Geographic Expeditions - vacations and travel

Egypt: The Nile

Egypt, Middle East

from $7,525* per person 11 Days Year-round
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 4
Operator: Geographic Expeditions 18 people max
  • Cairo international airport, egypt
  • Active & Adventure trips
Egypt and the Nile: the two are inextricably linked. 2,500 years ago, Herodotus, looking back on twenty-five centuries of recorded history, wrote, “Egypt is an acquired country, the gift of the river.” The ancient Egyptians took advantage of the great gift by building a civilization almost alien in its grandeur, ennobling the Nile’s banks with stunning monuments to their overweening sense of destiny.

We spend four days on a gem of a Nile cruiser— your choice of boats includes the new, all-suite Star Goddess—and our arrangements are deluxe, including the services of a private Egyptologist. Note, too, that our trip price includes domestic airfares (not always the case), our land touring is done in private vehicles with a private guide (ditto), and we offer extras like additional tomb visits. And now, details well in hand, contemplate: Cairo, the Pyramids, Luxor, Karnak, the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the Temple of Horus, Aswan, and Abu Simbel . . . the very names of Egyptian romance.

Locations visited/nearby

Egypt, Middle East

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Special information

  • This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.


Day 1

ARRIVAL IN CAIRO, EGYPT Upon arrival you will be met, assisted with the immigration process
and transferred to your hotel, located along the Nile. Your evening is at your leisure.
A fantastic repository of countless layers of history, Cairo envelops you with its domes and minarets, its
khans and souks, but above all, its people. The men puffing on narghiles in the old street cafes, street
vendors hawking everything from melons to live ducks, women baking the traditional flatbread or “aysh,”
and everywhere a bustling, noisy tableaux of street activity peppered with the smiles and inveterate
friendliness of the Cairenes. You’ll not only visit ruins and remains from pharaonic times but also get a
feel for Cairo’s Byzantine past and its varied styles of Islamic architecture developed under almost 900
years of Arab, Mamluk, and Ottoman rule.

Days 2 & 3
Friday & Saturday

GIZA PYRAMIDS AND CAIRO With two full days to explore the city and its environs, you start at
the top, as it were, at the Pyramids of Giza. In 1798 Napoleon exhorted his troops before the Battle of the
Pyramids: “Soldiers! From the summit of these monuments,
forty centuries look upon you!” In the end, the finest praise
for these almost extra-terrestrial structures was paid by W. M.
Thackeray, who wrote in 1845: “!!!”
The oldest and largest of the great tombs is the Great Pyramid
of Cheops, completed four and a half thousand years ago.
You visit it and its companions, as well as the ineffable
Sphinx, “sacred symbol,” Harriet Martineau wrote, “of the
union of the strongest physical with the highest intellectual
power on earth.” You also visit the Solar Barque museum which contains a boat discovered in 1954,
which was possibly used to ferry the dead Pharaoh across the Nile, and then buried alongside the pyramid
to assist his passage in the next world. At Saqqara you see the Step Pyramid, probably Egypt’s first
pyramid and the oldest stone structure in the world, constructed by Imhotep in 2700 B.C. Its stepped sides
are a marked contrast to the smooth-sided Pyramids at Giza. You’ll also visit the ancient city of Memphis.
You’ll take in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, repository of countless treasures that bring alive the
Pharaonic period, including the fabulous riches of Tutankhamen, the Boy King. Since Tutankhamen is
now known to have been a minor king, to see the incredible artifacts from his tomb sparks the
imagination; what wonders must have once lain in the tombs of the greatest kings and queens?
In Islamic Cairo, redolent of the novels of Nobel Prizewinner Naghuib Mahfouz, you’ll see the Citadel,
and the Khan al-Khalil Bazaar, where you’ll enjoy a cup of coffee or tea at a typical Cairo cafe, where
men confer, read newspapers, and smoke water pipes. Not to be missed is the Gayer-Anderson House, a
beautiful restored 16th century Ottoman-style home next to the Ibn Tulun Mosque. On Saturday evening
you will enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. On Sunday, dinner is at your leisure.

Day 4

FLY TO LUXOR You fly this morning to Luxor, ancient Thebes, 19th century winter resort of European
nobility, and necropolis of the greatest Egyptian rulers. You visit the magnificent Nile-side Luxor Temple
and its pink granite colossi in the Court of Ramses II. The temple, once connected to the Temple of
Karnak by an avenue of sphinxes, was built by Amenhopis III over an older temple. Later kings and
pharaohs, including Ramses II, Tutankhanem and Alexander the Great all added to it, of which Winston
Churchill passing by in 1898 wrote; “it requires no effort of imagination to roof the temple and fill its
great hall with the awe-struck worshipers.” The temple has remained in a good state of preservation,
especially the pylon reliefs, because until 1885 it was hidden by sand. Approached from the avenue of the
Sphinxes, you come upon the first pylon built by Ramses II and covered in reliefs depicting scenes from
the Battle of Kadesh fought against the Hittites (which despite this glorification produced an indecisive
result). Of the six statues of Ramses, only two remain, while the twin of the lone remaining obelisk now
sits in Paris’ Place de la Concorde.
Continue to the Luxor Museum which has a truly exquisite collection of statuary, jewelry, pottery and
funerary artifacts from the local tombs. Items of particular interest are two funerary barques, an alabaster
statue of Sobek holding Amenhopis III, and some limestone reliefs from the temple at Karnak.
Enjoy tea this afternoon at the luxurious, 19th century Winter Palace Hotel. You will then cross to the West
Bank and the Valley of the Kings where you can visit the tombs of the Nobles including the Tomb of
Ramose, and the Tombs of the Artists at Deir el-Medina, including the beautiful Tomb of Sennedjem.
You also visit Medinat Habu, with reliefs on the massive pylons depicting Egyptian victories in war,
including scribes counting severed hands and other parts. The site also contains the funerary complex of
Ramses III.

Day 5

early this morning for an optional sunrise hot air balloon excursion over the valley of the West Bank
(please note that there is an additional cost). This morning you visit the massive temple complex at
Karnak, which Vita Sackville-West said “crushed the mind, since it was not the human mind that had
conceived it as it now appeared, but such inhuman factors as time upon earth.”
Fom here you transfer to your five-star luxury Nile cruiser, the Star Goddess, where comfortable river
view cabins have been reserved for you. After lunch on board you drive across the Nile to the West Bank,
and the great tombs and temples of the Valley of the Kings and Queens. Denon, in his history of the
Napoleonic invasion, wrote that when the French soldiers first beheld the valley they involuntarily threw
down their arms and stood in silent admiration. Highlights include the enormous Temple of Hatshepsut,
the Tomb of Ramses VI, and the Colossi of Memnon. (Please note that the tomb of King Tutankhanum is
currently closed for restoration and is not scheduled to reopen until May 2009).
Enjoy dinner on board this evening.

Day 6

LUXOR, SAIL TO EDFU Today you sail to Edfu, enjoying a buffet lunch on board as the views of the
unchanging Nile unfold. Rudyard Kipling, coming this way in 1913, wrote, “Going up the Nile is like
running the gauntlet before Eternity. Till one has seen it one does not realize the amazing thinness of that
little damp trickle of life that steal along undefeated through the jaws of established death. A rifle-shot
would cover the widest limits of cultivation, a bow-shot the narrower.” Feluccas sail across the river and
fellaheen till the fields while children wave from the riverbank. You enjoy afternoon tea in the warm sun,
and later a cocktail party.

Day 7

EDFU AND KOM OMBO Today you’ll visit the Temple of Horus, passing through a bustling market
on the way. After seeing this large, imposing temple, completed by Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XIII,
around 55BC, you continue upriver to Kom Ombo. Kom Ombo’s importance derived from its location
midway between the Red Sea and the gold mines of the Eastern Desert, in addition to being on an
important caravan route from Nubia. Here on the sunny riverbanks,
sacred crocodiles basked, the reason for the temple’s dedication to
the crocodile-headed river god, Sobek. You will visit the Temple
early tomorrow morning.
On board this evening you will enjoy the galabya (the traditional
Egyptian full-length robe) party.

Day 8

SAIL TO ASWAN This morning you rise early to visit the
Temple of Sobek and Haroeris, unusual in that all its features and
details are doubled in honor of its dedication to two gods. Haroeris
(Horus the Elder) was worshiped on the left side and Sobek on the
right. The temple’s friezes are exceptionally fine, and you’ll want to
keep an eye out for mummified crocodiles in the small Chapel of
You continue your sail to Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city. South of here lies the flooded lands of
Nubia, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The proximity of Africa “proper” is apparent in the tall Nubians of this
Upper Nile town. Harriet Martineau was entranced by the wilderness above Aswan. “This is fantastic--
impish. It is the wildness of Prospero’s island...the rocks are too like Titanic heaps of black paving-stones
to be imposing otherwise than by their oddity: and they are strewn about the land and river to an excess
and with a caprice which takes one’s imagination quite out of the ordinary world.” Aswan was a favorite
resort of the 48th Aga Khan, and his Mausoleum, built by his widow the Begum Aga Khan in 1957, lies
atop the West Bank hill opposite.
You’ll start by visiting the Aswan High Dam, feat of modern engineering and creator of Lake Nasser, the
world’s largest man-made lake. The vast reservoir collecting behind the dam now stretches back 300
miles, well into Sudan, covering the former homes and villages of some 40,000 Nubians and Sudanese. In
1965 Arnold Toynbee somewhat dryly remarked that it was a “pity the pyramid-builders did not
immortalize themselves in a more productive way. If they had thought of it, they could have used the
Aswan granite on the spot for anticipating the building of the High Dam. Their architects and engineers
would have been equal to this gigantic job....” (In contrast to the High Dam is the British-built Old Dam,
tiny in comparison but nevertheless at its completion in 1902, the largest of its kind in the world.)
Continuing the theme of monumental building, you visit the ancient Granite Quarries, where a halffinished
obelisk still lies in living rock.
You’ll take a boat through a patch of small islands to the Temple of Philae, dedicated to Isis. Now safe
from the Nile, Philae was a major draw for travelers even while it was being swallowed up by rising
waters at the turn of the 20th century, when visitors rowed around its columns peering down through the
Nile to the drowned temple below. When the Aswan High Dam threatened to swallow Philae completely,
UNESCO stepped in with an eight-year long rescue and reconstructed it stone by stone on a nearby
island, faithfully landscaping the island to look just like the original. Philae is pretty, exquisite even, its
shores lapped by glittering waters, where the Nubian boatmen wait for us to drink in the temple’s beauty.
You’ll have a buffet lunch on board and in the afternoon you’ll visit the splendid award-winning Nubian
museum which traces the history of the region in chronological order. This evening enjoy a final dinner
aboard ship. Sunset on the Nile is always a superb moment, a time to contemplate Rose Macaulay’s “alien
and mysterious” river, “that gigantic serpent that winds so fabulously, so ungraspably, back through
history.” From the deck, you may see feluccas drifting across the water as the sun turns the palm-fringed
river pink and gold in the lowering light.

Day 9

DISEMBARK SHIP, FLY TO ABU SIMBEL After breakfast you disembark and fly over Lake Nasser
to the Great Temple of the Pharaoh Ramses II at Abu Simbel. Originally carved out of an immense rock
face on the Nile’s West Bank between 1290 and 1224 B.C., it was hidden underneath sand until its
excavation at the turn of the century. Abu Simbel too was threatened with destruction by the Aswan High
Dam and rising Lake Nasser until UNESCO launched a worldwide appeal to help fund a massive 4-year
rescue operation. At a cost of $40 million, the temples were cut into 2000 huge blocks of 10 to 40 tons
each, and were reconstructed 700 yards away from
their original location. As the waters swallowed the
sacred site where the temples had stood for 3000 years,
their new, higher home was again carefully landscaped
to recreate the old, and the temples were sited to face
their correct and original direction. It was a stunning
The only sound is of the birds and the wind over the
lake, while the Great Temple’s four colossal statues of
Ramses II in youth to old age gaze calmly, knowingly,
above your head and over the lake (“The expression of
these colossi is very agreeable,” Martineau wrote, “they are so tranquil and cheerful”). Inside is a
breathtaking revelation. The delicately-colored friezes depicting the Pharaoh’s glorious achievements in
battle are electric with movement and strength, contrasting thrillingly with the exquisite grace and beauty
of his adored Nefertari, who is pictured with her hand tenderly held up toward his shoulder in a gesture of
praise, honor, and blessing. So fine and delicate is the carving that the queen’s transparent, filmy gown
partly reveals her graceful form. Nearby is the Temple of Hathor. Fronted by four statues of Ramses and
two of Nefertari, the scenes inside continue the themes of glory and love.
Returning to Aswan, you are driven to your historic Nile-side hostelry where you set off on an exploration of
the town. You visit the monastery of St. Simeon’s which was built in the 7th century dedicated to St. Hadra, a
4th century local saint who decided to renounce the world the day after his marriage. Rebuilt in the 10th
century for St. Simeon, it was destroyed by Salah ed-Din (Saladin) in the 12th century when Christians
sought refuge in the building. Its remote desert location is evocative of the aesthetic monastic tradition. After
lunch you visit the nearby Tombs of the Nobles and step into a Nubian home on Suhayl Island. This
evening you enjoy cocktails on the terrace of the hotel overlooking the Nile.

Day 10

ASWAN TO CAIRO You return this morning by air to Cairo and transfer to your hotel. You have the
option of an afternoon at leisure, relaxing by the pool, or exploring Old Cairo, perhaps paying a visit to
the al-Mulluaqa, or Hanging Church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Church of St Sergius, and the
lovely Ben Ezra Synagogue.

Day 11

RETURN TO USA Transfer to the airport for your departure for the US or your home city. Geographic
Expeditions’ arrangements end here.

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