Cairo & Nile Cruise
EGYPT: The land of the Pharaohs. No country boasts such a spectacular array of monuments and treasures. Sights such as the Sphinx, the great Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, the Valley of Kings with the tomb of Tut Ankh Amon and the incomparable River Nile, all go together to make Egypt a very special destination!
Day 1: Toronto – Cairo
Depart Toronto on your overnight flight to Cairo. Meals will be served en route when applicable and headsets will be supplied so you may enjoy the full-length movie and the many audio channels available.
Day 2: Cairo (D)
Arrive in Cairo. After clearing immigration and customs transfer to your centrally located Cairo hotel. All visitors to Cairo are destined to be captured and captivated in some way by its incredible past and vibrant present. There are few, if any, cities in the world where the clash between old and new, modern and traditional, and East and West is more evident. Tall, gleaming hotels and office buildings overlook streets where cars and buses rumble and weave past donkey carts and their stubborn drivers. Less than 1 km from a computer store and supermarket in central Cairo, there are mud-brick houses where goats still wander through "living rooms", and water is obtained from spigots down the street. Cairo is still the heart of Egypt and is allegorically called "the Mother of the World". Estimates of its population range from 11 to 15 million; roughly one quarter of Egypt's total. Finding your way through the chaos is, remarkably, not as complicated as you may think. Cairo is a great city for walking around because it is very concentrated.
Dinner and overnight in Cairo.
Day 3: Cairo (B/L)
This morning you will visit Memphis 24 km south of Cairo, the first capital of the ancient kingdom. It is believed that the city was founded around 3100 BC by King Menes, when upper and lower Egypt were first united. Like most Egyptian cities with any degree of importance, Memphis also had its own deity, the all-powerful creator-God Ptah. Here you will see the eight tonne alabaster Sphinx, a colossal limestone statue of Ramses II, the sarcophagus of Amenhotep and the alabaster beds on which the sacred Apis bulls were mummified before being placed in the Serapeum at Sakkara. When Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the old kingdom, Sakkara was its necropolis. Deceased Pharaohs, family members and sacred animals were ceremoniously transported from Memphis to be permanently enshrined in one of the myriad temples and tombs at Sakkara. The Step Pyramid, possibly Egypt's first and the oldest stone structure of its size in the world, was just one of the many funerary monuments and temples built in the area. There are few archaeological sites in the world that compare with Sakkara. When it was constructed by Imhotep, the Pharaohs chief architect, in the 27th century BC, the Step Pyramid of King Zoser was a daring break with the tradition of building royal tombs as underground rooms. The pyramid began as a simple mastaba the flat tomb superstructure common at the time, but Imhotep added to it five times. The first pyramid rose to over 62 metres, in six steps, before it was sheathed in fine limestone.
In the afternoon visit the magnificent great pyramids of Giza and their guardian Sphinx. The ancient Greeks considered the Great Pyramids to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. They are Egypt's most visited monuments, and among the world's greatest tourist attractions. For centuries the Great Pyramids of Giza have intrigued and puzzled visitors. Even in the 20th century, it is difficult to stand before them and not to be overwhelmed. For 4½ millennia, surviving the rise and fall of great dynasties and outlasting Egypt's many conquerors, they have shared the desert plateau of Giza with the imposing figure of the Sphinx.
Legends and superstitions about the Sphinx and the mystery surrounding its long-forgotten purpose is almost as intriguing as the sight of the structure itself. Carved almost entirely from one huge piece of limestone left standing in the quarry from which Cheops had the stones cut for his pyramid, the Sphinx is about 50 metres long and 22 metres high.
Overnight in Cairo.
Day 4: Cairo – Aswan (B/L/D)
Tour the famed Egyptian Museum which houses the richest collection of antiquities ever discovered, including the fabulous burial treasure from the tomb of Tut Ankh Amon. More than 100,000 relics and antiquities from almost every period of ancient Egyptian history are housed in the museum. If you spent only one minute at each exhibit, it would take more than nine months to see everything. The sheer number and variety of things to see, while fascinating, is quite overwhelming, so you have to be very selective.
Without doubt, the exhibit that outshines everything else in the museum is the treasure of the comparatively insignificant New Kingdom Pharaoh Tutankhaman. The incredible contents of his rather modest tomb can only make one wonder about the fabulous wealth looted from the tombs of Pharaohs far greater than he.
This afternoon’s tour will show you another period of Egypt's history with a tour of Old Cairo. You will visit the Citadel of Salah al Din, a complex of three mosques and four museums. Salah al Din began building the Citadel in 1176 to fortify the city against the crusaders, and over the centuries it has been modified and enlarged with the palaces and buildings of subsequent rulers and governments.
Next, you will visit the colourful Khan El Khalili Bazaar, one of the largest bazaars in the world. It is an immense conglomeration of shops and markets, and as you wander through the labyrinth of narrow streets you'll find artisans building, dyeing, carving and sewing, as well as shop after shop selling all manner of things from woodwork, glassware, leather goods, perfumes and fabrics to souvenirs and Pharaonic curiosities. Bargaining is the rule here - but don't start haggling until you have an idea of the true price and never quote a price you're not prepared to pay. Most of all, take your time, have some fun, accept the tea or coffee they offer and play along with them. You're not obliged to buy and they won't be offended if you don't.
This evening board your first class overnight sleeper train for Aswan. Dinner will be served in the dining car on the train.
Day 5: Aswan – Cruise Embarkation (B/L/D)
Arrive Aswan early morning. You will then transfer to Cruise Ship for embarkation.
Over the centuries Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city, has been a garrison town and the gateway to Africa. A natural fortress, protected as it was by the turbulent river, Aswan was in ancient times the capital of the first Upper Egyptian name and a base for military expeditions into Nubia, the Sudan and Ethiopia. From those foreign parts, right up into Islamic times, the city was visited by the great caravans of camels and elephants laden with slaves, gold, ivory, spices, cloth and other exotic wares. Visit Elephantine Island by Felucca (a traditional Nile sailing boat), the Botanical Gardens and the Agha Khan Mausoleum.
Dinner and overnight on board ship.
Day 6: Kom Ombo – Edfu (B/L/D)
The romantic and majestic temple complex of Isis on the island of Philae has been luring pilgrims for thousands of years. In the 1960’s, when the construction of the High Dam threatened to submerge the temple completely and forever, this massive complex was disassembled, removed from Philae, stone by stone and reconstructed on nearby Agilka Island in positions that corresponded as closely as possible to their original layout. Following your temple visit, travel to High Dam, contemporary Egypt’s example of building on a monumental scale.
Standing at a bend in the Nile, where in ancient times sacred crocodiles basked in the sun on the river bank, Kom Ombo is a stunning sight. The left side of the temple was dedicated to Haroeris, or Horus the Elder, the falcon-headed sky-god; the right side half was dedicated to Sobek, the local crocodile-headed god. Then sail on to Edfu passing the gorge at Silsileh, which marks the change from limestone to sandstone in the bedrock of Egypt. The local Silsileh quarries were worked by thousands of men throughout the New Kingdom and Greco-Roman periods to provide the sandstone used in temple building.
Dinner and overnight on board ship.
Day 7: Edfu – Esna – Luxor (B/L/D)
This morning visit the extraordinary Temple of Horus, one of the last great Egyptian attempts at monumental building on a grand scale, this structure dominates the West Bank riverside town. Built on a rise above the river valley below, it has escaped the annual Nile inundation, which contributed to the ruination of so many other buildings of antiquity. Continue on and visit the Greco-Roman temple at Esna dedicated to the ram-headed creator-god who fashioned humankind on his potters wheel, Khnum.
Arrive Luxor, the sheer grandeur of Luxor's monumental architecture, and its excellent state of preservation, have made this village-city one of Egypt's greatest tourist attractions. Built on and around the 4,000 years old site of ancient Thebes, Luxor is an extraordinary mixture of exotic history and modern commercialism. It is one of the world's greatest open-air museums, a time capsule of a glorious long-gone era. Its attraction for tourists is by no means a recent phenomenon: travellers have been visiting Thebes for centuries, marvelling at the splendid temples of Luxor, Karnak, Ramses II and Hatshepsut.
Dinner and overnight on board ship.
Day 8: Luxor (B/L/D)
This morning visit the spectacular Valley of Kings and Queens. The canyon now known as the Valley of the Kings is at once a place of death, for nothing grows on its steep, scorching cliffs. The longer the reign of the Pharaoh, the larger and more magnificent his tomb was. The tombs were designed to resemble the underworld, with a long, inclined rock-hewn corridor descending into either antechambers or a series of sometimes pillared halls, and ending in the burial chamber. Not all tombs are open to the public; it's worth having your own flashlight to illuminate badly lit areas.
Next, visit the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri. Rising out of the desert plain, in a series of terraces, the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut merges with the sheer limestone cliffs of the eastern face of the Theban Mountain as if nature herself had built this extraordinary monument. The partly rock-cut, partly free-standing structure is one of the finest monuments of ancient Egypt.
Return to ship to have lunch. In the afternoon, visit Karnak, the religious quarter of Thebes, to view the Precinct of Amun, the central enclosure of the numerous temples that make up the enormous Karnak complex. View the Chapel of Seti II, the Temple of Ramses III, the Temple of Khonsu and the Temple of Amun.
Dinner and overnight on board ship.
Day 9: Luxor – Cairo (B)
After breakfast, disembark the ship. Transfer to the airport for flight back to Cairo. Take connection flight back to Toronto arriving the next day (Monday March 21). MAA SALAMA EGYPT!
EXCLUSIONS (from basic package cost):
The Bird Lady of CreteWe only had a few hours in port, and although it wasn’t possible for us to see a great deal of Crete,…the largest Greek island in the Aegean Sea,…we decided seeing as much of the capital Heraklion, would be worth our time....