For those wanting to dive deep into the Middle East this outstanding tour allows you to experience the very best of Egypt & Israel in 10 nights. This tour promises to be a fascinating & thought provoking experience.
This sample itinerary can be tailored to your precise requirements and interests. That is what the Middle East specialists at Pomegranate Travel excel at!
A fascinating exploration of Egypt & Israel, both their ancient legacies and modern realities, offering in-depth touring of the classic sites and expert briefings and special experiences to delve deeper into the region. Explore the sites with the privacy and flexibility of your private car and driver, and benefit from explanations by experts throughout your journey.
Welcome to Egypt!
Arrive Cairo airport where you will be met and assisted through airport procedures, transfer to your hotel where you will be greeted by stunning views of the pyramids.
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. 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.
Full Sphynx Profile Pyramid Giza Egypt
Aswan & Nubian Experience
This morning take a short domestic flight to Aswan. 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. Next 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.
For lunch today enjoy a special meal and experience as you float along the Nile on a traditional felucca boat.
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.
Kom Ombo & Edfu
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.
Temples & Tombs
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.
Continue to the temples of Luxor & Karnak. 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.
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.
Cairo City & Expert Briefing
This morning fly to Cairo where you will meet your guide for your city tour.
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.
EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE BRIEFING: Over drinks early this evening benefit from an expert briefing with a member of our speaker’s bureau. He or she will set out for you the current state of affairs in Egypt, including questions around the Arab Spring of ten years ago – what has changed (or not) since that time, the main opportunities and challenges in Egyptian politics, society and economy today, possibilities for democracy, the role of the military and more. Our speakers are prominent journalists, risk analysts and think tank people, and offer deep expertise in their areas of knowledge. This will be a chance to step away from the ruins of the past and probe deeply into the Egypt of today.
Old City of Jerusalem & Expert Briefing
This morning take a short flight to Ben Gurion airport, Israel where you will be met by our VIP service and you will continue to Jerusalem.
A full tour of the Old City of Jerusalem will introduce you to this place of intense sanctity to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where holy sites tumble over each other. Your expert guide will unpeel layers of history and provide an overview of what Jerusalem means to the three monotheistic religions. Amongst other sites, you will visit the sites most holy to these three faiths, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Kotel (Western Wall of the Second Temple), and you will view the Dome of the Rock. During your tour today your guide will focus not only on the three monotheistic religions but also on Roman history in Jerusalem, for example focusing on the Cardo and the remains of Herod’s Temple.
Understand Jerusalem and its complexities more deeply with an expert briefing by our professor of comparative religions. She will discuss the Sanctity of Jerusalem and precisely what Jerusalem means to each of Judaism. Christianity and Islam, over a glass of wine early this evening.
Masada & Dead Sea
Arguably Israel’s most dramatic site, Masada’s mountain top ruins, set against the extraordinary backdrop of the Judean desert, are but a stage for the retelling of an heroic and ancient tale, now engrained in national mythology. With your expert guide as storyteller, you will hear about the lives of the final Jewish resisters to Roman rule, relive their struggle against the mighty Roman army, and wonder at their heroic end. Masada is a totally unique site, well deserving of its UNESCO world heritage status.
The waters of the Dead Sea shimmer like nowhere else on earth. Best of all, here you really will float! Full of good-for-you minerals and surrounded by air which is naturally rich in oxygen, the Dead Sea should leave you feeling full of energy.
Jerusalem City & Culinary Tour
Today visit to Yad Vashem, the Mahane Yehuda Market and the Israel Museum. Yad Vashem, Israel’s monument to the Holocaust, is weighty and important, and well deserving of a visit. Most visitors find this an extremely emotional experience, and particularly meaningful in the context of the history of the State of Israel.
It is uplifting to visit Yad Vashem and then continue to Mahane Yehuda market, where you will find yourself surrounded by the colourful hustle and bustle of life which continues after tragedy. The market offers a plethora of sights, smells and tastes – yum!
Finally the internationally acclaimed Israel Museum is not to be missed. Home to the Dead Sea Scrolls (the Shrine of the Book), and the celebrated model of Second Temple Jerusalem, the Israel museum also offers an extremely impressive standing collection of archaeology and art, including contemporary art.
Tel Aviv Beckons
Tel Aviv, Israel
En route to Tel Aviv you will see the green hills and forests which surround Jerusalem on her Western side. You will stop to visit a local winery where you will have the chance to hear the history of wine in Israel from biblical times to modern day awards, and sample several sips together with local cheeses and more.
Continue to Tel Aviv – Israel’s most exciting city. Ancient Jaffa and modern Tel Aviv are wonderful to tour together because of their contrasts. In Jaffa you will explore one of the most ancient ports in the world, replete with history from Biblical, ancient Egyptian, Roman, Napoleonic eras and more. Visiting Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv’s prettiest and oldest neighbourhood, you will hear the story of the city’s beginnings – how the first modern Hebrew city was moulded out of the barren sand dunes in an out-pouring of ideological vision and determination. Continuing into more central Tel Aviv you will visit Rothschild Boulevard and Independence Hall (from the outside) where David Ben Gurion famously declared the independence of the modern State of Israel. You will note the various architectural styles of the buildings from eclectic to Bauhaus, and hear stories about the waves of immigration who designed and created these remarkable buildings. The Bauhaus buildings are internationally significant and Tel Aviv’s UNESCO world heritage status is thanks to them.
Today you are ending your adventure as we transfer you to the airport. We trust you will be leaving Israel and the Middle East with special memories and a huge amount of insight into this most complex and important of regions.