Discover the allure of sun-drenched sands, bustling cities, majestic monuments and Pharaonic treasures on a journey to Egypt. From literary writers, including Agatha Christie and Penelope Lively, and films such as The Mummy, Cleopatra and Indiana Jones, the lure of this ancient country with its incredible Egyptian civilization that ruled for three millennia is hard to resist – tourists, archeologists and historians flock to its treasure trove of romantic, and sometimes savage, history. Dissected by the mighty Nile River that flows north into the Mediterranean Sea, the Egyptian landscape is awash with low-lying sand dunes broken by sandstone plateaus and cliffs in the southwest near the Nile and Red Sea. The only fertile area is a small five to ten-mile section in the Nile Valley, where 98% of the country’s 74 million people reside and the location of capital city, Cairo. Get ready to soak up the exotic mix of cultures, where Arabic is the official language, followed by English and French, as you begin your unforgettable adventure to a land steeped in time and timeless civilizations.
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The excitement of your odyssey begins as you board your overnight flight to Cairo.
Upon your arrival in Cairo, this afternoon, you will be met by your Classic Escapes representative, who will assist you through Customs and escort you to your hotel. As the heart of both ancient and modern Egypt, Cairo demonstrates the dichotomy of all things Egyptian as the medieval and the contemporary Western worlds come together in a confusion of earthen houses and towering modern office buildings, of flashy cars and donkey-drawn carts. For the next three nights you will enjoy first class accommodations right by one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Giza Pyramids. After check-in, the rest of your day and evening are at leisure.
Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel is a luxury hotel located just outside the city, offering views of the Giza Pyramids. With a peerless choice of restaurants and cuisines, a Royal Club floor, a magnificent swimming pool, and spa amenities, Le Meridien Pyramids is conveniently located only twenty minutes from Cairo’s city center. The local area offers a host of attractions, such as Giza Zoo, Pyramids at Giza and Great Sphinx of Giza. Additional local attractions include Hanging Church and Cairo University. The 523 guestrooms of the hotel are fully furnished and equipped with modern facilities for your ease and comfort. Onsite amenities include massage, treatment rooms, spa services, a spa tub, a fitness facility, a sauna and a steam room. Overnight at the LE MERIDIEN PYRAMIDS HOTEL OR SIMILAR in standard room. www.lemeridienpyramids.com Upgrade to pyramid facing room: $100 per person double occupancy; $200 per person single room
A full day of exploration with your guide is in store today. Spend the morning exploring the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, where you’ll discover the world’s richest collection of pharaonic treasure, including Tutankhamen’s. Although the sheer number of items on display can be daunting, the ground floor takes you on a journey through the history of ancient Egypt and may prove to be the best way to begin your exploration. At an optional cost ($25 per person) your tour will include entry into the famous Mummy Room which contains the corpses of 11 of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs including Seti I and his son Ramses II. The figures still have features, and there is something awe-inspiring about gazing at the face of someone who died 3,000 years ago.
After lunch, journey to the Sphinx and the Pyramids at Giza, built over 4,500 years ago. The Sphinx of Giza is a symbol that has represented the essence of Egypt for thousands of years. The body of a lion with the head of a king or god, the Sphinx has come to symbolize strength and wisdom. From the north side the profile of the Sphinx reveals the proportion of the body to the head; it would appear as though the head is small in proportion to the body. Because of the changing desert terrain, the body of the Sphinx has been buried several times over the past several thousand years. Most recently in 1905, the sand has been cleared away to expose the magnitude and beauty of the entirety of the Sphinx. The paws themselves are 50 feet long while the entire length is 150 feet. Although the head of the Sphinx is badly battered in some places, traces of the original paint can still be seen near one ear, leading archeologists to believe that originally the Sphinx was painted and quite colorful.
It is impossible to give proper attention here to the complexity of Egypt’s gifts – especially the infamous pyramids. Despite the great archeological discoveries in Egypt, recent indicators are that only 30% of the Egyptian antiquities have been unearthed, leaving 70% still buried under the sands. While the pyramids built here seem to be all funerary in nature, to regard them as merely tombs is an oversimplification. Each tomb is actually a complex of buildings, as it was the dead pharaoh’s palace of the afterlife, where he was mystically transformed and resurrected as a full god.
Located behind the Sphinx is the largest and oldest of Giza’s pyramids – Cheops. This pyramid is thought to have been built between 2589 – 2566 BC. It would have taken over 2,300,000 blocks of stone with an average weight of 2.5 tons each. The total weight would have been 6,000,000 tons and a height of 482 feet. Cheops is thought to have been the ruler of a highly structured society and very wealthy. He was buried alone in this massive tomb. His wives may have been buried nearby in smaller mastabas. (Entrance fee to the pyramid is not included and is at additional cost of $20 per person.)
The day ends with a visit to the Khan El Khalili Bazaar, known for its narrow alleys and hundreds of shops selling all types of Egyptian handicrafts, silver and gold jewelry, cottons, copperware and perfumes. Overnight at the LE MERIDIEN PYRAMIDS HOTEL OR SIMILAR.
MEMPHIS, SAKKARA & OLD CAIRO (OPTIONAL TOUR – EXTRA COST OF $105 PER PERSON)
Journey this morning through the Egyptian countryside to Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, which reached its peak between 2,700 and 2,270 BC. Little is left, other than the beautiful Alabaster Sphinx and an enormous reclining statue of Ramses II.
Continue on to the necropolis of Sakkara where fourteen pyramids were built, including one of the world’s oldest stone structures, the step pyramid of Zoser. Spread over seven kilometers of desert, Sakkara is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
In the afternoon, after lunch, discover Old Cairo with a visit to the Citadel of Salah El Din built by the famous Arab Sultan, Salah El Din (Saladin), in the 12th century. Also visit the Mohammed Ali Mosque situated inside the citadel known for its alabaster wall. Overnight at the LE MERIDIEN PYRAMIDS HOTEL OR SIMILAR.
This afternoon’s exploration begins with a tour of the Luxor Temple, standing in the center of the city. Many festivals were celebrated in ancient times and the Temple of Luxor was the center of the most important one, the festival of Opet. Built largely by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II, it appears that the temple’s purpose was a suitable setting for the rituals of the festival. Continue to the extraordinary Karnak Temple, a complex of obelisks, pylons, courts, colonnades, halls, reliefs and sanctuaries once connected to Luxor Temple by a two-mile path lined with sphinxes. It is the largest religious structure in the world, a 60-acre archeological treasure built by generation after generation of pharaohs.
The most important temple area is dedicated to Amon-Ra and was in use for over 2,000 years, longer than any other religious building in history. The sheer magnitude of this colossal structure is nearly beyond comprehension. Return aboard your cruise ship for the balance of the day at leisure. This evening you may choose to attend a Sound and Light Show presentation at the Karnak Temple (at an additional cost – $45per person).
The best way to explore the mystery of the Nile is by sailing along the magnificent river, enjoying the glamorous sun by daytime, hugging the full moon with your eyes at night and spending the time of your life on board your luxurious vessel. When you’re not touring enjoy the wonderful facilities on board, everything from the refreshing swimming pool on the sun deck to cocktails at one of the bars or even some retail therapy in the curio shop. Each room features personal safes, sound proof windows, individually controlled air conditioning, telephone, full mini bar, individual interactive TV, hair dryer, bathrobe, and 24-hour room service. The M/S Amwaj Living Stone is a spacious 5-star river cruiser offering luxurious and high standards accommodations that provide the ultimate comfort, elegance and style. It has 62 deluxe cabins total, all of them beautifully decorated, and equipped with full length panoramic windows, air-conditioning, en-suite bathroom and shower, hairdryer, dressing table and living area, international dial telephone, satellite LCD TV plus an individual safe and mini-fridge. The restaurant offers both buffets at breakfast and lunch and a la carte dining at dinner in an elegant and warm atmosphere. You can treat yourself to the spa, massage, steam room and sauna–all manned by a professional crew, or enjoy swimming and relaxing on the Sun Deck. Overnight aboard the M/S AMWAJ LIVING STONE OR SIMILAR.
Start your day with an optional balloon ride. Before sunrise, you will be met at your hotel and taken to the balloon safari site. Look on with excitement as the balloons are inflated. As your balloon floats above the ancient monuments of Luxor’s West Bank, you will see Thebes, Valley of the Kings and Queens, Queen Hatshepsut Temple, Ramses Temples and more of the wonders of the West Bank. (Additional cost of $125 per person) This morning, visit Luxor’s West Bank and explore the ancient city of Thebes. Stand in awe at the necropolis of pharaohs and nobility as you are greeted by the Colossi of Memnon: two giant seated statues of Amenophis III. Tour the Valley of the Kings, where you are surrounded by the eternal tombs of the pharaohs from the 18th and 19th dynasties of the New Kingdom. From 1903-1906 an Italian expedition discovered about 80 tombs, some of which belonged to children of royalty. Many were severely damaged having been burned and or reduced to being used as stables for donkeys and camel. You will visit three very different tombs (Optional visit to the tomb of the boy Tutankhamen is available at additional cost) of the many in the area. Within them, you’ll see ancient paintings and carvings in colors that retain much of their original freshness illustrating the life of the owner and his passage to the afterlife. Here you will also see and learn about the work of Dr. Kent Weeks and his study of KV 5. (KV is an abbreviation for the Valley of the Kings, followed by a number to designate individual tombs in the Valley.) His work has unearthed great progress in the exploration of this particular tomb. There seems to be yet another level of chambers in KV 5 which brings the chamber count to over 120 and the newly discovered corridor will add significantly to that number.
Continue to the Valley of the Queens and Nobles and the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut sheltered by the surrounding cliffs. The ancient Egyptians gave it the name Set Neferu, meaning “seat of beauty.” Return on board in time for lunch. As the ship sails to Edfu enjoy an afternoon relaxing on the sundeck while watching local life unfolding on the river and its banks. Overnight aboard the M/S AMWAJ LIVING STONE OR SIMILAR.
This morning take a horse and carriage ride to visit one of the best preserved temples in Egypt, the Horus Temple, which honors the falcon-headed god. Ptolemy II began construction of the temple in 237 BC., but it was not completed until 57 B.C. Without question, this 118-foot-high, 262-foot-wide temple is one of the most splendid examples of late temple architecture. The incredible number of inscriptions on its walls has greatly enriched our knowledge of Egyptian civilization, especially in the area of theology and cult practices. Return aboard the ship and sail to Kom Ombo to visit a unique third-century temple with beautiful stone reliefs, murals and a dramatic view of the Nile. Kom Ombo is home to an unusual double temple built during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Haroeris (Horus the Elder). Return on board and continue sailing towards Aswan where the ship will dock for two days. Overnight aboard the M/S AMWAJ LIVING STONE OR SIMILAR.
This morning you will be taken by a small boat to the island of Aglikia. Visit the complex at Philae where its main temple, dating from the third century B.C., is dedicated to the goddess Isis when the area was the last bastion of ancient Egyptian religion and hieroglyphic usage. It is also a superb example of threatened cultural heritage being saved in the face of modern civilization’s march to change the environment. Like Abu Simbel, the Temple was moved in its entirety when the High Dam was built and Agilkia became its new home. After lunch you will tour one of Egypt’s modern wonders—the Aswan High Dam—completed in 1971 and located just south of Aswan. It was constructed not only to regulate the yearly flood of the Nile, but also to create a water reservoir capable of storing water to prevent famine during severe droughts. The reservoir is known as Lake Nasser, named after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser who undertook the national project of the dam construction in 1960. During the course of construction, provisions were made to repatriate the Nubian inhabitants, and, in a multi-national effort, to relocate the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Also visit Aswan’s Granite Quarries, and Unfinished Obelisk. Continue by felucca (traditional sailboat) to Kitchener’s Island with its beautiful gardens and to the mausoleum of the Agha Khan. Overnight aboard the M/S AMWAJ LIVING STONE OR SIMILAR.
Upon disembarkation after breakfast this morning enjoy time at leisure in Aswan or enjoy an optional excursion to Abu Simbel.
Optional activity (at an additional cost – $495 per person, additional): This morning you have a chance for an optional flight and visit to Abu Simbel. As you approach the site on foot you’ll discover the massive temples dedicated to Ramses II and his legendary wife Nefertari. These architectural wonders are two of the most tremendous monuments constructed in the ancient world, over 100 feet high and guarded by colossal stone figures of Ramses II. The entire monument was cut into 2,000 pieces and moved to its present site when the Aswan High Dam was constructed, a feat almost as amazing as its original construction. The temple was so perfectly reconstructed that on only two days a year, the sun shines from the entrance all the way into the sanctuary, 112 feet away. Continue on your flight to Aswan and meet up with the rest of group going to Cairo. This optional must be booked in advance before you depart the USA and is based upon availability at the time of booking.
Transfer to the Aswan airport in time for your onward flight to Cairo. On arrival, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. The Radisson Blu Hotel is situated in one of Cairo’s most prominent districts, Heliopolis, a suburb of tree lined avenues and home to Egypt’s diplomatic and presidential offices and prime residential areas. Accommodation is offered in one of the 427 guestrooms all equipped with modern facilities for your convenience. A wealth of dining options range from Italian cuisine to Asian dishes. Each meal is prepared with fresh, local ingredients. At Filini, guests enjoy concept dining that focuses on traditional Italian fare served with a modern twist. MIX restaurant offers Lebanese and Asian options, along with the renowned super breakfast buffet. Overnight at the RADISSON BLU HOTEL. http://www.radissonblu.com/hotel-cairoheliopolis
This morning, depart Cairo and bid farewell to Egypt arriving back home eager to share memories and photos with your family and friends.
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