, the colossal statue of the Great Sphinx still stands as a silent sentry after more than 4,500 years. The Sphinx carved from a single piece of stone, it is a lion with a Pharaoh’s head thought to be a portrait of the Pharaoh Chephren. Here, you will be provided an opportunity to ride a camel by the pyramids area.
You also have the opportunity to experience the interior of the Great Pyramid and visit the king’s chamber. The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BCE. Initially at 146.5 meters/481 feet, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Originally, there have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid's construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place. Next, visit the Solar Boat Museum, with its ancient Egyptian cedar wood boat, dating back 4,500 years. Villa Belle Epoque (B,L,D)
Day 7: Cairo / Aswan
This morning, you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Aswan where you will connect with the flight to Abu Simbel to visit the Temple of Ramses II and Queen Nefertari. The temples of Abu Simbel are amongst the most interesting pharaonic temples. Located close to the southern border with the Sudan, and 280 km/174 miles south of Aswan. The site consists of two, rock-cut temples, which both date to the reign of King Ramses II (1290-1223 BCE).
Afterwards you will fly back to Aswan and continue driving to the High Dam of Aswan, a remarkable engineering project. An important achievement of the last century in Egypt, it became a symbol of the New Era of the Revolution of 1952. It provided Egypt with water and electricity and secured the country from the risk of the destructive inundation of the River Nile.
Visit Elephantine Island in the Nile River in northern Nubia. There are archaeological sites on the island. Elephantine Island is 1,200 meters/3,900 feet from north to south and is 400 meters/1,300 feet across at its widest point. The island is located downstream of the First Cataract at the southern border of Upper Egypt with Lower Nubia. This region above is referred to as Upper Egypt due to land and river elevations being higher than downstream and the Nile Delta region to the Mediterranean Sea.
Afterwards, continue to your hotel. Rising grandly from a pink granite shelf at the edge of the Nubian Desert with views of Elephantine Island, this hotel blends pharaonic treasures with French art de recevoir. Discover sophisticated interiors by Sybille de Margerie in the historic palace, a world of Moorish arches, ruby red chandeliers, plush Persian carpets, soft armchairs and hand-carved furnishings. Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel (B)
Day 8: Aswan / Luxor
Upon arrival in Luxor visit the temple of the same name close to the Nile and parallel with the riverbank. King Amenhotep III, who reigned 1390-53 BCE, 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 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. End the day at your hotel and discover the sumptuous history of a hotel that has hosted royalty and celebrities, the five-star Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor! Built in 1886 on the banks of the Nile and surrounded by century-old Royal Gardens, the hotel overlooks the Nile and the West Bank Necropolis. It's an oasis of tranquility and a gateway to the splendors of pharaonic times. Sofitel Old Winter Palace Hotel (B)
Day 9: Luxor
Today visit the Valley of the Kings and Queens, where for nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BCE, tombs were constructed for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom, encompassing the 18th to the 20th Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes (modern Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis. The wadi consists of two valleys, East Valley, where the majority of the royal tombs are situated, and West Valley.
The tomb of Seti 1 is longest tomb in the valley and contains well-preserved reliefs in all but two of its 11 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 vital ritual. A 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.
Continue to one of the most popular tombs belonging to Tutankhamun. This pharaoh 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 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.
Then visit the tomb of Ramesses VI. This is one of the most interesting tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Its decorations represent sort of a treatise on theology, in which the fundamental elements are the sun and its daily journey in the world of darkness. In general, the decorations provide the story of the origins of the heavens, earth, the creation of the sun, light and life itself. The decorative plan for this tomb is one of the most sophisticated and complete in the Valley of the Kings. Then, continue to the Valley of the Queens. 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. While here, visit the tomb of Nefertari. This is one of the largest in the Valley of the Queens and covered with pictures of Nefertari. Her husband, the pharaoh, is not represented in any of the pictures. 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.
At the Colossi of Memnon, two huge ruined statues, around 17 meters/56 feet high, once stood at the entrance gate of the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, though very little of the temple behind them remains today. They were cut from two massive granite blocks, brought from quarries near Cairo, and carved to represent the pharaoh Amenhotep III of Dynasty XVIII.
Madint Habu is the name commonly given to the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, an important New Kingdom period structure in the location of the same name on the West Bank of Luxor in Egypt. Aside from its intrinsic size and architectural and artistic importance, the temple is probably best known as the source of inscribed reliefs depicting the advent and defeat of the Sea Peoples during the reign of Ramesses III. Return to Luxor and visit the Temple of Karnak, the largest temple 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 20 meters/66 feet high mud brick enclosure wall, surrounded all of these temples. Sofitel Old Winter Palace Hotel (B)
Day 10: Luxor / Cairo / Alexandria
Today continue your sightseeing in Luxor. Visit Deir el-Medina, an ancient Egyptian village which was home to the artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the 18th to 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom period (1550–1080 BCE). The settlement's ancient name was Set “Maat" (The Place of Truth), and the workmen who lived there were called “Servants in the Place of Truth”. During the Christian era the temple of Hathor was converted into a Church from which the Arabic name Deir el-Medina ("the monastery of the town") is derived.
Visit also the temples of the Nobles. It compromises distinct areas on the West Bank at modern Luxor (Ancient Thebes). These areas mostly lie in five different regions and include several hundred tombs that date from the 17th and 20th dynasties. Here one finds some of the most beautiful private tombs on the West Bank.
Later you transfer to the airport to fly to Cairo, where upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to Alexandria. Since its opening in 1929, Steigenberger Cecil Hotel, also referred to as simply Hotel Cecil, in Alexandria has been known for its superb location right on the harbor. It is just a short walk to many of the city’s famous sights such as the Alexandrina Library, the Alexandria National Museum and the Amphitheater. Hotel Cecil (B)
Day 11: Alexandria
Discover historic Alexandria, one of the few cities in the world that leans so heavily upon legend. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE, and his embalmed body was laid to rest eight years later after his conquest of Asia. It subsequently became the capital of Egypt under the Ptolemaic dynasty until the last of the line… Cleopatra, who ended her own life, which lead to the city was being taken over by the Romans.
Today, Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city. Spend the day exploring remnants of the city's glorious past, including the National Museum and Pompey's Pillar, towering 28 meters/93 feet over the site of the ancient Serapeum, the 2nd century Roman Amphitheater with its elegant marble terraces, and Al Montazah Palace, residence of the former royal family. Step into the eerie tomb chambers of the 2000-year-old Kom el-Shugafa Catacombs, the last major construction in the Ptolemaic tradition. You will also see the Library of Alexandria. Lunch will be served at the famous fish market. Hotel Cecil (B,L)
Day 12: Alexandria / Siwa Oasis
Today you will be transferred to the Siwa Oasis, which is set in a deep depression that reaches below sea level, to about 19 meters/62 feet. To the east, the large Qattara Depression also lies below sea level. The oasis was known to have been settled since at least the 10th millennium BCE, but the earliest evidence of any connection with Ancient Egypt is the 26th Dynasty, when a necropolis was established.
Built on the side of a white limestone mountain, a few kilometers from Siwa, the Hotel Adrere Amellal is a luxurious eco lodge with a difference. Authentic and ecological, there is no electricity or telephone in these dwellings made of kershef, a mixture of earth, stone and salt water. The food comes exclusively from the hotel’s organic garden. The building is a labyrinth of corridors leading to terraces or sumptuous and elegant covered areas. The décor of the hotel’s 40 rooms is simple but chic. The furniture and sofas are made of earth covered with white cushions, and each detail is carved and enhanced with white limestone. For relaxation, the hotel has a spa and a spring water pool. In the heart of the desert, the Adrere Amellal is proof that luxury can be simple, ecological and exclusive. Adrere Amellal (B,L,D)
Day 13: Siwa Oasis
Today explore the ancient sites of the oasis that includes the remains of the oracle temple; the Gebel al Mawta or Mountain of the Dead, a Roman-era necropolis featuring dozens of rock-cut tombs; and "Cleopatra's Bath", an antique natural spring. The fragmentary remains of the oracle temple, with some inscriptions dating from the 4th century BCE, lie within the ruins of Aghurmi. Rock Cut Tomb in Lower Egypt (North), the so-called Mountain of the Dead is one of the 2 hills in the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt though it rises to only about 10 meters/33 feet above sea level. This urban oasis is one of Egypt's most isolated settlements, with about 33,000 people, mostly Berbers, who developed a unique culture and a distinct language of the Berber family called Siwi. Its fame lies primarily in its ancient role as the home to an oracle of Ammon, which remembered for being visited by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE, when he was seeking confirmation that he was the son of Zeus (whom the Greeks associated with the Egyptian Amon). Adrere Amellal (B,L,D)
Day 14: Siwa Oasis
Today explore the desert dunes on a 4x4 vehicle, followed by horseback riding. Finish at the historic Cleopatra Bath and enjoy a swim in the fabled hot spring. The spring is one of many in the area and is located on the path that leads to the Temple of Amun. It is a stone pool fed by natural spring water, and probably the best known pool. Adrere Amellal (B,L,D
Day 15: Siwa Oasis / Alexandria / Cairo
Today return to Cairo by road, about and eight-hour drive. Check into to your hotel, located within a 15-minute walk from Mosque of Al, 30 minutes' walk away from Tahrir Square and 20 minutes' walk from Cairo city center. The property is also near a mosque, a palace and a citadel. Le Riad Cairo (B,D)
Day 16: Cairo
Explore one of the most complete collections of the pharaohs’ treasures at the distinguished National Egyptian Museum. This morning, visit Al-Muizz street, one of the oldest streets in Cairo. A United Nations study found that this street has the greatest concentration of medieval architectural treasures in the Islamic world. The street is named for Al-Muʿizz li-Deen Illah, the fourth caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty. It stretches about a kilometer from Bab Al-Futuh in the north to Bab Zuweila in the south.
The street is a pedestrian only zone where you engage with local people and visit workshops. Then you and your guide walk through the Khan El Khalili, a bustling warren of shops where you can bargain for rugs, copper and leather crafts, perfumes, and other goods both exotic and familiar. Or simply take it in.
Le Riad Cairo (B,L,D)
Day 17: Cairo
Start your sightseeing today with the visit of cultural landmarks that span three millennia of Egyptian history. Visit the Citadel commanding a complete view of the city. Completed in 1183, the Citadel was surrounded by sturdy walls and towers to withstand attacks from Christian crusaders. Inside, we shall
see the lavishly decorated alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali. Then, visit Sultan Hassan mosque. The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan is a massive Mamluk era mosque and madrassa located near the Citadel in Cairo. Its construction began 1356 CE with work ending three years later. At the time of construction the mosque was considered remarkable for its fantastic size and innovative architectural components. Commissioned by a sultan of a short and relatively unimpressive profile, al-Maqrizi noted that within the mosque were several "wonders of construction." The mosque was, for example, designed to include schools for all four of the Sunni schools of thought: Shafi'i, Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali.
Al-Rifa'i Mosque is in Midan al-Qal'a, adjacent to the Cairo Citadel. It is opposite them Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, which dates from about 1361, and was architecturally conceived as a complement to the older structure. This was part of a vast campaign by the 19th century rulers of Egypt to both associate themselves with the perceived glory of earlier periods in Egypt's Islamic history and modernize the city. The mosque was constructed next to two large public squares and adjacent to several European-style boulevards constructed around the same time. The Coptic Cairo, where we will visit the famous Suspended Church (Hanging Church), dating to the late 4th and early 5th century. This basilica was named "Al-Mu'allaqah" 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 we stroll along, we will come to the recently restored Synagogue of Ben Ezra, which marks the place where Moses was saved by the water girl of Pharaoh. This is the oldest Jewish synagogue in Egypt built in 882 AC.
This evening, you will meet with Big Five Country Manager, Farah Abouseif, for dinner. She worked for the United Nations defending women rights in Egypt before working with Big Five. She provides you with a fascinating look at Egypt today. Le Riad Cairo (B,D)
Day 18: Cairo / Depart
Today you will be transferred to the airport to take your international homebound flight. (B)
Land per person, double occupancy: Price starts at US$700 per person, per day