THE GRAND TOUR

Day 1 - Sunday 26th February 2012
We fly London to Cairo and take our private transfer to the Movenpick Hotel at Giza for four nights on a room and breakfast basis.

Day 2 - Giza  and Sakkara
We begin our exploration of Egypt with a visit to the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, the magnificent Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. We explore the plateau, the Mortuary Temple of Khafre and the causeway leading to the enigmatic Sphinx. We take a leisurely lunch at the Sakkara Palm Club and then we head towards Sakkara. We start with an orientation at the excellent Imhotep Museum before exploring the Step Pyramid Enclosure. Here we find not only the oldest stone building in the world, the Pyramid of Djoser, but also, later Old Kingdom pyramids with Pyramid Texts and mastaba tombs of the highest standard. (BL)

Day 3 - Old Cairo
This morning we head into Old Cairo. We start with what many architects consider to be one of the finest classical Islamic period buildings in the world, the 9th Century Ibn Tulun Mosque. Next, to one of Cairo's most dramatic features, the Citadel of Saladin and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. Lunch is at the Citadel Restaurant overlooking Al Azhar Park. This afternoon we continue our discovery of Old Cairo in the colourful Tentmakers' Bazaar, the city gates of Bab Zuweila, the Mosque of Sultan al-Muayyad and the beautifully decorated 'Sabils'. (BL)

Day 4 - Cairo Museum
A full morning at the Egyptian Museum. Our guide will take us on a chronological journey covering around 3,000 years. One of the highlights will of course be the Tutankhamun Treasures and there will be plenty of free time to linger in the dozen rooms given over to spectacular finds from the tomb. Also time for those who wish, to take an optional visit to the Mummy Room to view the royal mummies. The coach will return to the hotel at lunchtime, but if you prefer, you can remain at the museum and return later. This afternoon we suggest an optional trip to the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. (B)

Day 5 - City of  Alexander
This morning we take the north western desert highway to Egypt's lovely coastal city of Alexandria. Looking somewhat French Mediterranean, this vibrant town is a favourite for Egyptians as well as Westerners. We check in to the Cecil Hotel, 'the' address in Alex, for two nights on a room and breakfast basis. Once refreshed, we leave for the National Museum of Alexandria with its fine exhibits. Later explore the cafes and restaurants of the corniche and dream of Forster and Cavafy. (B)

Day 6 -  Ancient Alexandria
Today a look at Pharaonic Alexandria starting at Kom el Shuqafa, Greco-Roman catacombs which exhibit some extraordinary fusions of Pharaonic, Roman and Greek cultures. Next we visit the remains of the Serapaeum, centre of worship to Serapis, thought to have contained an Apis Bull burial. Then to view the famous 'Pompey's Pillar,' before we move on to Anfushi where five beautiful Greek tombs boast interesting painted reliefs. Free time this afternoon to explore and maybe visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina or
Qaitbay Fort on the waterfront. (B)

Day 7 - To Ancient Thebes
After breakfast we board our coach for the return drive to Cairo Airport for our internal flight to Luxor. On arrival we check in to our hotel, the superb Old Winter Palace, Garden Pavilion Wing for five nights on room and breakfast basis. In the early evening we will walk to the Luxor Museum with its excellent, beautifully lit pieces, including perhaps the finest piece of sculpture in history - the statue of Thutmose III. (B)

Day 8 - The West Bank
This morning we take our private launch across the Nile to the West Bank. For a feeling of what the Valley of the Kings was like in the 1920's, we begin in the quiet and rarely visited Western Valley and the fascinating tomb of Ay. Then into the Valley of the Kings where we will select three of the open tombs that day. Optional tickets for the tomb of Tutankhamun can be bought on entrance to the valley. We take time for a relaxing lunch at the local Africa Restaurant before we drive to the Nobles' tombs, including the wonderful tomb of Ramose with its fine reliefs. We end the day's visits with the short drive to the Ramesseum, the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses the Great, the inspiration for Shelley's poem 'Ozymandias'. (BL)

Day 9 - Mighty Karnak
An early start to enter Karnak when almost deserted at opening time. We will catch the early morning light at the rear of the temple and at the Sacred Lake. Then, we examine all the major features of the temple of Amun, as well as some less well-known delights. You can return to the hotel with the coach or stay for the rest of the day at Karnak to explore further. This afternoon is at leisure, but this evening at sunset we will walk to Luxor Temple to view the reliefs by floodlight. (B)

Day 10 - Abydos
We head north to Abydos and the magnificent temple built by Seti I with the finest reliefs in Egypt carved into its walls, including the famous 'King List'. A look at the intriguing Osireion before we take a short walk across the desert sands to the smaller Temple of Ramesses II. Lunch boxes are provided today. En-route back to Luxor we stop at the lovely Ptolemaic Temple of Dendera. The columns and ceilings here are still being cleaned, revealing some astonishing colour and detail. (BL)

Day 11 - West Bank Revisited
The optional balloon flight is today. After breakfast the whole group meets up on the West Bank to begin the day's tour at the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri. We see the famous 'Punt Reliefs' as well as the grand tiers and the beautiful Hathor Chapel. On to Deir el Medina to see the village and colourful decorated tombs of the artisans and workmen who constructed the tombs in the Kings' Valley. Next the impressive Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu, most complete of all the mortuary temples and still highly coloured in parts. Our last stop before returning to the hotel will be at the legendry Colossi of Memnon. (B)

Day 12 - South to Nubia
En-route to the delightful city of Aswan we stop at the small Ptolemaic Temple of Esna before continuing to Edfu. The Temple of Horus at Edfu is the best preserved cult temple in Egypt and has reliefs showing the everlasting battle between Horus and Seth. A lunch box will be provided today. On to the Temple of Sobek and Horus the Elder on the banks of the Nile at Kom Ombo. On arrival in Aswan we cross the river to the Island of Elephantine and the comforts of the Movenpick, our hotel for the next two nights.
This evening we visit the Island of Aglika and the Temple of Isis at Philae to see the sound and light show. This temple was saved by UNESCO after construction of the new High Dam in the 1970's. (BL)

Day 13 -  Abu Simbel
A chance today to take the optional air excursion to Abu Simbel and the temples of Ramesses II. This afternoon a leisurely felucca sail around the islands of the area followed by a visit to the Nubia Museum with its many locally discovered artefacts. (B)

Day 14 - Temples and Tombs
A leisurely start as we board a motor launch for the short ride to Kubbet el Hawa and the tombs of the Nobles, the Old and Middle Kingdom governors of the region. Later we check out of our hotel and take the internal flight to Cairo where we will overnight at the comfortable Iberotel airport hotel. (B)

Day 15 - Sunday 11th March 2012
We take our private transfer to Cairo Airport for our EgyptAir direct flight to London. (B)

Expert: Dylan Bickerstaffe is a popular lecturer, the author of 'Identifying the Royal Mummies', numerous articles, and part of the official report on the Royal Cache tomb. He specialises mainly on the New Kingdom era, and has featured in a number of TV documentaries, including Channel 5's 'Secrets of Egypt' series.

 

(B) = Breakfast (BL) = Breakfast and Lunch (BLD) = Breakfast Lunch and Dinner