Welcome to Egypt! On arrival at Cairo International Airport, you will be met by our local representative and transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day, so you may arrive in Cairo at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can perhaps be symbolised by two imposing landmarks - the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. In free time perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts, where you can see donkey carts and expensive cars, medieval slums and modern shopping malls.
After breakfast this morning, you will be collected from your hotel and driven roughly an hour north to Giza. Here, you will see perhaps the greatest and most iconic structures ever created by man - the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Instantly familiar, yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is captivating. For an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), although occasionally it may be closed to visitors.
After lunch you will head back into Cairo where you will then immerse yourself in ancient history with a visit to the Egyptian Museum. This truly is one of the world's greatest museums, home to a stupendous collection of antiquities and the perfect introduction to your tour, exhibiting many of the region's treasures. Your expert guide will take you through Egypt's rich and fascinating dynastic history. Your entrance fee also includes a visit to the fascinating and slightly macabre Royal Mummy Room (included).
After the museum visit you will return to your hotel, where there will be time to freshen up before you are transferred to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Luxor.
Accommodation aboard the overnight train is in twin-berth cabins which convert to bunk beds. All bedding is provided on board and western-style toilets are located in each carriage. Your bags will be stored in your cabin, where airline-style dinner and breakfast will be served. However it may be worth bringing some additional snacks, especially if you are vegetarian or have dietary requirements. Your tour leader will be happy to help you arrange this. Despite being a tourist class train, facilities are relatively basic. Please also keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to.
You will arrive into Luxor after breakfast. Luxor is a vibrant and modern city, situated close to some of ancient Egypt's most important and extraordinary monuments. Once you have checked into your hotel and freshened up, you will travel to Karnak, one of the world's most celebrated temple complexes. Built over a period of some 200 years, and dating back to 2,055 BC, your guided tour of the temple reveals its finest sections.
From there, you will then head into the Valley of the Kings. Buried beneath the arid hills there are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. Explore this sprawling and spectacular place where discoveries are still being made. Tutankhamun's final resting place is also located here, and you'll have free time to visit it. Your guide will explain the funerary rites of the ancient Egyptians and significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics. You will visit three royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre. Your final stop is the Colossi of Memnon – giant statues that were once part of an impressive colonnade.
After breakfast and a leisurely start to the day, you will take a private transfer to Esna (50km south of Luxor) where you will be welcomed on board your beautiful dahabiya by the crew. A dahabiya is a traditional small sailing vessel that was commonly used between the 1920s and the 1940s when aristocrats and sophisticated travellers (like the Duries) loved to cruise the Nile in style and at a leisurely pace.
Your Nile adventure starts by sailing towards El Kab, the ancient city of Nekheb, where you can see the remains of the temples and the tombs. The crew will then set the sails for a small island where the boat will moor for the night. Enjoy your dinner on the sundeck or the banks of the river Nile.
Today you will sail to Edfu where you see the beautifully preserved temple of Horus, which has been buried under the desert sand for hundreds of years. Continue sailing to an island near Wadi el Shat for a walk through small villages and the desert.
Relax in a deck chair and watch the riverbanks glide pass by while the crew set the sails for Gebel El Silsila. Here you have an opportunity to explore the rock-cut chapels of Seti I, Ramesses II, Merenptah and Horemheb and also remnants of the monuments in the old sandstone quarries. During lunch on the sun deck the dahabiya sails towards Kom Ombo, where you will go ashore to see the double temple of Sobek and Haroeris.
Built on a high dune overlooking the Nile, the complex sits picturesquely ruined on the river's edge and dates back to the early 2nd century BC. The complex is unique because it has a mirror-image design, divided down the middle, with either side dedicated to a different set of Gods. One half is known as the Temple of Sobek (the crocodile-headed god of fertility), and it includes details on the Ancient Egyptian's relationship with crocodiles, whom they revered and feared in equal measure. The other half is dedicated to Haroeris (also known as Horus the falcon god), and the whole temple is full of fascinating reliefs.
Dinner will be served around a campfire on the banks of the Nile.
Today your captain sets sail for the village of Daraw, once the last stop for camel traders from Sudan after a forty days long journey through the Libyan Desert. After a walk through the village and camel market the boat sails further towards Koubania; a Nubian village near Aswan, with lovely gardens filled with citrus and mango trees.
Enjoy your final night on board and allow the crew to laud you with their famed hospitality and a sumptuous banquet.
You will disembark early this morning to visit the iconic Abu Simbel by plane. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Once you return to Aswan, the rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular afternoon option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively travel to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer optional visit the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island you may prefer to simply relax by the hotel pool or do some shopping in the local bazaar.
Today is a completely free day, providing time for you to relax and explore. Aswan is arguably the most idyllic of Egypt’s cities, boasting an easy going and relaxed atmosphere. The river is wide, languorous and beautiful here, flowing gently down from Lake Nasser around dramatic black-granite boulders and palm-studded islands. Colourful Nubian villages run down to the water and stand out against the backdrop of the west bank's desert escarpment. The locals are known for their friendly and warm-hearted nature. Far removed from the chaotic bustle of Cairo, this is a place that invites you to linger and recover from the rigours of temple-viewing.
After breakfast you will be transferred to Aswan airport for the short flight back to Cairo where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Today you will dive into another layer of Egyptian history: medieval Cairo. Head to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, The 'Khan', sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. It retains a distinctly medieval feel. You will explore the gold market, 'perfume street' and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth. The perfect spot for some souvenir haggling! If time allows, you will have an opportunity to visit Citadel of Salah El Dine and Mohamed Ali Mosque, or alternatively we will visit Alazhar Mosque. If you are lucky your visit will coincide with the Sufi Dance performance.
At an appropriate time you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your departing international flight.