• abu simbel

Egypt in utter luxury with an immaculate private chartered Nile boat, exclusive access to some of the world's leading heritage sites, and accompanied by a leading Egyptologist.

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POA

Itinerary

Day 1

Welcome to Egypt!

Cairo, Egypt

Arrive Cairo airport where you will unwind in a comfortable airport longue while our team takes care of airport procedures, you will then transfer to your hotel.

EXPERT INSIDER GUIDE: 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-époque 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.

Day 2

Expert Briefing & Private Flight to Abu Simbel & Aswan

Abu Simbel, 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 after life – 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.

You will then continue with your expert Egyptologist and board your private flights to Abu Simbel.  Flying private will save considerable time and significantly cut down on waiting in line, connections, delays and general logistics.

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.

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.

Day 3

Nubian Experience & Board Private Charter Cruise

Aswan, Cairo

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.

This morning you will visit the excellent 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.

INSIDER EXPERIENCE: 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.

Following your tour in Aswan you will board your privately chartered boat, the most luxurious vessel available on the Nile.  And to start your river journey, this evening you are in for a treat! You will sail to a small island named Aqaba island where the most beautiful, romantic and atmospheric beach dinner will be set up for you. The entire beach area will be lit by candles, and you will enjoy Middle Eastern cuisine such as mezzah, charcoal roasted meats, and local sweets. We promise this will be a highly memorable evening.

Day 4

Beach & Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo, Egypt

Now for some time to simply enjoy the beach and try your hand at fishing should you so wish. Everything will be beautifully arranged and set up for you with comfortable loungers and fresh fruits and drinks on hand.

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 fertilityand 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.

Day 5

Gabal el Selsela & Temple of Edfu

Temple of Edfu, Egypt

Gabal el Selsela is the narrowest site of the Nile, visit the ancient quarries and learn about how the Egyptians used to source materials and build.  As this site is off the tourist map, you will most likely enjoy it completely to yourself.

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.

Day 6

Luxor & Karnak

Luxor and Karnak, Egypt

The extraordinary temple of Karnak is found at Luxor, 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. This site simply has to be seen to be believed.

Return to your boat for some downtime this afternoon, or alternatively visit the Luxor Museum.

Early this evening tour the beautifully lit temple of Luxor, you will find it incredibly atmospheric and evocative of times gone by.  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. As with Karnak, just how these obelisks were created in ancient times is beyond the imagination, the huge structures were capped with precious metals to capture the light so everyone could find their way to the temples, and were signs of fertility and prosperity (there is no denying their phallic nature!). Luxor’s missing obelisk can be found at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The temple of Luxor is beautifully lit at night and can be visited in the early evening for an atmospheric tour.

This evening enjoy a charming private dinner in a beautiful rose dinner, this evening promises to be romantic and memorable.

 

Day 7

Valley of the Kings & Private entry to Tomb of Nefertari

Valley of the Kings, 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 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. 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.

During your tour of the Valley of Kings and the Valley of Queens, we have arranged an extremely special and exclusive private visit to the wondrous tomb of Queen Nefertari, which may well feature as a highlight of your Egypt journey. Queen Nefertari of the fourteenth century BCE was the wife of Ramses II (Ramses the Great). Her name meant ‘beautiful companion’, and this is borne out by the tomb illustrations which emphasise her face and the shape of her eyes in particular. In addition to her beauty she was highly educated, able to read and write hieroglyphics, and use her skill for diplomatic correspondence. Her husband was the Ramses who built Abu Simbel, and indeed the site contains a temple dedicated to her. Her tomb itself is so well preserved, and the colours of the hieroglyphics and wall images so vibrant, that much of it looks like it was painted in recent times. As a result, this tomb perhaps more than any other, provides the experience of a time machine, when one can truly experience and appreciate the texture and quality of ancient Egypt. Viewing the tomb privately and without the tourist crowds, massively intensifies this experience, which many find to be not only evocative but extremely emotional.

Travel by private plane to Cairo.

Day 8

Cairo City Tour

Cairo, Egypt

EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE BRIEFING:  After breakfast benefit from an expert briefing over coffee 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.

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,   However, the museum is due to be superseded by a new museum to be called the Grand Egyptian Museum which will be located in Giza and which will be the largest archeological museum in the world.  The Grand Egyptian museum will put on display, for the first time ever, the entire tomb collection of Tutankhamun.  The long awaited opening is due in 2022, and ahead of then we are able to arrange private tours of the pre-opened collection on an occasional basis.

EXPERT INSIDER GUIDE: One of the best way 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.

This evening we will be happy to book you an excellent restaurant serving Middle Eastern food.

Day 9

Private Pyramids & Sphinx & Cairo Continued

Cairo, Egypt

This morning we will rise early for a special private access visit to the great pyramids of Giza. 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. Giza 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. Despite their age, these structures still overwhelm and overpower visitors. You will also see the Sphinx of Khafre – half king, half lion and colossal in size. This morning’s visit will be all the more memorable as we will have the pyramids to ourselves, a rare opportunity to visit them without crowds, and to spend quite time contemplating their wonder. The structure of the Sphinx carries with it an air of mystery and adventure, and begs many questions.

Following your exclusive visit to the pyramids things are only going to get better with a beautifully set breakfast where you can admire the iconic landscape.

Return to your hotel for some downtown before continuing to explore Cairo city early this afternoon:

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.

This afternoon you will see a different Cairo. Manshiyat Nasser, also known as Garbage City, is a Cairo slum whose population is predominantly Coptic Christian.  A visit to this area reveals a completely different, and mostly hidden, side to Cairo.  The population support themselves by collecting the garbage of Cairo’s twenty million residents and then sorting through it, achieving an astonishing high recycling rate. The garbage collectors work as extended family units, or informal businesses, the men tend to be responsible for collecting the garbage while women and children sort through it to find any items which can be resold or recycled such as glass bottles and metal. Some families such as those who recycle aluminum have generated considerable income but most of the residents of this place continue to live in abject poverty and unsanitary conditions.  We will connect you with a highly articulate and thoughtful young residents of Garbage City who will guide you through this experience. Together with your local guide you will also visit the incredible St Saaman’s cave Church which with arena style seating for 15,000 people is the largest church in the Middle East.

This evening we will be happy to book you one of Cairo’s more chichi restaurant bars, it is quite poignant to see the different extremes of society after this afternoon’s more socially engaged visit.

Day 10

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.
  • Deepen your knowledge of Egypt’s long and rich history with a visit to the excellent new National Museum of Civilisation.

Day 11

Day at Leisure & 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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