Egypt, just the name is enough to set your imagination spinning back to the start of recorded human history – to a time when all-powerful Pharaohs controlled a mysterious and fabulously wealthy empire which lasted virtually intact for over 5,000 years! Our Nile cruise explores the mighty monuments, the intriguing history and the extraordinary artistic masterpieces from the greatest and oldest of all the ancient civilizations.
We start in Cairo, the heart of modern-day Egypt. The largest city on the African continent and much-maligned for its traffic congestion, Cairo remains a fascinating fusion of western, Islamic and Christian culture, all mixed up with something a lot more ancient. The iconic symbols of these ancient roots are the three Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza, on the edge of the city.
Visited by the greatest names in history, from Alexander the Great, to Caesar and Napoleon, the Pyramids are actually the world’s oldest tourist attraction! Right in the centre of Cairo, the Egyptian Museum houses so many priceless treasures, that it would take months to see it all. Its Tutankhamun exhibition alone contains over 3,500 finds from the small tomb that Howard Carter discovered in 1922. Although the centre of the collection is the mesmerising solid gold funerary mask, equally impressive is the section devoted to the daily life of the ancient, as are the touchingly realistic funerary portraits from Egypt’s Graeco-Roman period.
We’ll also visit the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, just south of the Cairo and built over 4,600 years ago, this is Egypt’s first proper pyramid, and is now considered to be the oldest stone building in the world.
After two days of relaxing sailing on the world’s longest river our tour continues with visits to the tombs of Beni Hassan, followed by one of the most imposing temples in all of Egypt, at Abydos. Our exploration continues with the temple of Hathor at Dendera, built during the time of the Ptolemies, heirs to Alexander the Great’s empire. This part of the tour is ideal for anyone who has visited Luxor and Aswan before and wants to delve deeper into some of the rarely-visited sites mentioned above. From here on we continue to the well sights of Luxor and beyond.
Luxor, known as Thebes in ancient times, was centred around the two great temple complexes of ancient Egypt – Karnak and Luxor. These are both on the East bank of the Nile and dedicated to the sun god, Amun Ra, the giver of life. The West bank, where the sun set, was reserved for the tombs and funerary temples of the Pharaohs, their families and high officials.
Today’s Egyptians are immensely proud of their ancient lineage and with typical middle-eastern courtesy and hospitality they are some of the most welcoming and friendly people you are likely to meet.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Cairo. After our late evening arrival, we transfer to our home for the next 14 nights, the MS Darakum.
Today we drive out of the city towards the Giza plateau for our first close-up view of the Great Pyramids. The truly gigantic size of the three main pyramids only becomes fully apparent when they tower above you in all their majesty. For the more adventurous, entry into the pyramids is available at extra cost payable locally, but for the Great Pyramid of Cheops there’s a daily limit to the number of visitors and there’s no guarantee of an entry.
A little further down the hill is the mighty Sphinx, the world’s largest free-standing sculpture, it looks out serenely over the suburbs of Cairo. “This day of days, the most wonderful that I have ever lived through…” is how Howard Carter described the day in 1922 when he realised he had made the archaeological find of the century. King ‘Tut’s’ tomb held so many treasures that it took 10 years to examine, photograph, catalogue and finally remove all 5,398 of them. The collection forms the centrepiece of the Egyptian Museum, without question one of the world’s greatest museums, a treasure-house overflowing with artefacts of remarkable ancient craftsmanship, ranging from the mundane to the mystical. The famous Royal Mummy room may be entered, upon payment of a small additional fee.
We head south to the pyramids at the necropolis of Saqqara. Soon the lush fields give way to barren desert and we see the giant ‘step’ pyramid looming above the palms. Built using smaller blocks than the Great Pyramids at Giza, it’s easy to see how the architecture of pyramid-building evolved from a simple square flat-topped mound upon which similar smaller mounds were added. In the distance, further out in the desert, we’ll be able to discern the famous ‘bent’ pyramid, the next stage in pyramid evolution, so-called because the angle was too steep and had to be changed half way up so as to avoid a catastrophic collapse.
This afternoon we’ll explore Old Cairo’s Christian history with a visit to the remarkable 3rd century ‘Hanging Church’, built over a gateway to the Romanera Babylon fortress. With its wooden barrel-roofed interior this makes for a fascinating introduction to Egypt’s long Coptic heritage.
We continue to the Coptic Museum and the nearby Ben Ezra synagogue, said to be the place where the Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in his basket amongst the reeds.
Early this morning our ship starts its long journey south out of Cairo. As we leave the city behind and pass small farms, canals and plantations of date palms along the way, you’ll see how productive this land has been for so many countless generations. Many farmers here still use methods that would be familiar to their ancestors thousands of years ago. Your tour manager will take this opportunity to invite you to the first of a couple of fascinating lectures on both modern and ancient Egypt. In the afternoon we arrive at the small town of Beni Suef where we moor overnight.
Our second consecutive day of sailing, and by this time you should have settled into the rhythm of ship-board life! After a sumptuous breakfast buffet make your way to one of the three open decks and relax under one on one of the many comfortable shaded sun loungers or Balinese-style canopied day-beds as the unchanged landscape of the Nile Valley slips by. If you prefer to keep cool in air-conditioned comfort, then there are plenty of armchairs by the full-length windows of the bar. This afternoon we arrive in Minya where we will moor for two nights.
After an early breakfast you set out with a visit to Tuna El Gebel, the necropolis of Hermopolis, sacred to the Greek god Hermes and his Egyptian counterpart, Thoth god of writing and wisdom. Here we’ll explore the tomb Petosiris, the high priest, and the catacombs which once held thousands of mummified ibis and baboons. After lunch on board, we continue with a tour of the little-visited tombs at Beni Hassan, set high above the Nile at the foot of a cliff, with wonderful views across the valley. The tombs belong to the 11th dynasty governors of the region and unlike more imposing royal tombs, here you’ll find wall paintings showing charming glimpses of daily life, with hunting scenes, farming, dancing and even wrestling competitions!
This morning we arrive in Amarna, site of the short-lived capital of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti. Akhenaten took a brave, and possibly foolhardy, decision to replace the existing ancient complex and powerful theology (and its priesthood!) with a monotheistic cult of the sun-god, the Aten. In order to cement the break from the past he built this brand-new city, with its temples and altars open to the sky, unlike the dark cavernous interiors of traditional temples. After his death his young son, Tutankhamun, ascended the throne and reinstated the old gods, leading to the abandonment of his father’s city. We’ll visit Akhenaten’s tomb, as well as those of some of his courtiers. We return to our ship in time for lunch and continue our journey south, with the opportunity to see one of Egypt’s most important Coptic monasteries as we sail by. We moor in Assyut overnight.
Today we continue our journey southwards, with a full day’s cruising, ideal to relax after the busy last couple of days and before seeing the monuments and temples of the second part of our journey.
Abydos remains one of ancient Egypt’s most mysterious sites, with the Great Temple of Seti I as its centrepiece. Dedicated to the cult of Osiris, god of the dead, Abydos was a pilgrimage centre for thousands of years and was considered a sacred place to be buried. The temple is known for its Gallery of the Kings, which lists all the pharaohs who preceded them, as well as some strange hieroglyphs which look like modern machines! We sail on the Qena where we moor overnight.
The temple of Hathor is one of the most complete and best-preserved in all of Egypt. Hathor was the Egyptian goddess of love, beauty, joy and healing, and her temple, although only completed in Roman times, nevertheless follows the architecture and style of much older temples. Intriguingly, one of the outside walls has a famous relief of Cleopatra and Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar, so the famous queen may well have visited the temple. We sail the short distance to Luxor where we moor overnight.
Anyone staying on for the full itinerary to Aswan will continue the tour crossing the Nile to the West Bank for the ‘main event’ – the Valley of the Kings! It is simply remarkable that so much artistic beauty is hidden below the barren earth of this hot, dry, rock-strewn valley. The incredible state of preservation and the vividness of the paintings and hieroglyphics is simply astounding. It is tantalising to imagine what treasures all these tombs once held, lost to incredibly efficient grave robbers thousands of years ago. Only three tombs may be visited at a time and these may vary as some are closed on a rotating basis to protect them from too much exposure to humidity created by visitors.
We also visit the nearby mortuary temple of Hatshetput, the first female pharaoh, with its stunning three-tiered colonnaded terraces reflecting the outline of the cliffs above. We return to our ship at lunchtime and the rest of the day is at leisure.
This morning we visit the Temple of Karnak. The astounding Hypostyle Hall is the most awe-inspiring part of this vast complex, said to be the largest religious centre of the ancient world. Its 134 gigantic columns stretch up to 80ft high and are covered in hieroglyphics – look carefully and you’ll spot traces of the original colours still visible. One of the many interesting features is the first documented peace treaty in history, between Ramses II and the Hittites. Another highlight is the great Obelisk of Hatshepsut, carved from one 97-foot high block of polished red granite and weighing in at over 300 tons, it has stood here for over 3,450 years, a testament to the amazing abilities and ingenuity of its creators. We also visit the smaller, but equally remarkable Temple of Luxor, which was originally connected to Karnak via the 2-mile long Avenue of the Sphinxes. After lunch we set sail for Edfu where we moor overnight.
The temple at Kom Ombo is unusual in that it’s dedicated to two gods, Horus and Sobek, the crocodile. The temple had a lake with sacred crocodiles and many mummies fo them have been found nearby. We sail to Aswan and moor overnight.
This morning is our last full day in Egypt and we visit one of modern Egypt’s greatest achievements – the Aswan High Dam. We continue to the temple of Philae, which had to be rescued from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. After a visit to the Nubian museum, we take to the water on a felucca sail as the sun sets in the west, in this, the most picturesque part of the river to Kitchener Island, which the eponymous general converted to a botanical park.
Early this morning we make our way to Aswan airport for the return flight, via Cairo, back to Cork after unique and truly fascinating tour.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin. Fourteen nights’ accommodation on the MS Movenpick Darakum, including breakfast, lunch & dinner daily; scheduled flights to Cairo and from Aswan via Cairo to Heathrow and finally Cork; transfers and all internal coach travel; guided tours of Cairo, the Giza Pyramids & Sphinx, entrance to the Egyptian Museum; Beni Hassan tombs, Amarna, Abydos & Dendera temples, a guided tour of Karnak and Luxor temples, the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut temple, Kom Ombo temple, Philae temple, Aswan dam; and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
Egyptian visa not included.
Things to Note
Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths are uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights.
A reasonable level of fitness is required to get the best out of this tour, for example there are no lifts on board the MS Darakum and entry into some of the tombs involve steep descents with numerous narrow steps. Therefore, this holiday will not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility.
Daytime temperature levels will also be high for most of the year and in summer months most excursions start early in order to avoid excessive midday desert heat.
Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for Egypt at least a month before departure.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||Start ship location||Transfer time||End ship location||Departure airport or train station||Transfer time|
|Cairo International Airport||Cairo||1 hr||Aswan||Aswan International Airport||30 mins|
Egypt has long been a dream destination. This trip exceeded all my expectations. Accommodation on the ship is first class, the staff are professional and friendly. The tours took in all of the major and also many less visited site...
Our first river cruise, fortunate enough to be on the new Emily Bronte. Absolutely faultless, thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone. The staff went above and beyond!!!...