We start the morning with a tour of the Pyramids at Giza. Home to the Great Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus and the timeless and enigmatic Sphinx; these great monuments to the afterlife defy the imagination. Only the throng of sightseers, Egyptian and foreign, milling around their huge foundations, keep the viewer in the 21st century. We next pay a visit to the incredible Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which contains relics dating back to 4000 BC, including the fantastic riches of Tutankhamun's tomb.
Here is a unique opportunity to survey the many fabulous treasures of Egypt in one place and to set the scene for the rest of the tour. For the remainder of our tour we experience modern Cairo with visits to Al Azhar mosque, which despite being Cairo's oldest mosque and university is still very much in use today, and the small alleyways and streets that make up Cairo's popular bazaar. Please note that we will need to cover up at the mosque (long sleeves and trousers) and women will also need to cover their hair with a scarf. Stay: Cairo Pyramids Hotel or similar.
We begin Day 4 with a visit to the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile, which contains the once hidden tombs of over 62 Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Seti I, Ramses III and IV. A discreet entrance in the hillside takes the visitor underground; a series of corridors and ante-chambers leads us down to the burial chamber and sarcophagus. The walls are covered in brightly painted images and hieroglyphs - a map of the afterlife to ensure the king's safe passage. One ticket allows us to see three tombs. The ticket usually allows entry into what are regarded as the most impressive tombs, but if you have time a visit to the tomb of Ramses VI is also highly recommended.
Visits to tombs are now strictly controlled to halt further deterioration of wall paintings - each tomb is periodically closed for a number of weeks. On return to our cruise boat we begin our voyage along the Nile, travelling upstream from Luxor to Aswan. Exact sailing and excursion times cannot be guaranteed for each individual trip but we will visit the temples of Edfu, famous for its roofed inner temples and huge Pylon, and Kom Ombo. The cruise boat has good facilities: a sundeck with sun loungers, bar and small pool, restaurant, gift shop and library - these can all be taken advantage of when the cruise boat is docked or during sailing. The sunsets over the Nile are truly stunning and travelling from Luxor to Aswan, enjoying the beauty of the lush verdant landscape make this journey special. Stay: M/S Esmeralda or similar.
After breakfast on board we disembark our boat and have a full day in Aswan. This is a laid-back, sleepy town that reflects the character of its largely Nubian inhabitants, known for being friendly and hospitable. By virtue of its position on the old caravan route, it has always been a trading centre and we thoroughly recommend a visit to the packed bazaar today where merchants display a wealth of exotic spices, carpets, leather goods and countless other wares. There is also the option to visit the Nubian Museum, situated opposite our usual hotel in Aswan. Opened in April 1998, the museum chronologically charts the history and culture of the Nubian people.
Alternatively, we can arrange an optional visit to Philae Temple. In the 1970s it was relocated by UNESCO to Aglika Island after it became evident that the original site of Philae would submerge on completion of the Aswan High Dam. It represents a magnificent and enduring testament to both ancient and modern engineering. During this excursion we will also visit Aswan High Dam and Cleopatra's Unfinished Obelisk. Stay: Basma Hotel or similar.