We arrive in Cairo and take time to rest & revive before an Orientation Talk.
After we have rested, we visit the world’s largest and oldest bazaar, “Khan El Khalili”; it’s like stepping straight into the tales of Sheherezade! It is an Aladdin’s Cave of every Middle Eastern treasure you can imagine and the charming vendors will win your heart with their one-liners and genuine hospitality.
Amidst the Medieval architecture of this amazing bazaar we will be guided by Margaret to countless belly dance shops, all marked on the map she provides so you can later explore by yourself without getting lost! You are bound to find a new treasure to wear at tomorrow’s photo shoot at the Pyramids!
After an afternoon of adventures in this magical market, we rendezvous deep within the Khan at the famous “Nagib Mahfouz Restaurant” for an Egyptian banquet to perfectly round off our first amazing day.
As we fall into our beds tonight many of us will feel as if we have ‘come home’. One thing is for certain – the adventure has only just begun!
At dawn each day, the haunting strains of the Muezzin call out over the roof tops awakening Cairo to prayer. This morning we are already awake as we prepare for our visit to the Pyramids and for a photoshoot like no other! As the golden sun rises across the Giza Plateaux, our Camels will take us out into the desert, where, standing atop the dunes in our gorgeous new costumes, we will have the most magnificent backdrop on earth; the Pyramids of Egypt themselves!
We then visit a family who train Arabian horses where we are treated to live Saiidi music and a spectacular Dancing Horse display before enjoying a home cooked Egyptian lunch.
After our energy is restored we head back out to the Plateau with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the three main Pyramids. Those brave enough have the option of actually entering one of these ancient marvels and journeying to its burial chamber!
Truly an adventure we will never forget!
We have a free afternoon and this evening you may like to visit the Medieval Caravansaray of El Ghouri and enjoy the Whirling Dervish Tanoura Show which is free and held in the courtyard.
Today we have a dance lesson with one of the current stars of Orientale Dans in Cairo.
We are then swept back to the time of the crusades this afternoon when we visit Saladin’s medieval fortress complex known as the Citadel. In particular we will be awestruck by the grandeur and scale of the Citadel’s main mosque; that of Mohammed Ali.
The rest of the day is free to return to the Khan or to have a sleep in preparation for our outing tonight to a 5-Star Cabaret to enjoy dinner and see one of Egypt’s top dancers perform.
Today’s tour is to Old Cairo, also known as Coptic Cairo. Originally a Roman fortress town called Babylon, this part of Cairo was important to the early Christians. We visit the Hanging Church; one of the oldest places of worship in Egypt built upon the old fortress gate-houses with its nave suspended over the passage.
A short distance away is the Church of St Sergius built on the spot where the Holy Family rested after fleeing from King Herod. Here we can gaze into the well Mary drew water from.
From Christian Cairo we now turn out thoughts to Jewish Cairo as we visit Ben Ezra Synagogue steeped in time and history. It is said that the temple of the prophet Jeremiah stood here and that he is buried under a ‘miracle rock’ on the grounds. The inside of this Synagogue is truly one of the most breathtakingly beautiful interiors in Cairo.
Tonight we head out as a group to enjoy a meal at one of Cairo’s leading restaurants.
Today we have another dance lesson.
The rest of the day is free and tonight we begin the next leg of our adventure as we board the first-class sleeper overnight train to Aswan; the jewel of the Nile in Egypt’s south!
We arrive in beautiful and picturesque Aswan, Egypt’s southern most city and the gateway to Africa. You will be amazed (and somewhat relieved!) at the relaxed and peaceful ambience of Aswan after the hustle and bustle of Cairo.
Aswan, also known as the Jewel of the Nile, has a decidedly African feel. Since the Aswan Dam caused the homelands of the Nubian people to be submerged, they have made Egypt’s southern cities their new home and have given Aswan its relaxed and happy go lucky ambience.
From ancient times right up to the 19th century Aswan has been the destination of caravans trading exotic goods from all over Africa, Egypt and India such as ivory, gold, spices, slaves, incense, skins and feathers. Its markets are still alive with activity, colour and unusual wares for sale. It is easy to imagine the trains of camels and elephants laden with their precious cargo in bygone days.
After we arrive, we travel to the boat landing of Shellal and set out across Lake Nasser to Aglika Island where Philae Temple; the temple of Isis awaits us. This beautifully feminine temple marks the site of the very last activities of the Ancient Egyptian religion. The great mother goddess, Isis was worshipped here well into the Christian era.
This afternoon we sample the national drink of Egypt, Karkaday, at a Nubian tea house built at the highest point of Aswan. It has the best views of the Nile in all of Egypt and this afternoon we gather on the terrace overlooking the majestic waters and relax as the red-gold Egyptian sun sets before us.
We are up before sunrise again this morning to catch a convoy to the astounding temple complexes at Abu Simbel. These temples were built by the great Ramses II. He had them carved out of the mountains on the banks of the Nile around 1250BC to demonstrate his military might and the might of his love for his chief wife, Nefertari. These two temples were moved to higher ground by UNESCO to avoid the rising waters caused by the Aswan Dam. In an operation that took 4 years, the temples (and their mountains) were cut up into over 2000 blocks and reconstructed in their present positions. Few moments will live on in your memory as vividly as the moment you round the bend and first lay eyes on the overwhelming temples of Ramses II. Visiting Abu Simbel is sure to be a highlight of your journey.
We have a free afternoon planned! You may opt to visit Shariaas Souk; Aswan’s fabulous market street which overflows with tempting textiles and aromatic spices. You may like to buy a special Galabeya for our hafla on the Nile banks or a simple Egyptian cotton outfit for our lazy days ahead on the river.
Tonight we sail across the Nile to a wonderful Nubian restaurant and enjoy a folkloric show of the traditional music and dances of Upper Egypt.
Today we sail the Nile again, this time to the opposite bank where we find camels to ride along the water’s edge until we reach a local Nubian village. There we are welcomed into the home of a Nubian family and have lunch in their traditional mud-brick home. Bring your coin-belt or drum and feel free to play or dance- the family will join us when encouraged!
While we are enjoying basking in the spirit of the Nubian people, we will have a dance display and lesson in their exuberant style. Their energy, musicality and sense of humour all influence this gorgeous dance style as does their African heritage. We will discuss Nubian costuming and music and touch on the bittersweet history of this proud race of people.
Today is free to do as you please. You may choose to discover the beautiful Nubian Museum – dedicated to the Nubian people by the Egyptian Government in acknowledgment of the sacrifices the Nubian people made to accommodate the Aswan Dam. Here you can see photos of the land and its temples before the lot became submerged under Lake Nasser. There is also a wonderful recreation of the relocation of the Abu Simbel temples.
The rest of the day is free for last minute shopping or sightseeing in beautiful Aswan!
It is now time to say goodbye to Aswan and begin the next leg of our journey – the Felucca Retreat. This will be a complete change of pace to that since our arrival in Egypt and perfectly timed to allow us to recover from the sensory overload of souks, spices, sightseeing and shopping!
As we sail north toward Luxor, our internal rhythms will slowly become one with the river. The sounds of the wind in the sails, the birdcalls and farmers at work on the banks will truly transport you to a bygone era as the last trappings of the western world melt away. It will take us around two days to reach our destination and this time on the Nile will stay in our minds a lifetime as we soak up the life of the river; meet the people who depend upon it and immerse ourselves in its timelessness. We sail past villages, farms, and Temples on route - just as the ancients would have thousands of years ago!
We have our meals cooked by our talented crew and we eat on board our felucca whilst entertained by local Nubians who dance, sing and play traditional instruments. We sleep on board our felucca, snuggled in our sleeping bags, under the Egyptian star-laden sky.
On one of the nights we enjoy a bonfire and Hafla on the banks of the Nile! We will have the chance to improvise under the stars to traditional Nubian and Saiidi music. We will dress up in our authentic Galabeyas and other treasures purchased for the occasion in the souks of Aswan!
It will be with much sadness we say goodbye to our Nubian crew this morning. We re-board our coach and travel a short distance to the city of Luxor. Luxor is the site of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom capital, Thebes and is home to an overwhelming number of major archaeological splendours.
We check into our hotel to enjoy a relaxed freshening-up and the rest of the day is free.
We arise early this morning to cross the river to the West Bank of Luxor to visit the most famous and mysterious cemetery in the world; the Valley of the Kings. We will enter three of the most beautiful and haunting tombs here as we explore this stark and desolate valley.
We then stop off for lunch at a lovely local restaurant before exploring the Mortuary Temple Ramesis III, Medinat Habu, which has the best preserved colour of any temple in Egypt still intact!
If the sun is not too hot, we will ride donkeys (hilarious!) a short distance to the Tombs of the Nobles and investigate the burial places of some of ancient Egypt’s non-royal citizens. Don’t be fooled; these tombs, although smaller, are breathtaking and possibly more atmospheric than those in the Valley of the Kings.
Tonight we will head out to the massive Karnak Temple to see the ‘Sound and Light Show’ which retells the history of this ancient city and the lives of those who built this enormous temple complex in the honor of the god Amun.
After an early breakfast at our hotel we enter Karnak. This massive complex is actually made up of many temples and chapels dedicated to different Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. It seems each ruler sought to gain the blessings of their favourite deities by making bigger and better additions to this temple complex. and then take our time to explore the many wonders of this complex.
This afternoon, at a special dance workshop, will explore the role of dance and music in ancient goddess worship. Priestesses and temple dancers honoured the spiritual aspects of dance and now we look to the Egyptian goddess of joy, love, music and dance, Hathor and learn a simple yet powerful dance in the genre of Pharonic dance. This workshop will center around the theme Hathor. We will then use what we have learned in a special private performance within the Sanctuary of Hathor’s Temple at Dendara tomorrow in what will be a highlight of our tour.
Today we head north of Luxor to reach Dendera; the site where, for millennia, the goddess Hathor herself has been honoured. On this site today stands her incredibly beautiful temple. Although the colours have long since faded, although her once perfect delicate features no longer smile down at us from atop massive pillars, Hathor still whispers. We awake to a truly unforgettable day – our visit to the temple of dance, music, love and celebration; the temple of the goddess Hathor! We travel in convoy to Dendara which has been the site of worshipping Hathor for millennia. She is the goddess of joy, beauty, revelry, and sensual arts. The existing temple was primarily built in the Greco-Roman era but this sacred site has housed shrines to Hathor since the dawn of Egyptian civilisation. Here we can gaze upon one of the worlds first depictions of the Zodiac and dip our fingers in the waters of an original ancient well said to have magical properties to this day. It is here we have the profound experience of performing the dance we prepared at yesterday’s workshop.
The afternoon is free. Those with energy left after this most overwhelming of days, may like to take up the option of a traditional Saiidi dinner and live folkloric and belly dance show at ‘Fellahs Tent’ in the Movenpick JolieVille Resort.
Today we have a lesson in Upper Egyptian (Saiidi) Dance with living legend, Khareya Maazin. The Maazin sisters are from the most famous of all Ghawazee families in Egypt. Also known as Egypt’s Gypsies, the Ghawazee have their own unique style of dance and today we have the rare honour of working with Khareya, the last of the Maazin sisters still dancing.
The rest of the day is free!
Tonight we catch our train bound for Cairo!
Check back into the Hotel and enjoy a leisurely day with the hard decision of what to do (there’s so much more to see!). Today we will go to Cairo’s hub of musical instrument makers and players, Mohammed Ali Street where our drummers and musicians can buy the instruments of their dreams! We will also go to the Tent Makers Street which has been the site of this craft for hundreds of years. Here you can watch the sewers at work and purchase some of the most beautiful and intricate appliqué work you will find anywhere in the world (at bargain prices!). This is where the locals shop! We can also organise a private tour of Khan el Khalili with Margaret’s old friend, Mohsen who will take us far away from the main tourist traps and into the backstreets to see the artisans manufacturing the goods that are sold in the bazaar.
Tonight we dress up to the nines and venture out together for the last time to have drinks and dinner floating down the Nile on the cruise ship, The Nile Maxim. We will lap up the luxurious surroundings, enjoy a delectable buffet and see a famous belly dance star. The show also includes live Arabic music, El Tanoura Sufi Dance (a Whirling Dervish), and a chorus line of male dancers who will have you giggling in your seats!
The Egyptian Museum boasts one of the finest collections in the world. It has on display so many artefacts that, if you allowed one minute for each item it would take 9 months to see the 140 000 exhibits. Highlights for many are the splendid treasures of Tutankamun or gazing into the mummified face of Ramses II.
We also visit the Lehnert & Landrock Bookshop which sells historical prints, postcards, books and souvenirs which make wonderful gifts or keepsakes. We then continue on to the American University Bookshop which is an amazing multi-storey book store and coffee-shop selling all manner of books related to Egypt and the Middle East.
Those not finished can return to the Museum while others have the option of returning to the hotel and planning other adventures for this afternoon.
Tonight we will head out together for one last celebration as a group to celebrate with our new friends and reminisce about our adventure!
Today we have precious time to fit in those things we promised we’d see again or perhaps spend time in the Khan doing that last minute gift and costume shopping!
Check out and reluctantly return to the airport for our flight to Australia. Be prepared however, for you are bound to leave your soul dancing in Egypt.
*Itinerary may change slightly in accordance with group needs, service availability or matters beyond the tour operators’ control.
**It is recommended that the group establish a “tipping kitty” of $AU 60 each to avoid the inconvenience of tipping individually during group outings (porters, camel drivers, temple guardians etc)
Please Note: the Tour Guide and Felucca Crew are tipped separately. Please allow $AU 50 for the Tour Guide and $AU 20 for the Felucca.
Refer to Booking Information for terms and conditions.