• Nefertiti Tomb 1

Best of Egypt – By Land

Indicative price guide

From $7,250 per person

Based on two adults sharing a room.

Itinerary

This sample itinerary can be tailored to you and your family’s precise requirements and interests. That is what the Egypt specialists at Pomegranate Travel excel at!

A fascinating exploration of Egypt, ancient and modern, offering in-depth touring of the classic sites, monuments, temples and tombs of the ancient world.  Explore the ancient sites with the privacy and flexibility of your private car and driver, and benefit from explanations by your expert Egyptologist throughout your journey.

Day 1

Welcome to Egypt!

Cairo, Egypt

Arrive Cairo airport where you will be met and assisted through airport procedures, transfer to hotel.

Experience a different side of Cairo, experiencing the city by evening and night.  We will introduce you to a young, easy going and knowledgeable resident of Cairo, who is also an expert of the evening food and drink scene.  Together you will explore Downtown Cairo, built in the 1860s today it still maintains character and charm because of how central and walkable it is, due to its promenade streets with large sidewalks.  People from all walks of life live and work in Downtown Cairo, and it has a bustling shopping scene, and a diverse food scene with a mix of authentic eateries and belle-epoque style cafes.  This area is also a great place for people watching and seeing how Egyptians unwind after work, enjoying street food and ice cream, while artists and intellectuals can often be found in specific cafes and cinemas showcasing indie films.  With tons of hidden gems in Downtown, we will visit a few different stops including a place selling the Egyptian national dish of Koshary, an Arab sweet store, and we will round off the evening sipping a cold beer on the rooftop bar of a vintage hotel. The tour lasts for about two hours.

Day 2

Expert Briefing & Pyramids

Cairo, Egypt

EXPERT LED INTRODUCTORY BRIEFING:  This expert briefing will help put into wider context many of the breathtaking ancient Egyptian sites you will see while on tour, and provide valuable information about the world out of which they emerged.  The ancient Egyptian temples were built by Pharaohs and as such we will explore fundamental questions such as what was an ancient Temple, and what was its purpose?  Equally we will explore the notion of Kingship:  what was the role of the King and the expectations upon him (or her) in terms of religious and cosmic obligations, and the social, political and economic status?  From here we will better understand the purpose of the temples in religious and material terms, as well as the physical context of the temples visited on a tour, their huge scale, colours and scents, and how this fitted in with the social and economic roles of the Kings. It will also be important to understand the basics of ancient Egyptian sacred art and hieroglyphics.  Time allowing you will also discuss fundamental principles around tombs and the afterlife – what was the concept of the afterlife, who got there, and how?  Your briefing will be delivered by an expert academic Egyptologist, our experts are generally well published in their specialist fields and often appear on television and media channels to share their specialist knowledge.

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.  Yet before we visit Giza we will visit the more ancient sites of Saqqara and Dahshur where we will understand more about the history and evolution of these pyramid structures.   First visiting Dahshur you will visit the Bent pyramid which is almost 5000 years old, and was built under the rule of King Sneferu.  As the name suggests, the pyramid is not perfectly aligned, and this early attempt was imperfect.  You will also see the Red pyramid which was more successful and emerged with smooth sides.  Time allowing you will visit Memphis, the first capital of Egypt and home to the huge statue of Ramases II.  Continuing to Saqqara, you will learn about how the ancient Egyptians experimented with stepped pyramids, and view the step pyramid of Djoser which is the oldest stone building complex in the world.  Continuing our journey, and the evolution of these engineering feats, Giza emerges as a sublime structure, the miraculously accurate realisation of an ideal pyramid structure inside which the kings would journey to the next world and emerge as gods.  Despite their age, these structures still overwhelm and overpower visitors. You will visit all three of the pyramids at Giza, and also witness them from a  panoramic view point where you can see the grandeur of all three together.   Proceed to the Great Sphinx with its head of a man and body of a lion, gazing imposingly across the valley.

Day 3

Aswan & Nubian Experience

Aswan, Egypt

Aswan is a relaxed city towards the South of Egypt, and it definitely deserves its reputation as Egypt’s most beautiful city. Much of what you will see here is in some way connected with the momentous damming of the Nile at this point which occurred during the 1960s to control the annual flooding of the Nile and create Lake Nasser. The project took decades to complete and was perhaps one of the most ambitious modern engineering projects to have been undertaken in the Middle East. The scale of the engineering works is pretty impressive and standing at the top of the dam you will enjoy sweeping views of the lake and the surrounding arid desert scenery. Continue to the temple of Philae, an outstanding temple complex dedicated to the goddess Isis and dating to the Ptolemaic age of about 690 BCE. There are many legends associated with Isis and the temple, the most famous being the story of Isis finding the heart of Osiris after his murder by his brother Seth. As with Abu Simbel this temple was dismantled piece by piece and rebuilt on higher ground to avoid it being flooded by the damming of the Nile. The temple is accessed by motorboat.
Next you will visit the unfinished obelisk which was ordered by Pharaoh Hatshepsut (1508–1458 BC), and had it been finished it would have been the largest obelisk around at over 40 meters. It seems that its creators started the work of carving it out of the bedrock but the stone became cracked and the project was abandoned. Today it gives fascinating insights into ancient Egyptian engineering and stone cutting techniques.

INSIDER EXPERIENCE: Aswan is also interesting for gaining a first hand understanding into the Nubian community of Egypt. The Nubians are an ethnic group from Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt who were historically traders of gold and spices and have lived in the area of the Nile for thousands of years. Many were forcefully relocated when the damming of the Nile flooded their ancestral homeland. To understand more about this community and culture you will visit a Nubian village and see how people here live. Unlike most tourist engagements with the Nubian community, we are taking you off the beaten track to the non-touristy side of a Nubian village (not the sanitised ‘Disney’ version most people get). Here you will meet people who live there, see their houses, learn about their infrastructure, tour the village with them, and take a little hike to see some remarkable ancient remains which are truly outliners in terms of the tourist route. You will then enjoy a generous traditional meal in a Nubian home. We recommend taking the opportunity to ask questions about Nubian life and culture, including more probing questions about how Nubian life has changed since the Nile was dammed.

 

Day 4

Abu Simbel & Felucca Ride

Abu Simbel, Egypt

This morning fly to Abu Simbel and start touring. Abu Simbel lies down on the hot, dusty and inhospitable border of Sudan, and yet it is totally worth the journey.  The temples at Abu Simbel were built by Ramses II with the express purpose of demonstrating Egyptian might and glory to the abutting Nabatean tribes.  Given the impact these monuments have on today’s visitors, we can only surmise that he succeeded in his mission.  The twin statues of Ramses II carved into the mountainside stand 20 meters high.  Images of the king bearing the double crown of lower and upper Egypt are repeated four times.  Knee high to Ramses, his wife Queen Nefertari and his children stand as smaller figures, their diminutive form indicative of their lower status.  The great temple of Abu Simbel was dedicated to the sun god Amun, the god Ra-Horakhty and the god Ptah, and to the deified form of Ramses himself, and the interior of the temple is complex with many rooms.  The rescue story of these monuments from the rising waters of Lake Nasser is also remarkable – the monuments were cut into blocks and then moved stone by stone to more elevated land.

Fly back to Aswan and tour the Nubian Museum in the afternoon.  The Nubian museum which is packed with Egyptian, Roman and African artefacts.  The new Nubian Museum was opened in 1997 and is set in a beautiful building, worth seeing in its own right. Nestled in the hillside, it covers 50,000 square meters of landscaped gardens and buildings, which are divided up into different sections. It is partly an open-air museum where the visitor can wander the paths, meandering between a prehistoric cave with painted rock-art, ancient Egyptian statues, obelisks and columns, Roman frescoes and even a complete Nubian house.

Return to your hotel for downtime this afternoon.

Evening sunset tour on Felucca:  take time out to simply sit back on a traditional sail boat and relax as the river scenery passes you by and the sun sets, casting beautiful colours over the skies and land.

Day 5

Temples and Travel to Luxor

Luxor, Egypt

The temple of Kom Ombo sits on the shores of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan.  The temple dates to the Ptolemaic dynasty around 200 BCE and was dedicated to two gods: Horus the Falcon God who flew high and had good eyes and the people worshipped out of love, and Sobek the crocodile god who was low to the earth and the people worshipped out of fear.  This double temple was therefore a recognition that we all contain within us good and bad, and the task of humanity is to maintain the correct balance in the universe and in oneself.  Sobek was the god of fertility and so the temple of Kom Ombo became the most important clinic in Egypt for fertility treatment, and many other forms of medicine.  The walls abound with intricate pictures depicting ancient Egyptian medicine and hygiene practices such as the washing of food before it is consumed.  In order to represent Sobek in the temple, the priests would go to the river Nile and select a crocodile to live in the temple.  Once the crocodile died, it would be mummified and replaced, and the mummies can be viewed today at the small but very worthwhile museum just next to the site.

The temple of Edfu (also known as the temple of Horus) lies on the west bank of the river Nile between Luxor and Aswan.  It dates from a later period than many of Egypt’s key monuments, to the Ptolemaic time about 200 BCE.  It is exceptionally well preserved with the entire structure of the sanctuary – walls, floor and ceiling – intact.  It is dedicated to the falcon god Horus, who according to Egyptian mythology defeated the god Seth at this site, and the temple walls are full of inscriptions about the battle, as well as about life in Egypt during this time.

Esna is located 55 kms south of Luxor and is home to the temple dedicated to the god Khnum, as well as his consorts and son, and the goddess Neith.  This excellently preserved temple is less visited by tourists, so you may well find the experience of visiting all the more meaningful for having it to yourself.  The site has been half cleared of debris, revealing stunning remains, while the other half remains buried in centuries of sand and dirt.  This contrast is extremely striking and thought provoking.  Khnum had the head of a ram and according to ancient Egyptian mythology, created man from his potter’s wheel.   The temple was built by Ptolomy VI and finished by the Romans.  The temple was extraordinarily beautiful, built from red sandstone, its impressive portico consisted of six rows of four columns each, with lotus-leaf capitals, each of which was individually designed and differed from every other one.

Day 6

Valley of Kings & Queens

Luxor, Egypt

The West Bank of Luxor was the necropolis of Thebes – a city of the dead – symbolically located where the evening sun sets.  Just as the sun set every night and rose every morning, it was believed that man died and was born again, and the mode of burial was crucial in enabling that journey.  A huge array of tombs are here to be explored.  Some of the burial chambers such as those of Seti I and Queen Nefertari were miraculously protected from both man and the elements, and the colours of the paints have to be seen to be believed, it is as if they were decades not millennia old.  Others, such as the temple tomb of Queen Hatshepsut have been painstakingly restored to their former glory which provide an excellent insight into how the tombs must have looked in their day.  Perhaps the most famous of the tombs is that discovered in 1922 by the British explorer and archeologist Howard Carter – the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun, which was discovered complete with thousands of gold and jewelled objects, military equipment, clothes and food, all to enable him to pass to the next life. In addition to these tombs you will visit that of Ramses VI and the fascinating valley of the workers.  You will also see the Colossi of Memnon, two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and have stood over the Theban Necropolis since 1350 BCE.

This afternoon is at leisure at your hotel.

Day 7

Temples of Luxor and Karnak

Luxor, Egypt

Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, seat of the spiritual life of ancient Egypt. It is therefore hardly surprising that the area of and surrounding Luxor is amongst the most densely populated with temples, tombs and monuments.  Karnak was the earthly dwelling of the sun god Amun-Re, the most important spiritual site in all of ancient Egypt and consisted of shrines, obelisks and temples.  Huge does not even begin to describe the scale of Karnak.  This site took hundreds of years to build and refine from the time of the Middle Kingdom (about 2000 BCE) into the Ptolemaic Kingdom (about 300 BCE), with around thirty Pharaohs contributing to the build.  Because of the period of time over which it was built, the variety and diversity of archeological remains at Karnak is quite simply unparalleled.  One of the highlights of a visit is the Great Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, the hall is 5000 squ m in size and contains 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows.  The temple of Luxor dates to 1400 BCE and is smaller than that at Karnak and was intended for priests rather than the general public.  This is also the site where kings were crowned (Alexander the Great claimed to have been crowned at Luxor, but in fact it is unlikely he travelled this far South).  The temple is flanked by two seated statues and a pinkish coloured granite obelisk.

In the afternoon you will visit the Luxor Museum.  Established in 1975, the Luxor Museum contains a collection of high-quality Pharaonic relics excavated in Luxor and nearby areas.  Here you will admire some of the objects that were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, such as the golden cow’s head of goddess Hathor and Tutankhamun’s horse carriage and weapons, as well as the stunning double statue of Sobek, the crocodile god, and king Amenhotep III, and well as several mummies.

After your visit to the Museum you will fly back to Cairo.

Day 8

Cairo City Tour

Cairo, Egypt

The Egyptian Museum (also known as the Cairo Museum) has long been the jewel in Cairo’s crown, and one of the most famous museums in the world. Inaugurated at the turn of the twentieth century, it houses the largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities in the world including the iconic pure gold death mask of Tutankhamun, together with many of the other treasures found in his tomb.  The glamour and design of these riches is absolutely staggering, and provides an insight into how the Pharaohs and nobles of ancient Egypt must have lived.

One of the best ways to enjoy being in Egypt is to ‘Eat like an Egyptian!’, and today we are hooking you up with a local expert in Egyptian cuisine and the Egyptian street.  Your food tour involves four stations, so please come hungry!  You will try the national dish Koshary which consists of rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, crispy fried onions and more; falafel which in Egypt is made of fava beans rather than chickpeas and is considered to be a breakfast food; a meze of various traditional dips and starters; and a local fruit or coffee parlor.   In addition to enjoying the flavoursome delights tucked away in places you would never walk into on your own, this is a great opportunity to spend some time with a local of Cairo and quiz them on the realities of life in the city.

The famous Cairo citadel was constructed in 1183 CE by Salah El Din, the great Arab conqueror and leader. The Citadel is one of Cairo’s most iconic destinations and recognizable landmarks. You will visit the various parts of the medieval Citadel including the stunning Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali, which for many is the highlight of the tour.

Day 9

Cairo Special Interest Day

Cairo, Egypt

Today is open to explore your special interests, here are a couple of ideas which might appeal:

  • Explore the antique churches which have existed in Cairo for two thousand years, and the very ancient history of Christianity in Egypt.
  • Explore the Jewish heritage of Cairo including medieval and nineteenth century synagogues, meet with a leader of the Jewish community and hear about the history of Egyptian Jewry firsthand and complete with personal anecdotes, and visit the second oldest Jewish cemetery in the world.
  • Explore Islamic architecture including hidden architectural Mamluk palaces, which are like an oasis in the chaos of Cairo, beautifully designed mosques, and visit with artisans of intricate inlay and fabric weaving to learn about these age -old traditions and select some special gifts to take home.
  • Benefit from a private briefing as to the challenges and opportunities in the social, economic and political spheres for the Egypt of today.
  • Take a socially engaged tour of the slums of Cairo where families survive by collecting and sorting the city’s garbage, and achieve a higher recycling rate than most cities in the West.
  • Deepen your knowledge of Egypt’s long and rich history with a visit to the excellent new National Museum of Civilisation.

Day 10

Day at Leisure and Transfer to airport

Cairo, Egypt

Time to enjoy your last day in Egypt before your transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

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