Undiscovered Egypt 2020
January 17-30, 2020
- Guest Lecturers - Engage in lively discussions with Egyptologists Laura Ranieri and Ramy Darwish at each site – and enjoy a lively series of lectures enroute
- Unique off-the-beaten track itinerary – designed for travellers with a deep interest in Egyptian history
- Insider’s archaeologist-level experience of the Pyramids of Giza, city of Cairo, Step Pyramid of Sakkara, Karnak, Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, Queens, Nobles and Workers
- Visits to rarely seen tombs, temples and sites including:
- Less visited pyramids: Unas, Step, Bent, Red and Meydum
- Unseen Sakkara – some unique sites including Serappeum, Ty Mereruka and Tomb of the Manicurists
- The rock tombs of Beni Hassan
- Tuna El Gebel and Ashmunein (Hermopolis) or Meir
- Sacred temples at Dendera and Abydos
- Mortuary temples of Medinet Habu and/or Ramesseum on Luxor’s West Bank
- Private tour of Tel El-Amarna -- Visit the site of Akhenaten’s lost Kingdom (with Barry Kemp CBE (or a member of his team), British archaeologist and head of the Amarna Project) Project
You will be met on arrival, helped through customs, immigration and visa purchase, and transferred to our hotel. Tonight you get to know your fellow travelers, lecturers and guides at the welcome gathering. This evening Laura will give a talk on the wonders of the Egyptian Museum.
For those who arrive early there will be an optional excursion to walk the wonders of Medieval Cairo.
Overnight Ramses Hilton Hotel
Day 2: Egyptian Museum and Khan El Khalili market
After breakfast, we will set off to visit the new GEM - Grand Egyptian Museum or the old
Egyptian Museum - this will depend on which museum is open and what is on display.
We are hoping the new museum will be open! It will be home to many of the greatest treasures
of ancient history. In addition to reviewing the stunning highlights, including Tutankhamun’s golden mask, the stunning colossi of Amenhotep III, and exquisite statues of the Old Kingdom, Ramy will guide us through the museum and Gayle will be with us to answer any questions and to direct you to often over looked treasures: exquisite tomb models, ornate coffins of historical characters, animal mummies, and the objects of every day life.
Lunch at the beautiful Al Azar Gardens. Exploring and Shopping in Khan El Khalili
Enjoy a walking tour of the 13th Century covered oriental market – the largest of its kind and age in the world: Khan El Khalili Bazaar is a marvel to experience and an onslaught to the senses. After the walking tour, you will have free time to wander around and take pictures, haggle for exotic goods -- or pull up a chair at one of the cafes, try some shishah and mint tea, and watch life go by.
Overnight Ramses Hilton Hotel B,L
Day 3: Islamic Cairo & Coptic Cairo
Today we explore the great worship centres and historic edifices of the main religious groups of Cairo: the Muslims, the Coptic Christians and the Jews. Both have a long and storied past in the city with many great works of art and architecture spanning a millennia. Your previous night’s lecture will help it all come alive.
Islamic Cairo - Your day begins with a half-day immersion into the fascinating world of Islamic Cairo, site of some of the oldest mosques in the world. We start with a gorgeous panoramic view of the city from way up in the medieval Citadel of Saleh el din, a marvel of medieval warfare, built in places with limestone from the Great Pyramid. There, we’ll also tour a 14th century open air mosque and the beautiful 19th century mosque of Mohammed Ali. Next, we’ll proceed to the breathtaking 14th century Sultan Hassan mosque, considered the pearl of Islamic architecture. Before lunch, we’ll also visit El Raffai, another ornate 19th century mosque which is the resting place of many early Egyptian rulers, including King Farouk.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
Coptic Cairo – Today we will explore some of the earliest churches and an important synagogue. This main entrance to the Coptic area is through perhaps one of the two oldest structures in Cairo, the rounded towers of the western gate from the Roman fortress of Babylon, built in 98 AD by Emperor Trajan. First, we’ll experience the hanging church of the Virgin Mary from the 4th century -- built into the very walls of the ancient fortress. From there, a medieval path will lead us to the Church of St. Sergius, which, legend has it, is built atop one of the sites where the Holy Family rested on their flight from Herod. Continuing along this path, we will finally visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue, Egypt's oldest, dating to the 9th Century. In the early evening we will transfer out to our Giza Hotel. This evening Laura will give a talk: Myth, Meaning and Making of the Pyramids (in preparation for tomorrow’s Giza visit)
Overnight Ramses Hilton B,L
Day 4: The Great Pyramids/ Sphinx and Dashur
The last surviving of the Seven Wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is perhaps the most famous tourist site in the world. The Giza plateau itself, with its three major pyramids plus Queen’s pyramids, ancient mastabas, Sphinx and the ubiquitous and colourful camel drivers is a much-anticipated highlight of any trip. For our visit, we will hope to also enter to some of the lesser-known old kingdom tombs of Kar and Idu – along with rare entrance to the pyramid of Queen Henutsen. Of course, we will arrive before 8am to better ensure coveted entrance inside the Great pyramid of Cheops. If, however, Cheops entrance is not available, we will tour inside either the 2nd or 3rd pyramid. While on the plateau, we will also visit the solar boat museum and the extraordinary Sphinx.
In the afternoon we visit two more of the earliest pyramids in Egypt: the Bent, and the impressive and intact Red, both built by Senefru in the 26th and 25th century BC. The Bent retains most of it casing stones. Entrance to the Red will be optional - and for the fit and adventurous minded only as it is an athletic climb. This Dashur region presents a wonderful opportunity for pyramid exploration …far from the crowds of Giza.
This evening Laura gives a talk: Snefru, Unas – and overview of the Old Kingdom
Overnight Ramses Hilton B,L
Day 5: Saqqara – Step Pyramid, Serappeum & Beyond full day
We will enjoy an intensive full day exploring this rich archaeological site – which is most notably the location of Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the oldest in Egypt. Our day begins at the modern Imhotep museum, where we’ll view some rare old kingdom relics, such as cobra reliefs, ancient harps, surgical instruments and the Old Kingdom mummy of King Merenre. We will then proceed to see Old Kingdom tombs, such as the breathtaking Mereruke, the mastaba of Ty, the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhknum (The gay Maicurists), the tomb of Ptahotep (tombs opening and closures change, we will see tombs that are currently open at the time)
We will also have the exciting and rare opportunity to enter the recently-re-opened Pyramid of King Unas, the last ruler of the 5th Dynasty. Although small, Unas’ pyramid is one of Egypt’s most important as the very first to feature pyramid texts carved on its walls, some still retaining traces of ancient colour.
Next, we will tour the Saqqara complex, including the Step pyramid itself, Djoser’s court and the causeway. We hope also to tour the fascinating new Kingdom tombs of Aye and Horemheb – along with the splendid Serappeum hope of the Apis bull - seldom included on a mainstream tourist visit.
Lunch in the garden of the beautiful Sakkara Palms.
Overnight Ramses Hilton B,L
Day 6: Meydum , Beni Hassan to Minya.
This morning, we say goodbye to the Cairo area and Lower Egypt, boarding our air-conditioned motor coach to drive to Minya in the middle of the country. We will stop at the rarely-visited ancient Meydum Pyramid, second oldest in Egypt after the Step Pyramid, and yours to explore inside and out. Adventure option: Test your ‘tomb raider’ skills by crawling on knees and hands into one of the challenging nearby Old Kingdom mastabas to reach the burial chamber.
Before arriving in the modern city of Minya, we will cross the Nile and climb up a windswept hill to visit the great rock-cut tombs of Beni Hassan (2000-1800 BC), remarkable for their unique middle kingdom art featuring colourful scenes of wrestling men and rural life. You will enjoy secluded surroundings and the beautiful panoramic views of the middle Egypt countryside all around. After touring 4 of the tombs and possibly the nearby temple of Artemis, we continue to Minya for hotel check-in and dinner.
Overnight Horus Hotel B,L,D
Day 7: All day Tell El-Amarna and region: an exclusive tour with (Prof. Barry Kemp or on-site archaeologist)
This morning we cross the Nile early to visit the great site of Tell El-Amarna, a city built by Akhenaten and Nefertiti during the New Kingdom, it lasted only 15 years. This will be a very special day where we will be the VIP guests of the esteemed Prof. Barry Kemp, director of the Amarna project who has been excavating here for decades. He will take us on a private tour and introduce us to the site. Since the site was settled for only 15 years, it is possible to see how the town was planned and laid out.
Highlights of the sprawling site include the north and south tombs of the nobles that feature remnants of beautiful, vibrant and naturalistic wall relief. Like Beni Hassan, these tombs are located high in the hills, affording us some lovely countryside views.
We’ll also see the Northern Palace, one of the Boundary Stele (a marker of the city limits), the Southern Palace and the beautifully restored tomb built for Akhenaten.
Overnight Horus Hotel B,L,D
Day 8: Ashmunein, Tuna El-Gebel to Abydos
This morning we’ll leave the desert cliffs of Amarna to explore the rolling green fields with their ruins of Ashmunein (also known as Hermopolis). This legendary site was an important cult centre dating from New Kingdom right through Roman times and closely associated with the creation myth. A great colossus of Thoth, the baboon headed god of wisdom, will greet us at a charming open air museum of treasures. Then, we’ll continue to trek through the thick brambles to discover beautiful ornate Ptolemaic columns and walls of this ancient city. Venture a little further afield to view interesting ruins from a New Kingdom Seti I temple.
Next, we’ll visit fascinating Tuna El-Gebel, the nearby necropolis of Ashmunein. Here, we’ll explore the colourful Ptolemaic chapels and Greco-Roman tombs (Petosiris, and Isadora) and even venture deep into the eerie catacombs where ibis and baboon mummies were interred.
Drive to House of Life
Overnight House of Life
This evening Laura Ranieri will give a talk - The exciting history of excavation and intro to Denderah and Abydos
Overnight Horus Hotel, Minya B,L,D
Day 9: Abydos – Seti Temple & Umm el Qaab
Today you will visit the first of two great temples in Egypt – and ones not always on the mainstream travellers’ itinerary. The great Temple of Seti I Then, if possible, we will also visit the great ancestral burial grounds at Ummm el Qaab. In the morning we take a pleasant stroll from our hotel to the cenotaph-temple of Seti I. The carvings within are probably the most symmetrically beautiful the Egyptians ever created. Explore behind the temple to find the eerie Osirium and a little visited temple of Rameses II.
Lunch at hotel
In the afternoon (if possible), we will take a drive to view the great seldom seen site of Umm el Qaab, burial site for kings of the 1st and 2nd Dynasties of Egypt c. 3000 BCE – and predating the great Pyramid by close to 500 years!
Late afternoon and evening will be yours to enjoy at leisure at this “spiritual hotel’ complete with meditation rooms. We may gather for a special social occasion.
Overnight House of Life B,L,D
Day 10: Denderah, Cleopatras Temple
Today we leave for Luxor visiting the magnificent Temple of Hathor at Denderah enroute It built in part during the time of the famous Cleopatra VII – and is the most complete of Egypt’s ancient temples and one of the best restored. Travellers can climb into the sacred lake (now a palm grove), up onto the roof of the temple, and also enter one of the crypts under the floor of the temple.
Drive to Luxor for dinner (on own) and overnight.
Overnight Steigenberger Hotel B,L - Dinner not included
Day 11 Luxor West Bank Beginning Valley of Kings & Ramesseum & Colossi of Memnon
After breakfast this morning we cross to the West Bank, site of the ancient Necropolis of Thebes or "city of the dead". We will visit the world-famous Valley of the Kings where you can enter three tombs. Tomb openings change - we will enter the tombs that are currently opened at the time.
We will then visit the gigantic Colossi of Memnon, gateway to the temple of Amenhotep III, and the Ramesseum of Rameses II where you may gaze upon the colossosal “Ozymandias”.
Seti I - Optional visit - additional cost approx $60USD
Seti I ’s tomb, the largest and most exquisitely decorated of the 62 sepulchers in the Valley of the Kings. Although famous for being the father of Ramses II, Seti I was considered a great leader during his 11 year reign, known for his military achievements and cultivation of the arts. Despite Seti I’s short life, his tomb is the most completely decorated, preserved and finished in the valley. Every inch of the passageways and chambers in the 446 foot long tomb are not just painted, but are also fully decorated with highly refined bas-relief. The quality and extensiveness of the design set the standard for all the Pharaohs that came after.
Return to Luxor and enjoy a Sunset felucca sail.
This evenings talk: Her Majesty Hatshepsut – by Laura
Overnight Sonesta Hotel Luxor B, L
Day 12: Valley of Queens, Hatshepsut temple, Tomb of the Nobles
Optional sunrise balloon tour
We will cross back over for a final full day on the awe-inspiring west bank. Visit the mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Deir el Medina (the valley of the workers), Valley of the Queens and Tombs of the Nobles and the surrounding townsite.
Lunch at local restaurant.
Tomb of Nefertari – optional visit to the most breathtaking Queen’s tomb
Queen Nefertari was the first wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. When she died, Ramses II built a beautiful tomb for her in the Valley of the Queens. Nefertari’s tomb is known for the beautiful and well-preserved wall paintings. Some of them depict the crown of Queen Nefertari. Often, she wears a crown associated with different goddesses like Isis or Hathor. In her tomb, the wall paintings show the queen honoring the gods and goddesses who would help her on her journey in the afterlife.
Overnight Steigenberger Hotel Luxor B,L
Day 13: Luxor & Karnak
Today we explore Luxor and Karnak Temples with an option to visit Luxor Museum.
We will have all morning to explore the great complex of Karnak – largest in Egypt. In the afternoon we will explore Luxor Temple.
Final dinner – sum up talks and good cheer with all the guest speakers and guides.
Overnight Steigenberger Hotel B,D
Day 14, Jan 30, 2020 Departure day
You will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight. For those going on to Aswan, we will reconfirm bus departure time the day before. B
Tour Cost $3,995USD per person based on twin share single $895USD
- 5 nights Cairo - Ramses Hilton or Similar
- 2 nights Minya - Horus Hotel or Similar
- 2 night Abydos - House of Life Hotel or similar
- 4 nights Luxor - Steigenberger Hotel or similar
- Meals as per itinerary 27 Meals 13 B/Breakfasts 11 L/Lunches9, 5 D /Dinners
- Transfers in deluxe motorcoach
- Tour Leaders - Laura Ranieri from Ancient Egypt Alive & Ramy Darwish
- All sightseeing as listed on the itinerary
- Tips for porters and restaurant staff
Price does not include:
- International airfare, Egyptian Entry visa - $25 USD cash on arrival or eVisa online
- Optional tours, Tips for guides and bus driver, Beverages with meals, meals not listed above
- All items not mentioned above
- 61 days or more deposit is non refundable 60 - 31 days prior to departure 50% is non refundable, 30 days or less prior to departure 100% non refundable
Laura Ranieri is a professional writer, the founder of Ancient Egypt Alive, and an Egyptologist, set to graduate with her Masters from the University of Toronto this fall. She has written a variety of published articles and blogs on ancient Egypt and Egyptian tourism, developed and co-organized the 2012 Archaeology Alive Tour led by Gayle Gibson, produced short documentaries and has traveled to the country 7 times already, visiting almost all of the noted sites. She has excavated in Bulgaria and a classical Greek site and in Egypt at the Great Temple of Aten in Amarna and South Asasif. Her scholarly interests include the history of Egyptology, Amarna and New Kingdom painted linens.
Ramy Darwish is our certified Egyptologist tour guide. As a leader in his field, he has been the preferred guide for such prestigious tour companies as, Abercrombie and Kent, Vantage Deluxe World Travel and Scenic Tours. An Egyptology graduate from Helwan University and a consummate professional, he has led tours for 20 years through Egypt, as well as Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Helpful, attentive and highly knowledgeable, Ramy possesses excellent people skills combined with a contagious passion for Egyptian history. We are lucky to have him as our guide!