NILE AND OASES

Day 1 – Monday 2nd January 2012
Fly London to Luxor with EgyptAir and on arrival we take our private transfer and check in to the first-class Old Winter Palace, Garden Pavilion Wing for two nights on a room and breakfast basis.

Day 2 – West Bank 1
Our tour begins as we take our private launch across the Nile for a visit to a selection of nobles’ tombs on the West Bank. We begin on the hill of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, including the tomb-chapels of Userhat and Khaemhat and the Viziers Rekhmire and Ramose and the ‘Tomb of Vines’, the burial chamber of Sennefer, Mayor of Thebes. We have a relaxing lunch at the Africa Restaurant before visiting the tomb-chapels of Roy and Shuroy at Dra Abu el-Naga, with, adjacent to the latter, the scanty ruins of the pyramid of King Inyotef of the 17th Dynasty. Next, to the tombs of Mena and Nakht, before our final stop at the Colossi of Memnon.  (BL)

Day 3 –  Abydos
This morning we board our four-wheel drive vehicles and head north to Abydos, the cult centre of Osiris, where we enter the temples of Seti I, and Ramesses II and view the Osireion. After a picnic lunch, we continue to the vast mud brick mastaba of Beit Khallaf, from the 3rd Dynasty. On arrival in Sohag we check in for two nights on the M/S Hotep, a permanently moored cruise-boat. (BLD)

Day 4 –  Akhmim
Today we hope to view Wanina en-route to the Red and White Monasteries. In the Red Monastery, we have been invited to view the work of the American Research Centre in Egypt, where they have been revealing the original colours of remarkable murals from the 10th Century, while in the White we will see numerous Pharaonic blocks reused in the monastery’s construction. We rest and take lunch at the Sohag Canoeing Club before heading across the Nile to Akhmim and the magnificent statue of a late 18th Dynasty queen, usurped for Meritamun, daughter of Ramesses II. (BLD)
 
Day 5 – To Kharga
We leave the Nile Valley and head for the desert and Kharga Oasis on the historic Darb al-Arbain (‘Forty Days Road’). Our first stop will be at Ain Labekha, a wonderful Roman complex including a fortress, temples, tombs, aqueducts and houses. After lunch we will visit Bagawat, one of the earliest and best preserved Christian cemeteries in the world. We will then check in to the comfortable Pioneer Hotel in the centre of Kharga for one night. (BLD)
 
Day 6 – To Dakhla
Before leaving Kharga, we visit the Temple of Hibis, decorated in Egyptian style by the Persian king Darius I. Heading south we stop at Dush to visit the Roman Fortress of Qasr Dush and the Temple of Osiris. We have a picnic lunch today at Balat in Dakhla Oasis, with its huge Old Kingdom mastabas of local governors, and also view the contemporary settlement of Ain Asil. We check in to the Desert Lodge ‘eco hotel’ for two nights. It has stunning views across the old town of El-Qasr, the desert and distant escarpment – and has its own large hot spring! (BLD)
 
Day 7 – Temples and Desert
After breakfast we set out on a day spent fairly close to our base. First we head for the Roman temple at Deir el-Hagar, and then take a stroll through the twisting streets of the medieval town of El-Qasr. The town is now protected and many original features dating back hundreds of years survive. A short walk will take us back to the Lodge for lunch, followed by an afternoon exploration of the Yardang fields in the desert not far from the hotel. (BLD)
 
Day 8 – Return to the Nile
On leaving Dakhla we drive back via Kharga and stop for a while at the beautiful hilltop fortress ruin of Qasr el-Ghueita. There will be time for a picnic lunch before heading back to the Nile Valley and Luxor where we return to the Old Winter Palace,  Garden Pavilion Wing for three nights on room and  breakfast basis. (BL)
 
Day 9 –  West Bank II
Today our second visit to the West Bank, this time concentrating on royal tombs and those who built them. We begin in the rarely visited West Valley where we will enter the tomb of Ay and then proceed to the main valley where we have tickets for three tombs. Next, to the Worker’s Village at Deir el-Medina were we view the tombs and homes of the workmen and artisans who created the tombs in the Royal Valley. After lunch at the Africa Restaurant we drive to Medinet Habu, the vast memorial temple of Ramesses III. (BL)
 
Day 10 – Temple of  Amun
An early start for Karnak Temple to witness the sunrise. Usually we have the temple to ourselves for the first hour of the day so it’s perfect timing for those special photos. We have a guided tour of the Precinct of Amun, concentrating on many of the less visited sanctuaries, together with free time to explore. The coach returns to the hotel late morning. This afternoon we visit  Abu el-Hagag Mosque atop Luxor Temple and then enter the temple itself as the sun sets and the floodlights come on. (B)
 
Day 11– The Road to Aswan
We travel south towards Aswan, equipped with a packed lunch. Our first stop will be at Tod, with its Temple of Montu. We carry on to El-Kab where we will enter a number of New Kingdom tomb-chapels. We also see ‘Vulture Rock’ with its drawings and inscriptions, and the small chapel of Amenhotep III. We continue to Edfu and the Ptolemaic temple of Horus. On arrival in Aswan we check in to the Movenpick Hotel for three nights on room and breakfast
basis. (BL)
 
Day 12 – Lake Nasser
Today we visit the shores of Lake Nasser to view a number of temples saved from the rising waters after the building of the High Dam in the 1960’s. These include the Roman temple of Kalabsha and two temples of Ramesses II; the small temple of Beit el-Wali and the outer parts of the lost temple of Gerf Hussein. We then head for the Island of Aglika, on which were re-erected the temples from the island of Philae. Later we take a motor boat to explore Sehel Island with its famous rock inscriptions including the ‘Famine Stelae’. Our day ends with a leisurely sail while bird spotting in the reed beds. (B)
 
Day 13 –The Southern City
This morning we head to Kubbet el-Hawa where we enter the tombs of Old and Middle Kingdom Nobles including those of Sirenput II and Harkhuf. In the afternoon we visit the southernmost part of Elephantine Island and walk through the ruins of ancient Yebu. This huge site, still being excavated, allows us to see settlement remains dating from the Old Kingdom through to the Greco-Roman period. This evening we take a trip to the Nubia Museum. (B)
 
Day 14 – Return To Luxor
En-route to Luxor we make two exciting stops: first, the temple of Kom Ombo, second, the rarely visited sandstone quarries at Silsila-East, with fine views across to the quarries and monuments of Silsila-West. We have a picnic lunch before arriving in Luxor where we check in to the Old Winter Palace, Garden Pavilion Wing for a final night on room and breakfast basis. Later, we visit Luxor Museum to see some of Egypt’s finest works of art. (BL)
 
Day 15 – Monday 16th January 
After breakfast we board our EgyptAir flight bound for London arriving early afternoon. (B)
 
Expert: Aidan Dodson of Bristol University has been accompanying tours to Egypt for many years. He makes regular appearances on television documentaries on Ancient Egypt and has written over a dozen books on the subject. He will pick up threads from a number of these on this tour, including his latest book, ‘Afterglow of Empire: Egypt from the Fall of the New Kingdom to the Saite Renaissance’, due out in the Spring of 2012.
 
(B) = Breakfast (BL) = Breakfast and Lunch (BLD) = Breakfast Lunch and Dinner