This trip is first and foremost about pyramids but not just pyramids in isolation, pyramids as part of the ancient landscape. This approach has been influenced by Colin Reader’s background in geology and engineering but has been inspired by his interest in these incredible Pharaonic buildings. We have special permits from the Ministry of Antiquities on this tour allowing spectacular site visits including a rare and exclusive chance to enter the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur, exploration of Abu Sir and Abu Roash. We are also privileged to meet with Philippe Collombert to see his teams latest work at South Saqqara.
Day 1 – Saturday 1st October 2016
Fly to Cairo with EgyptAir and on arrival transfer to the First-class Mena House Hotel close to the Giza Plateau. We have booked standard rooms in the Garden Block for seven nights on room and breakfast basis. Pyramid View rooms are available on request at a supplement. Call for details. (B)
Day 2 – Cairo
A leisurely breakfast today with time for a light lunch if required before we head in to the city. This afternoon we have a guided tour at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities with plenty of time to search out artefacts relevant to our forthcoming trip. We return to the hotel late afternoon and this evening will have a meeting with Colin to discuss our plans for the week. (B)
Day 3 – South Saqqara
Today we board our four wheel drive vehicles, and head to South Saqqara where we will meet with Philippe Collombert of the French Archaeological Mission at Saqqara. Here we will view the project site and see new discoveries. We also view the vast and unique mastaba of King Shepseskaf of the Fourth Dynasty. After a relaxing lunch at the Sakkara Palm Club we head to the Fifth Dynasty cemetery of Abu Sir. Here we find the ruined pyramids of Sahure, Niuserre and Neferirkare. At Sahure’s pyramid we can explore the mortuary temple and view the remains of the stairs that led to a roof area and splendid red granite date palm columns. Colin will explain the layout of the whole site. Finally, to Abu Roash, where on a rocky outcrop with commanding views of the desert, we find the Fourth Dynasty pyramid of Djedefre, son of Khufu. (BL)
Day 4 – Old Cairo
A day in the city looking at Old Cairo where we head to the fortified complex of the Citadel. Time to enter the huge Mosque of Sultan Hassan dating from 1356. We lunch at the al Azhar Park Restaurant and then we head to Roda Island to view the Nileometer before a visit to the Egyptian Geology Museum. This rarely visited museum was founded in 1904 as part of the Egyptian Geological Survey and includes some fine examples of natural history unique to Egypt. (BL)
Day 5 – Meidum and Dahshur
This morning we drive south to the massive pyramid of Meidum with a chance to enter and descend to the impressive burial chamber. There will be time for the adventurous to enter the mastaba known as ‘Mastaba 17’ as numbered by Flinders Petrie in 1910. The sarcophagus with robbers wooden mallet is still in situ and well worth the effort to view. We have lunch at the Sakkara Palm Club before heading to Dahshur and two of the earliest ‘true’ pyramids dating from the Fourth Dynasty. We have obtained a special permit from the Ministry of Antiquities to enter the Bent Pyramid. This is a rare and exciting visit, exclusive to AWT passengers, and Colin will explain his theories on the building of this remarkable pyramid. We also visit the Red Pyramid. (BL)
Day 6 – Saqqara
Famed as the site of Djoser's incredible Step Pyramid Complex, there is so much else to see at North Saqqara. We visit the museum, the beautiful Old Kingdom tombs of Kagemni and Ptahhotep and visit the pyramid of Teti with its Pyramid Texts. Saqqara has such an embarrassment of riches that there are potentially important tombs that have never been fully explored and we will get a flavour of these little known aspects of the site on this full day's visit. Many of the pyramids, tombs and temples are well known however there's the rock cut tomb of the first king of the Second Dynasty - the first pharaoh's tomb built outside of Abydos. Although we can't enter the maze of underground passages, sections where the roof has collapsed allow us to take a glimpse of this potentially important burial complex. Then there's the northern court of the Step Pyramid, a huge part of the Step Pyramid enclosure that still lies under the desert sands and has never been fully cleared. Then there are other features such as the enigmatic Dry Moat that surrounds the Step Pyramid enclosure and the deep trenches that were dug from the floor of the Dry Moat that are still the focus of much scholarly debate. We will also have tickets to enter the Serapeum, the galleries of tombs of the Apis Bulls and the newly opened New Kingdom Tombs of Horemheb and Maya. This day at Saqqara will mix the wonderful familiarity of the Step Pyramid with the intrigue of monuments that still raise so many questions. Lunch will be included at the Sakkara Palm Club. (BL)
Day 7 – Giza
This morning we will spend our time at the Giza Plateau exploring the Great Pyramids, causeways, mastaba tombs and of course the mighty Sphinx and Valley temple. Colin will take us on a grand tour and give his theories on the following questions. What do the patterns of weathering and erosion on the Sphinx tell us about the age of this venerable monument? How does the Sphinx fit into the development of the Giza necropolis by the Pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty? The Sphinx is only part of the story and to fully understand Giza we need to go slightly off the beaten track and wander through some of the little explored areas of this great ancient site. This will be a visit to remember – getting to know this incredible site. We return to the hotel early afternoon and the rest of the day is at leisure. (B)
Day 8 – Saturday 8th October.
After breakfast we take our private transfer to Cairo Airport for our direct flight to London arriving early afternoon. (B)
Colin Reader is a chartered geologist whose studies have focused on issues as diverse as the age of the Great Sphinx, the geological evolution of the Egyptian landmass, pyramid building and ancient quarrying techniques. However Colin stresses that Giza is the site where his interest in Ancient Egypt began.
B=Breakfast – L=Lunch – D=Dinner