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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

EGYPT

Splendour of the Nile
A country of mythological proportion and one whose ancient civilization dates back as far as any that the world has seen, Egypt is a land of mystical beauty and incomparable legacy.

We tour the world-famous historic highlights, like the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, now symbols of the country's mystery and glory, the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, which allows incredible opportunities for close-up exploration inside pyramid tombs, the colossal, 1,500-year-old Karnak Temple, with its tremendous pylon gateway near the Avenue of 1,000 Sphinxes that originally ran all the way to Luxor temple, and the bounties of the world's longest river; the Nile.

Donkey-rides on stony pathways, camel treks through the desert and street tours by horse-drawn carriage add an element of authenticity to the experience as we explore the ancient past and contemporary faces of this first-rate destination.
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrive in Cairo
Today we arrive in Cairo.

Al-Qahira, literally "The Vanquisher" or "The Conqueror", is the capital of Egypt and the second largest city in the Muslim World, the Arab world and Africa and the 17th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life.

Overnight in Cairo.
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • Cairo: Memphis & Saqqara, Great Pyramids & the Sphinx
This morning we travel to Memphis and Saqqara, chronologically the two most important sites in all of Egypt. Memphis was the capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom (ca 2700-2180 BC), and Saqqara was used as a burial place for residents of Memphis including kings, princes and nobles. Our drive this morning takes us through the suburbs of Giza, past some small, colourful villages and plantations in the fertile Nile Valley. At the ancient city of Memphis we will see several statues in a garden-like setting, including the colossal statue of Rameses the Great.

From Memphis we travel a short distance to Saqqara, the ancient burial site. On the site, considered by many archaeologists to be one of the world's most important excavations, is the Step Pyramid, constructed by Imhotep in the 27th century BC. The pyramid began as a simple mastaba, or long, flat tomb building. Over the course of time, Imhotep added to this mastaba five times -- the pyramid eventually measured 62m (203 feet) in height!

After lunch we pay a visit to the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. Impressive in their grandeur, the pyramids are estimated to have been constructed over a period of 20 years using more than 100,000 labourers each year. The Great Pyramid of Cheops, constructed from over two million stone blocks, is 135m (443 feet) high! You may enter one of the pyramids through a long, narrow passageway and explore the deep inner chambers (extra fee applicable - ask your Tour Leader).

Later we visit the Sphinx. This feline-human was named by the Greeks because it resembled the mythical winged monster with a woman's head and lion's body. Legend has it that this "Sphinx" proposed a riddle to the Thebans and killed all who could not guess the correct answer! The Sphinx was carved from one solid piece of limestone and measures 50m (164 feet) in length and 22m (72 feet) in height.

Overnight in Cairo.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 3 • Cairo: Museum of Egyptian Antiquities & Coptic Cairo
This morning we visit the famous Museum of Egyptian Antiquities where we see some of Egypt's most beloved treasures. Among the 100,000 pieces housed on the museum's two floors is the famous exhibit of Tutankhamun whose tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. The tomb and treasures of this young Pharaoh, modest by Pharaonic Egyptian standards, is perhaps the best preserved of the discovered tombs. We also see archaeological relics from the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom and Greco-Roman periods. Our tour today is fully guided by our English-speaking guide. We also allow some time for you to explore the treasures on your own (Mummies Room: approx US $10 extra cost).

This afternoon we drive through the neat, tree-lined streets of the Garden City area to Coptic Cairo, the centre of Christianity in Cairo. We will walk the cobblestone streets and stop at a few of the churches, including that of Saint Sergius whose is presumed to have been the spot where the Holy Family lived during their flight into Egypt. The present building dates from the 11th century. As we stroll along we will come to the recently restored Synagogue of Ben Ezra, the oldest Jewish synagogue in Egypt. Despite the 45 Jewish families that remain in Cairo, the synagogue is no longer operational.

Overnight in Cairo.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 4 • Cairo - Aswan & Felucca Sailing
Early this morning we fly from Cairo to Aswan in Upper Egypt.* Aswan is Egypt's sunniest southern city and an ancient frontier town. Small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life in Aswan is slow and relaxing.

Upon arrival we have a leisurely sail on a felucca, a traditional sailing vessel used for centuries for carrying goods and passengers along the Nile.

* NOTE: The actual order of our Aswan area sightseeing may vary depending on incoming flight schedules and other logisitical considerations.

Overnight in Aswan.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 5 • Aswan: Abu Simbel & Philae Temple
Early this morning we travel by road (+/- 3 hours, each way) south from Aswan across the Western Desert to Nubia, or the "Land of the Gold". Our destination this morning is the impressive Abu Simbel -- the imposing rock temples of Rameses II and his queen, Nefertari.

We have a guided tour of this site, including the interior of the colossal temples. The Temple of Rameses II, with its immense statues of the Pharaoh seated on his throne, is one of the classic images of the power of the Pharaohs. Inside the temple you will see well-preserved wall decorations and several murals. There is a wonderful relief of Rameses presenting captives to various gods, including himself! We also gain insight into the reconstruction process by visiting the interior of the artificial mountain.

We travel back to Aswan making a brief stop at the High Dam en route. Constructed between 1960 and 1971, the High Dam collects and stores water over a number of years so that the annual Nile flood can be controlled. From here we will have a panoramic view of Aswan to the north and Lake Nasser to the south.

This evening we will attend the Sound & Light Show at Philae Temple. The temple is situated on an island, and we have to take a boat to get to the site. It is a good idea to have a small flashlight with you.

Overnight in Aswan.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 • Aswan: San Simeon & Nile Cruise Embarkation
This morning we will take a private boat across the River Nile to the west bank. From here we travel by camel across the sandy desert to the Christian Monastery of St Simeon. Before we begin this easy trek our Tour Leader and camel trainer will teach you the technique of riding a camel. This is a journey that can be undertaken by anyone at any age (one rider per camel). Our trek is about 45 minutes to the monastery, and then 15 minutes back to the riverbank. Those who prefer not to ride can travel by open truck to the monastery and meet up with the group there.

Dating from the 6th century, and in use until the 13th century, the Monastery of St Simeon is one of the best preserved Christian sites in Egypt. Inside we will see the chapel, living quarters, kitchen and dining areas, wine press, bake area and storerooms. On our tour we will also see the remains of some Coptic frescoes -- depictions of Christ and saints as well as many geometric patterns.

We then return to the banks of the Nile and re-board our boat and ride among the islands dotting the Nile. Up the hill, above the river, is the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Shi'ite sect based principally in India but with followers around the world. The tomb is an elegant pink granite structure of late 1950 origin.

The main island in the middle of the Nile is called Elephantine Island because many of the rocks look like elephants bathing in the Nile. On the west side of the river is the beautiful Kitchener's Island, where we will have time to stroll through the rich botanical gardens with trees, plants, and bushes.

At around midday we board our Nile cruise vessel (which remain docked in Aswan until tomorrow) and enjoy lunch on board. This afternoon you may enjoy a free afternoon in the town of Aswan either on board the ship or in the town of Aswan. During our time in Aswan, we will also include a visit to the 'Unfinished Obelisk' and Philae Temple, also already visited, but some passengers enjoy seeing it again during daylight hours. These visit may be operated by the cruise ship.

Overnight on Nile cruise. NTS cruise (or similar).
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 7 • Nile Cruise: Kom Ombo & Edfu
Today our cruise will make a stop and visit the Temple of Kom Ombo. In ancient times, Kom Ombo was strategically important as a trading town on the caravan route from Nubia to Cairo. Kom Ombo, actually two temples in one, is dedicated dually to Haroeris and Sobek, respectively the god of the sky and the crocodile-headed god. Here we are able to see the remains of a mummified crocodile. Crocodiles no longer exist in the Egyptian part of the River Nile, but in Pharaonic times they lived here in great numbers and were worshipped as gods!

From Kom Ombo we continue along the River Nile toward Edfu. As the largest and most completely preserved Pharaonic temple, albeit Greek-built, Edfu is dedicated to the god Horus. Construction of this temple began under Ptolemy III Euergetes I in 237 BC. We will allow time to explore this massive and impressive site, enclosed by walls and flanked by two large pylon gateways. Here we will also be able to see a Nilometer -- an ancient technique of measuring the Nile's water fluctuations and setting the level of taxes (depending on cruise schedules, this visit may take place tomorrow morning).

Overnight on Nile cruise. NTS cruise (or similar).
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 8 • Nile Cruise: Karnak Temple
This morning we visit one of the most fantastic archaeological sites in the world: Karnak Temple.

Karnak was built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated during its colourful history of over 1,500 years. At certain points in Egyptian history, this temple was the most important in all of Egypt. When we arrive at the temple you will be awed by the grandeur of the tremendous pylon gateway and the Avenue of 1,000 Sphinxes that originally ran all the way to the Nile and Luxor Temple! We will have a guided tour of the complex, massive by any standard.

During free time this afternoon, we suggest a visit to the excellent Luxor Museum and / or Luxor Temple.

Overnight on Nile cruise (docked at Luxor). NTS cruise (or similar).
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 9 • Luxor: Cruise Disembarkation & Valley of the Queens
Today we disembark our cruise and move to our hotel in Luxor.

This morning we make an excursion the Valley of the Queens.* After crossing the Nile we will board our bus for the short journey to visit this wonderful necropolis on the western shore of the Nile.

The Valley of the Queens was used as a burial site for the royal women of the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties. Ancient Egyptians called this place "Set Neferu" meaning Seat Of Beauty, and today only a few of the eighty tombs are open to the public. We will visit 3 tombs. The Valley of the Queens holds far more than graves of queens.

As well as our visit to the Valley of the Queens we will also have a guided tour of the workers' village and the Madinat Habu temple. Madinat Habu, also known as the temple of Rameses III was known in ancient times as Djanet, and according to ancient belief, was the place were Amon first appeared. Both Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III built a temple dedicated to Amon here, and later Rameses III constructed his larger memorial temple on the site.

* Due to periodic and unannounced closures of the tombs at the Valley of the Queens, your Tour Leader may substitute the Tombs of the Nobles, which are equally interesting.

Overnight in Luxor.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 10 • Luxor: Valley of the Kings
Early this morning we cross the River Nile by boat to the West Bank where the wealth of antiquities is outstanding. On the other side we will meet our transport for our excursion into the Valley of the Kings.

We will accomplish part of our journey today by donkey. We'll "saddle-up" and begin a leisurely ride through the New Gourna Village and into the countryside. Avoiding the busier road, we will witness quiet village life along the way for about 40-45 minutes before re-uniting with our road transport for the final leg into the Valley of the Kings. (Alternative arrangements can be made for those who prefer not to ride).

Once in the isolated valley, dominated by large pyramid-shaped mountains, we will have a guided tour of three of the many tombs that are here. The valley was the burial ground for kings throughout the New Kingdom. Note that some of the tombs have steep stairways and all are quite dark inside (you might find a pocket flashlight useful).

We then proceed to the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut -- the first woman to rule as pharaoh! We have a tour of this impressive complex, discovered in the mid-19th century and still under restoration.

After our tour we return by bus through the countryside back to the river and the East Bank.

Tonight you may choose to visit the Sound and Light show at Karnak Temple (optional).

Overnight in Luxor.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 11 • Luxor - Cairo
Today we fly back to Cairo and proceed to Islamic Cairo where we will tour the Citadel, begun by Saladin in the 12th century. Today the Citadel's buildings are mainly from the Ottoman period, and are truly grand. From the Citadel, actually a complex of three mosques and four museums, we enjoy an amazing view of Cairo spread beneath the hilltop. Here we will see the fabulous Mosque of Mohammed Ali, also known as the "Alabaster Mosque."

Overnight in Cairo-Heliopolis. Novotel Airport (or similar).
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 12 • Departure
Departure from Cairo.

RHLAH S'IDAH !
Meal plan: Breakfast

For detailed itinerary (PDF), click here
For hotel samples, click here
INCLUSIONS
  • Breakfast and dinner are included daily; all meals on the cruise
  • All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary
  • Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters, local guides
  • Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates
EXCLUSIONS
  • Tour Leader gratuities, most lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international (if applicable) and domestic air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'
  • Airport transfers for Land Only customers
  • Optional trip cancellation insurance
  • Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, and visas
OUT FACTOR
Though homosexuality is not explicitly outlawed in Egypt, most of the population agrees that it is not acceptable. That said, many gay tourists travel to Egypt and there is an underground "scene" just about everywhere.

As an obvious visitor, you are likely to get plenty of commercial offers - "Want to try Egyptian banana?" -though such offers are best left alone, as authorities take a dim view of such things. As a "gay group", we are unlikely to attract any unusual or negative attention, provided we remember where we are and respect local sensibilities.
PLEASE NOTE
This itinerary is correct at time of publishing. For a more detailed itinerary, download a PDF here. We reserve the right to make changes as necessary due to reasons beyond our control. For booking terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Terms.
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TRIP NOTES
Group size
10-18 plus Tour Leader
Staff & Support
Tour Leader, driver(s), and local step-on guides at various locations.
Accommodation
Hotel accommodation used on tour is on average, 4-star (some 5-star). Most properties have outdoor swimming pools. Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. The cruise vessel is very comfortable with full air-conditioning, twin-berth, outside cabins with en suite bath/toilet.
Transport & travel conditions
Over two weeks we travel by bus, felucca sailboat, luxury cruise boat, horse carriage, plane, donkey, and camel. Distances covered are not great and roads are good. The tour is not strenuous though it is busy; you must be steady on your feet and be able to endure some heat and some extensive archaeological sites.
Weather/seasonality
The most popular time for Egypt is fall/winter/early spring when temperatures are much more comfortable than the period May-September.

The following is a sampling of our preferred properties in some of the locations visited on this tour and is meant to be indicative only. Hotel properties are not confirmed until 30-60 days before trip date. You can click on the hotel photo to view the official hotel website (if available). For sample hotels in other locations on this tour, please contact us.

Safir Hotel


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Cairo
Country: Egypt

The Safir Hotel Cairo is ideally located at the city centre. The hotel boasts 267 renovated guest rooms & suites, with modern amenities to guaranty guest’s comforts.



Click here to visit hotel website

NTS Miss Egypt


Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Aswan
Country: Egypt

Location: Nile Cruise from Aswan to LuxorThe NTS Miss Egypt features 66 cabins and a crew of 100. The vessel is 72 m long, 14.5 m wide. Each cabin is 21 square meters with panoramic window equipped with: Private marble bathroom (vertical shower cabin), hair-dryer, colour TV, central air conditioning, mini bar, safe box. The ship has a swimming pool and jacuzzi.

Click here to visit hotel website

Iberotel Aswan


Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Aswan
Country: Egypt

Iberotel Aswan lies in the heart of the city Aswan, just a few minutes away from the Nile. All the 195 comfortable guest rooms have stylish furnishings with a spectacular view of the Nile. The hotel is equipped with two restaurants and bars, a bowling alley and a swimming pool.

Click here to visit hotel website

Sonesta St George


Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Luxor
Country: Egypt

Welcome to five-star splendor on the banks of the Nile in a city of ancient pharaonic treasures, the Sonesta St. George Hotel Luxor redefines magnificent contemporary style. The hotel is luxurious, sophisticated and above all, elegant.

Come and enjoy a sweeping terrace with majestic views of the Nile, a grand entrance of polished marble and handsomely appointed furnishings with exquisite detail, a sumptuous health spa, an array of fine dining choices and every amenity to please the most discerning traveler. With the mystical Nile just a whisper away and the temples of Luxor and Karnak preserved in time, experience a city of fascinating antiquity and indulge in the rich splendor of the Sonesta St. George Hotel Luxor.

Click here to visit hotel website