Cairo provides an intense introduction to Egypt, and having an outstanding guide is vital to navigating its complex past and present. It is all at once a major, modern, and manically bustling Arab city, and home to some of the world’s greatest antiquities. The world-famous museum of Egyptian Antiquities is home to the world’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and is valuable to visit with an Egyptologist guide to gain the context for many of the archaeological wonders you will later visit. The museum also displays unmissable wonders, particularly the extravagant gold and lapis lazuli death mask of the legendary boy-king Tutankhamun. If you’d like to visit the museum on an even more exclusive basis, please ask us about opening the museum for you outside of hours and touring with a head curator. Cairo also houses more recent history, and for those interested in Jewish and Christian roots in the Middle East, we recommend a visit to the Ben Ezra synagogue where Maimonides prayed and the famous Cairo genizah was uncovered, and to the Coptic Museum and Hanging Church where Egypt’s first Coptic Christians met and prayed. Please ask us about our exclusive insider experiences which include private openings of Cairo’s synagogues. For a sense of today’s dynamic city, visit the Khan El-Khalili souk which is said to be the Middle East’s largest bizarre and where you’re sure to find authentic curiosities to take home as gifts.
Giza Pyramids & Sphinx
Of the seven wonders of the ancient world, only one remains today: The Great Pyramid of Giza. If that’s not certified unmissable, we don’t know what is. To get a full understanding of what pyramids are all about, and how they developed we recommend also visiting Saqqara and Dashur where earlier less perfect versions of the pyramid were constructed. Giza then emerges as a sublime structure, the miraculously accurate realisation of an ideal structure inside which the kings would journey to the next world and emerge as gods. You will also see the Sphinx of Khafre – half king, half lion and colossal in size. Please ask about our exclusive access private tour to the Paws of the Sphinx. Giza is visited as a day tour from Cairo with your private guide and driver.
Many of Egypt’s most important treasures are found along the banks of the Nile river, and taking a river cruise from Luxor to Aswan is a relaxing way to access important sites. Your cruise would typically stop at Luxor, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. The cruise itself is an experience as you peacefully float down the world’s longest river and witness the landscape change from urban to desert to tropical. Our favourite cruising vessels are extremely luxurious, so this is certainly a chance to treat yourself as well as stimulate the mind. There are a number of different river boats to choose from and we look forward to helping you choose the very best option for your journey.
Luxor & Karnak
Luxor is the 4,000 year old site of ancient Thebes mentioned by Homer in the Iliad and known throughout the ancient world. The temples at Luxor and nearby Karnak are colossal complexes through which one feels the scale and grandeur of ancient Egyptian religious rites and life. The temples here were dedicated to the moon god Amun and to his wife and son – at festive times, the priests would bathe and dress a huge statue of Amun and deck him in gold. At the Luxor temple, mammoth statues of the pharaohs tower over you, in addition to a remaining obelisk and columns still bearing hieroglyphs. At Karnak, a site which various pharaohs contributed to over 1,3000 years, towering columns are found and the sheer scale of the place is overwhelming. Note that if you’re not taking a Nile Cruise, these wonders together with the Valley of the Kings can be toured from Luxor itself, just a one hour flight from Cairo.
Valley of Kings
The Valley of Kings is at first site less impressive than other sites you will visit on your Egypt tour. However, the Valley of Kings is also a more immersive experience – this is where you will enter the burial chambers themselves, descending to the deep resting places of the pharaohs including those of Tutankhamun, Ramses II and Hatshepsut, the celebrated female leader of Egypt. Your expert guide will help you decipher the brightly coloured hieroglyphics, vivid reds and blues and yellows abound and were intended to signpost the deceased through their underworld journey to the next life. The hieroglyphics are fascinating in their detail and beauty, and provide us with a strikingly true way to commune with a four thousand year old civilisation. Again, the importance of visiting with an expert guide cannot be overstated – unless you happen to be fluent in hieroglyphics yourself!
Abu Simbel is amongst Egypt’s very greatest treasures, and arguably one of the most jaw-dropping ancient sites to visit anywhere in the world. In our opinion, it is absolutely worth the early start and long day journey from Aswan. Walking through desert sands, as the sun rises, you round a bend, and the site of four twenty-one-meter-high statues of Ramses II hits you hard. It is quite literally breathe-taking. Ramses II built the site to demonstrate Egyptian prowess to the Nubians, and more than three thousand years later these stones continue to radiate power. The tale of how the entire Abu Simbel site was transported from its original location to make way for Lake Nasser is also extraordinary – you might like to read about it in literary form in Anne Michaels’ poetically written novel ‘The Winter Vault’.
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