Day - 1
Location: Cairo - Arrive at Cairo International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day, so you may arrive in Cairo at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The remainder of the day is free to explore the city, but an important welcome meeting will be held at 6pm this evening. Please check the hotel reception for details. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can perhaps be symbolised by two imposing landmarks - the Pyramids of Giza and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. In free time perhaps get out and explore the busy streets of this city of contrasts, where you can see donkey carts and expensive cars, medieval slums and modern shopping malls.
Please note that the Novotel is a dry hotel. However there are a number of great options to grab a drink and a meal in the surrounding Zamalek area.
Day - 2
Location: Cairo – overnight train - This morning after breakfast drive out to Giza, home to perhaps the greatest iconic structures ever created by man - the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is captivating. For an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), although occasionally it may be closed to visitors.
The Egyptian Museum is simply one of the world's great museums, home to a stupendous collection of antiquities and the perfect introduction to your tour, exhibiting many of the region's treasures. You will head there after lunch and your expert guide will take you through Egypt's rich and fascinating dynastic history. You will then have some free time to explore on your own; you may wish to visit the Royal Mummy Room (optional and at extra cost).
Afterwards you will return to your hotel, where there is plenty of time to freshen up before you are transferred to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Luxor.
Accommodation aboard the overnight train is in two-berth cabins which convert to bunk beds. All bedding is provided on board and western-style toilets are located in each carriage. Your bags will be stored in your cabin, where airline-style dinner and breakfast will be served. However it may be worth bringing some additional snacks, especially if you are vegetarian or have dietary requirements. Your tour leader can help you to arrange this. Despite being a tourist class train facilities are basic. Please also keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to.
Day - 3
Location: Luxor - After an early breakfast on board, the train rolls into Luxor. It's a vibrant place with an excellent bazaar, situated close to some of ancient Egypt's most important and extraordinary sights. Travel to Karnak, one of the world's most celebrated temple complexes, built over a period of some 200 years, and some of it dating back to 2,055 BC. Your guided tour of the temple reveals its finest sections.
Later you will be transferred to your Nile cruise boat, which will be your home for the next four nights. You can relax by the pool on the boat or explore the town. For the rest of the afternoon and evening you will be free to relax, shop in the bazaar (open until quite late) or perhaps experience the atmosphere of a local tea house.
Notes: Audits were carried out on balloon operators within Egypt to confirm the safety of their operations, unfortunately we were not able to ascertain the safety standards of these balloon operators therefore, we are not able to recommend or assist in the booking of any balloon excursions.
Day - 4
Location: Valley of the Kings – Luxor – Nile Cruise - Rise early this morning and head into the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. Explore this sprawling and spectacular place where discoveries are still being made. Tutankhamun's final resting place is also located here, and you'll have free time to visit it. Your guide will explain the funerary rites of the ancient Egyptians and significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics. You will visit three royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, set in a spectacular natural amphitheatre. Your final stop is the Colossi of Memnon – giant statues that were once part of an impressive colonnade. Enjoy lunch upon your return to the boat. There is time to relax on deck or in your cabin before you set sail for Edfu. Generally the journey from Luxor to Edfu is from 1 pm to 11 pm. Departure time may vary, depending on river traffic – please refer to the note regarding cruise schedules in the 'Other Information' section. You will pass through Esna Lock, which can sometimes be a slow process depending on the number of vessels waiting to get through, and continue your journey upstream.
Day - 5
Location: Nile Cruise - Morning finds you moored near Edfu, a beautifully preserved temple dedicated to Horus. Please see the special information below regarding visiting the temple.
Continue travelling upriver, relaxing on the sundeck and taking in the surrounding sights – desert hills forming a backdrop to lush riverbanks, fishermen casting their nets and farmers working their land.
This afternoon we will arrive at Kom Ombo temple (about 45km north of Aswan city) which sits picturesquely ruined on the river's edge and provides an interesting insight into the Greco-Roman period.
The temple was built approx. 181BC and is dedicated to 2 Gods; Horus the protection god and Sobek fertility god linked to the Nile Water . The temple consists of 2 identical northern sections the North and South each dedicated to either god.
In the Sobek section recent discoveries have been made of mummified Crocodiles, which are now displayed in the Crocodile museum attached to the temple - don't miss it!
Board your boat again at around 6pm and continue to Aswan, arriving at around 9.30 pm.
Day - 6
Location: Aswan - Explore Aswan today, Egypt's southernmost city. Its easygoing charm is due in no small part to its large Nubian population. Depending on your arrival time, you may visit the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island (alternatively you will visit it tomorrow). It's a marvel of decorative pylons featuring some of Egypt's finest carvings – definitely one of the real gems of Upper Egypt. Access to the temple is by small motorboats. The rest of your day will be free to wander, and Aswan is a great place for it. The Nubian Bazaar is a must, while the excellent Nubian Museum is recommended by many. The waterfront promenade, or Aswan's 'corniche', runs alongside one of Nile's most appealing stretches and is the perfect place to stop for a mint tea. Watch the waterfront come alive at dusk, as families are out strolling, socialising and relaxing along the corniche.
Day - 7
Location: Aswan - We depart early this morning to visit the iconic Abu Simbel by plane. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. The rest of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. A popular afternoon option in Aswan is a sailboat ride around the islands in a traditional felucca, stopping off at the botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. Alternatively travel to the Monastery of St Simeon, an abandoned 7th-century fortress monastery located in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Your tour leader will be on hand to help you arrange any excursions. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply relax by the hotel pool or do some shopping in the local bazaar. In the evening you will visit a Nubian village and enjoy the warm hospitality (and cuisine) of these locals. You will also be treated to some Nubian dancing, and may even have the chance to try some moves yourself.
Day - 8
Location: Cairo - After breakfast you will be transferred to Aswan airport for the short flight back to Cairo (approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes) where you will be met and taken to your hotel. Today you will dive into another layer of Egyptian history: medieval Cairo. Head to Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo's oldest mosque and the Gayer-Anderson Museum. The 'Khan', sprawling around an old area known as Al-Azhar, is a quintessentially Cairo experience – a warren of alleys with stalls serving up a succession of intoxicating scenes. It retains a distinctly medieval feel. You will explore the gold market, 'perfume street' and the spice market, where heady aromas hang in the air like a thick blanket of Damascene cloth (which can be purchased next door in the cloth market). The gorgeous 9th-century Ibn Tulun Mosque is one of the oldest and largest in Egypt, possibly its most beautiful too. Its perfectly proportioned courtyard and distinctive minaret make it a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. Nearby stands the Gayer-Anderson Museum, housed in two fine old villas and vaunting a fascinating collection of Arabic artefacts, furniture and memorabilia. Also dont miss the chance to drink arabic coffee or mint tea from Cairo's oldest cafe, it has a long history and fantastic atmosphere.
This evening you will get to share an authentic Egyptian meal with a local family. Visit a family home, chat with the local family members about life in the Middle East, and learn some of your favourite traditional Egyptian dishes while enjoying a delicious dinner
Day - 9
Location: Amman - This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Amman. On arrival you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel in Amman. Now, welcome to Jordan, cosmopolitan and contemporary, yet steeped in biblical history. Amman has served as the modern and ancient capital of Jordan and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a 1994 excavation uncovering homes and towers believed to have been built during the Stone Age (circa 7000 BC). Maybe head to the Old Town’s Roman Amphitheatre, find fine culture at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, look down on the city from the hilltop Temple of Hercules, or begin your trip with a relax in a Turkish bath house.Soak up the atmosphere as you sip mint tea in a cafe.
Meet your new leader and group tonight at a welcome meeting at 6pm
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers
Day - 10
Location: Amman - Aqaba - After breakfast today you’ll leave the Jordanian capital of Amman and journey down the Desert Highway, with the beach resort of Aqaba as your destination (approximately 4 hours). The small Ottoman Mamluk Fort, dating from the 14th century and from where Lawrence of Arabia rode to Cairo, is worth a look. Otherwise most of the fun is to be found in the water. Acquaint yourself with the hotel's pool, or head to the beach – some of the best snorkelling in the world can be found around the untouched coral reefs just south of the town.
Day - 11
Location: Aqaba - Wadi Rum - This morning you will see the contrast between the sparkling waters of the Red Sea and an ochre sea of desert on the way to spellbinding Wadi Rum. Drive approximately 1 hour into this desolate yet achingly romantic landscape the way the locals do – in rather old, rickety (but reliable) jeeps operated by the local Bedouin Community. After lunch (not included) in the small village of Rum and a browse around the visitor's centre, you will visit some of the most stunning desert scenery you’ll ever witness. Wadi Rum is a truly beautiful place, where great gouts of rock on a carpet of bright red sand have been eroded into fantastical gnarled shapes. Visit several of the distinctive rock formations and soak in the vast silence of this lunar-like landscape. Wadi Rum is probably best known for its connection with the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence, who was based here during the Great Arab Revolt of 1917-18. Today you will also meet your new Bedouin Friends, the backbone of Jordan. Journey through the sweeping swathes of desert, wondering how this place could be liveable until you soon get your answer – a group of dark tents low-pitched to the ground: a Bedouin camp. Meaning ‘Desert Dwellers’ in Arabic, the Bedouins are a semi-nomadic people considered by many to be the predecessors of the settled Arabs, and in Jordan up to 40 per cent of the general population is believed to possess Bedouin ancestry. This might explain the legendary hospitality of the Jordanians – in traditional Bedouin culture, a huge onus is placed on taking in and feeding any visitor, and so a very warm welcome is assured on your arrival.
This evening enjoy a delicious dinner cooked in an earthen oven by your Bedouin Hosts. Zarb otherwise known as Bedouin barbeque has been prepared for centuries by Bedouins in the Arabian Peninsula who cooked their food underground in earth ovens. This way of cooking does not require much equipment. Which was important as Bedouins travelled a lot as they roamed the desert in search of water and pastures for their cattle.
The chicken, lamb and vegetables are placed on the bbq racks, this is then placed into the large fire pit and covered with a lid. This then covered with sand and blankets to keep the heat inside. Cooking time can take 2.5 – 3 hours. Once the food is ready the sand and blankets are removed to reveal the delicious slow cooked smoky meat and perfectly cooked vegetables.
Spend the night in this incredible location, deep in Wadi Rum and under a huge expanse of stars.
Day - 12
Location: Wadi Rum - Petra - After waking up in the unique surrounds of the Bedouin camp this morning, you will enjoy a walk around the area (the length of the walk will depend on how energetic you are feeling) before scaling one of the large dunes to enjoy sensational views of the surrounding area. Keen photographers will be delighted. You will then take 4WDs from your camp back to the main entrance, which is opposite the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the mountain named after Lawrence of Arabia’s book. The visitor's centre here is also a great spot to buy some jewellery and handicrafts, mostly made by a women's co-operative that is aimed at supporting traditional local industries. You will then continue your journey to the fabled city of Petra (approximately 2.5 hours). On arrival there is time in the afternoon to check out the town that has grown up around the site, and to just relax… ready for a big day of exploring Petra tomorrow.
Day - 13
Location: Petra - Petra is justifiably on most people’s list of ‘must-visit’ places. It is the jewel of Jordan, the lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings hidden behind ornate façades carved directly into the rock. Dating back to the 6th century BC, the site was lost to Western minds until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer. The iconic Petra view – the Treasury's glorious façade, glimpsed from the narrow cleft known as the Siq – is arguably the single most striking sight of the entire region. The first taste of this exquisite craftsmanship among such stark scenery is a moment that manages to be both eagerly anticipated and also an almost surreal surprise. The Siq leads through the rock and is sometimes only a few metres wide, with walls soaring up to 180 metres on either side, and it is impossible not to imagine the armies and traders who made their way down here in the ancient times. Petra's greatest surprise, however, is its size. With your guide you will explore the old Roman road, amphitheatre and several old tombs. You will also climb up to the second beautiful façade of the Monastery, from where you will have a magnificent view of the entire site. This is a memorable day exploring a truly extraordinary destination, a highlight of your trip. There is a cafeteria on the site, where you can enjoy a light lunch. In the mid-afternoon, return to your hotel where it won't take much convincing for you to try a soothing traditional Turkish bath. The rest of the day will be at your leisure – perhaps take the chance to witness Petra by night. Seeing the Treasury plaza lit up by flickering candle light while Bedouin music plays is a magical experience.
Day - 14
Location: Petra - Amman - Petra is an incredible site and almost demands more than one visit. If you want to see more, then get up early to soak in the dramatic setting, walk to extra sites like the High Place of Sacrifice, and just try to comprehend the history and life of city that was once able to challenge the might of Rome. Later, the ancient Crusader castle at Shobak makes as imposing sight as you make the short drive up to it. It was originally built to protect the eastern flank of the Latin Kingdom and its trade routes to the sea before it fell to Saladin in 1189. Stroll the site and discover a small chapel, original gatehouse, and find out where a long, dark secret passage leads. Continue half an hour to the ancient village at Dana, on the edge of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, where local artisans sell attractive silver jewellery and charms. Drive on to Madaba (approximately 3 hours), home to a number of fine Byzantine mosaics. Visit the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George and see an impressive mosaic map of the Holy Land that clearly depicts Palestine and Lower Egypt around 550 AD. You will arrive in Amman in the late afternoon, where you can spend the evening in one of its several fine restaurants.
Notes: Please be aware that Kerak Castle is not included in your tour, as it is often very congested and busy. However, if there is sufficient interest among members of the group, your leader can also arrange an optional visit to Kerak Castle. Many travellers however prefer to spend extra time in Amman.
Day - 15
Location: Amman - Today you will leave Amman for a short drive north (approximately 1 hour) to Jerash, once one of the grandest ancient Roman cities in the world. These are some of the best ruins Greco-Roman ruins around. Reaching its zenith as a favourite of the emperor Hadrian, it has a striking collection of archways and theatres, baths, public buildings and colonnaded streets, and is a beautiful place to spend a morning exploring. Grand ionic columns encircle the city's centrepiece, the Oval Plaza, a wonderfully atmospheric place to linger after exploring Jerash's riches. You better have packed your swim gear, because in the afternoon you can wash off the dust from exploring ruins with a dip like no other. Drive approximately 1.5 hours to spend the afternoon on the shores of the Dead Sea. Named for the dearth of life in its waters, this lake is so intensely salty that the density of the water makes swimming and getting underneath the surface very difficult. Floating on the surface without any sort of lilo makes for a unique pleasure though. Maybe grab a handful of the shoreline’s mud and slick it over your body on the way back in – it’s full of nutrient-rich natural minerals and will leave your skin feeling luxurious. Afterwards you will return to Amman for the evening (approximately 1 hour). Maybe spend your final night at one of the many bars and restaurants in West Amman, or ask your leader about the traditional cafes dotted around the city where locals spend their evenings.
Day - 16
Location: Amman - Your trip will end today after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Amman.