Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Egypt. You'll be met on arrival at Cairo airport and transferred to your hotel. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. Cairo is one of the great cities of antiquity and its history can 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. If you have time, perhaps travel along the river by felucca (a traditional wooden boat with broad canvas sails) or head out to explore the markets. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, the Christian Coptic sector is well worth a visit. Please Note: Complimentary transfers are only applicable if you arrive on Day 1 of your Intrepid trip or have booked pre-tour accommodation through Intrepid. Please advise flight arrival details (flight number and time) at least 14 days prior to departure if you wish to have this transfer provided.
This morning after breakfast you'll see some of the world's most iconic sights – the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Instantly familiar yet retaining a mystique and power, getting up close to these incredible pharaonic tombs is amazing. Explore these structures that have stood tall for 4,500 years, and for an additional charge you may be able to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, (although occasionally it may be closed to visitors). The inside thoroughfares of the Pyramids are very small and very warm, so for those suffering from claustrophobia it is not recommended. Please note that you'll be required to walk around the Pyramids complex. It can be very hot in the summer months, so be prepared for little shade and pack appropriate clothing, sun protection, and carry lots of water.
Afterwards, make your way to the Egyptian Museum, home to one of the world's great collections of antiquities. Wander the treasure-filled halls of the museum, and make sure to check out the Mummies Hall (optional) for a close encounter with some of the country's most important queens and pharaohs. The masses of gleaming artefacts recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun are an impressive sight to behold. From gold jewellery to the famous golden death mask and his gilded sarcophagi, this pharaoh was certainly prepared for the afterlife. (B)
Jump in a private van today and drive following the ‘desert road' to the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria (approximately 3 hours). Egypt's second largest city and main port, locals call this vibrant city the Bride of the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek architect Dinocrates built Alexandria in 331 BC under the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalising Alexander's name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual, political and economic metropolis. It was the renowned capital of Ancient Egypt's last royal dynasty, the Ptolemies, and the site of the Pharos. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this lighthouse acted as a beacon, guiding sailors away from this notoriously treacherous stretch of coastline. On arrival, head underground and delve into the mysteries of the Kom ash-Shuqqafa catacombs.
This Roman burial site is the largest of its kind in Egypt and was discovered, quite accidentally, by a hapless donkey. The crypts are 20 metres below street level, and what probably began as a small family tomb grew into a labyrinth of chambers that could accommodate more than 300 bodies. Murals and reliefs inside show how Alexandria was a place where Egyptian and Greek funerary myths coexisted. Stop by the strikingly modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina, inspired by the original great library of Alexandria and built to hold over 8 million books. Take some time to stroll along the Corniche and around Fort Qaitbey to enjoy the fresh Mediterranean air. (B)
This morning, pay a visit to Al Montazah Palace and Gardens. Montazah gardens is home to two palaces, one built in 1892 and another in 1932 by King Fuad I, and acres of picturesque gardens. The gardens are located along the shoreline and flow from splendidly landscape gardens into great beaches. Soak up the surroundings before returning by private van to Cairo (approximately 3 hours). Take some time to relax or get some supplies before you board an overnight sleeper train to Aswan (approximately 13 hours).
Please Note: The two-berth cabins are comfortable and air-conditioned. All bedding is provided onboard by the porter. Western-style toilets are located in each carriage, but we recommend bringing additional toilet paper. Keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. An included dinner and breakfast are served on board. You may want to purchase something extra beforehand to supplement your meal, particularly if you're a vegetarian as only a single type of meal is served for dinner, which always includes meat. In rare circumstances you may be paired in your cabin with a group member of the opposite sex, depending on the group configuration. On other occasions, you might be sharing with another traveller of the same sex who may not be part of our group, again determined by the group configuration. (B/D)
This morning take a short flight (approximately 45 minutes) from Aswan to Abu Simbel, where you'll explore some magnificent temples. Built by Ramses II, it was the gateway to Egypt for Southern Africans and its imposing facade clearly delineated the line between what was the Pharaoh's land and what was not. With the four gargantuan statues of Ramses guarding the Great Temple, carved directly out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile, this is one of Egypt's most memorable sights. Return from Abu Simbel and transfer to meet your Nile cruise boat. Enjoy a fantastic mix of total relaxation and organised sightseeing on an iconic Nile River cruise to Luxor.
Please Note: Nile cruise boats are typically very large with a passenger capacity of around 150. All cabins have private facilities and the boat is fully air-conditioned. Evenings will be spent on the boat, so make full use of the boat's facilities where you can relax on the top deck by the pool and watch stunning Nile scenery pass by. All meals are included on board. Although we use the best possible five-star rated cruise boats available, please note that the local equivalent of five stars isn't to the same standard that we might expect at home. Nile cruise boats are not luxury, but they are very comfortable and a great way to experience the Nile. Due to varying schedules we aren't able to provide advance notice of which exact boat we'll be sailing on. (B/L/D)
Today you'll hop in a private minivan and discover some the many wonders of ancient Thebes. Your first stop is the Colossi of Memnon, two 17 metre-high statues on Luxor's west bank. Carved from granite blocks, they represent the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and were once part of an impressive colonnade. Continue on to the spectacular royal burial site of the Valley of the Kings. Buried under the arid hills here are over 60 tombs of pharaohs, many richly decorated with reliefs and paintings. With your leader, explore this sprawling and spectacular place, where the pharaohs of the New Kingdom (16th to 11th century BC) were secretly interred for all eternity, and where discoveries are still being made.
Your group leader will explain the history and legends of these remarkable people, their funerary rites, and the significance of the many paintings and hieroglyphics, still well preserved in the deepest tombs. You will visit three of the most interesting royal tombs and then continue to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a stunning colonnaded building set against high cliffs that create a spectacular natural amphitheatre. One of the Egypt's greatest queens, she built this temple to prove her importance among the ancestors. The afternoon is yours to explore – perhaps you'd like to shop in the market or visit the world's first Mummification Museum to discover the secrets of pharaonic preservation. (B)
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 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. Then, you'd better have brought your swim gear as you can wash off the dust from exploring with a dip like no other.
Drive approximately 1.5 hours to the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth (420 metres below sea level). This isn't actually a sea but a super-salty lake (dead because of the lack of life in it) where the density of the water means you'll go for a float, not a swim. Spend some time relaxing here and get some classic floating pictures. The mud here is supposed to have healing properties, so why not cover yourself from head to toe for a nutrient-rich natural mineral mud bath. 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. (B/L)