Booking for the GnT Egypt Experience March 2024 tour is now open – places are limited
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Egypt, the home of the pyramids, and where better to start than with the first one, the Step Pyramid in the Saqqara complex.
You will start with the fabulous Imhotep Museum, named for the architect of the pyramid, and your first chance to see a real mummy.
From here the minibus will take you to the entrance to the Step Pyramid.
A short walk through the entrance colonnade into the Great Court will bring you face to face with the Step Pyramid, the first ever man-made stone monument.
From here it is a few steps to the Pyramid of Unas, where you can make your way into the underground burial chamber to see the first recorded Pyramid Texts. Not far from here is the magnificent tomb of Mehu.
On the oppsite side of the Step Pyramid is the collapsed pyramid of Teti and the tomb of Mereruka.
The mysterious Serapeum is next on today’s itinerary.
If there is time we will vist the site of ancient Memphis
Depending on what else is open, you will take your leave of Saqqara and head for some lunch and then onward to Dashur, and the Bent and Red Pyramids. Here you can venture inside the fairly recently opened Bent Pyramid.
(the visiting order may change)
After all that exertion, a relaxing drive to the airport, a bite to eat and a flight south. Next stop Luxor.
A lazy start after yesterday’s full day. Mid morning, you will take a short boat ride across the Nile. Step off, and head up the steps to the world-famous Corniche, the riverside promenade that stretches the length of Luxor, ending at Karnak Temple.
A brief walk will bring you to the Luxor Museum.
The small, but exquisite, Luxor Museum is home to many local discoveries, particularly from the earlier part of the New Kingdom. Once inside, there are three floors of exhibits, with great examples from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty.
The Kamose stela tells the story of the expulsion of the Hyksos, while further down are many more local discoveries.
The upper floor carries sections of wall from Akhenaten’s early buildings, as well as examples of his giant statuary.
The basement holds fine examples of statues from the Luxor Temple cache.
Just along the river stands the Mummification Museum, with its small, but fascinating, collection explaining the whole mummification process.
It is time to head back across the river to the hotel for lunch, where everyone can enjoy a welcome rest or even a nap. Maybe something cold from the roof top bar as you sit and watch the majestic Nile wind its way to the Mediterranean; one of the few rivers in the world that flows from south to north. Or maybe a catch-up snooze in your air-conditioned room.
As the day begins to wind down, it is time to make your way across the river once more, this time your destination is the Luxor Temple, originally built by Amenhotep III and added to by Rameses the Great.
After breakfast, you will catch your transport to your first stop.
The Valley of the Queens, almost a misnomer, as not only queens, but also royal princes were interred here. Ta-set-neferu, the place of the beautiful ones, is the final resting place of much of the Rameside royalty, most famously Nefertari, wife of Rameses the Great.
It is thought that the use of the valley for queens is related to the sacred grotto at the western end where there are depictions of Hathor, the goddess who personified love, beauty, music, motherhood and joy.
Next your driver will take you round to the worker’s village of Deir el Medina, less than a kilometre away. Welcome to the village of the workmen who actually built the tombs, who laboured away, cutting through the rock, plastering the walls and crafting the splendid decorations of these hallowed spaces for their kings and queens. Their workmanship shows in the beauty of the tombs they built for themselves, in and around the village.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site carries one of the best documented accounts of community life in the ancient world, spanning almost four hundred years.
Leaving the site of the workers village, you can make your way down the road past Qurnet Marai and on to Medinet Habu and some lunch.
After a short break, you begin your investigation of the first of the mortuary temples on the itinerary.
The temple of Medinet Habu is Rameses III’s lasting legacy to Ancient Egyptian history. Its walls carry more than 7,000 m2 of decorated reliefs detailing the king’s military campaigns against would-be invaders from the north, in particular, the Sea Peoples.
You have looked at two ends of the Ancient Egyptian social scale, with the royalty on one hand and the workmen on the other. Today you start out by visiting the tombs of some of the nobility.
This stratum of Egyptian society includes powerful courtiers and officials of the ancient city of Thebes. Some 400 tombs cover the hillside between the Valley of the Queens and the road to the Valley of the Kings.
Where royal tombs were decorated with spells and incantations from the Book of the Dead to guide their owners through the underworld, the Duat, the nobles, intent on celebrating their lives after their death, decorated their tombs with wonderfully detailed scenes of their daily lives.
All that walking over the hillsides of Qurna will have built up an appetite, or at least a thirst. Time to make your way towards our next mortuary temple and some refreshments.
“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies…”
So wrote Percy Shelley in his poem “Ozymandias”, supposedly inspired by the arrival at the British Museum of a 7-ton section of a statue of Rameses the Great from the next port of call, your second mortuary temple, The Ramesseum.
The House of Millions of Years of Usermaatra-setepenra that unites with Thebes-the-city in the Domain of Amun, to give it its full title, took 20 years to build and carries scenes of Rameses’ campaigns against the Hittites, notably the battle of Kadesh.
On the way back to the hotel there is time for a stop at the Colossi of Memnon. These two 18-metre-high statues of Amenhotep III originally stood guard at the entrance to his mortuary temple. Unfortunately, very little remains to see of what once was the largest structure of its kind, even bigger than Karnak in its day.
An early start as it gets hot where you are going and it is important that everyone has enough water with them.
The Great and Majestic Necropolis of Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, better known as the Valley of the Kings is one of the highlights of anyone’s visit to the Two Lands.
With the Luxor Pass you can go in any tombs that are open at no extra cost. The valley has been a tourist destination as far back as Roman times, as can be witnessed by some of the graffiti in some of the tombs, so you are in good company, but it was really just over two hundred years ago that excavation began.
You will begin your exploration of the valley with the most famous of all the tombs here, KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, followed by the most beautiful, that of Seti I.
The latest list of tombs open to the public are those of Rameses I, III, IV, VII, IX, the joint tomb of Rameses V and VI, Seti I & II, Twosret/Sethnakht, Merenptah, Siptah, Ay, Tutankhamun and the newly re-opened tomb of Thutmose IV. Not all the tombs are open all time.
After lunch we shall return to the Valley, stopping off at the house of the man who bought so much fame to not only the Valley of the Kings, but also ignited the flame of Egyptology that has captivated so many.
Welcome to the Howard Carter House. It is only by visiting Carter’s house that one can get some kind of idea of just how challenging living and working in Egypt a hundred years ago was. And of course, there is the replica of KV62, Tutankhamun’s tomb for those extra photo opportunities.
Finally you will head back up the Valley of the Kings road, but take the turn off into the Western Valley to see the tomb of Ay, the successor to Tutankhamun. This is where the famous Dr Zahi Hawass is currently looking for the tomb of Nefertiti.
Today begins with a drive to the northern end of the Theban necropolis and the mortuary temple of Rameses the Great’s father, Seti I.
This seldom visited temple is the first one of the 19th Dynasty as Seti’s father Rameses I didn’t have time to build one. Seti I dedicated the temple to his father and the god, Amun-Ra. It was meant to compliment his greatest monument, the Hypostyle Hall within the Karnak temple complex across the river.
A short way from here lie the tombs of the Dra Abu el-Naga, home to many discoveries in 2017. We will get to explore the tombs of Roy and Shuroy and whatever else is open.
Time for lunch and also the opportunity to visit the Temple of Merenptah. Intense restoration has restored some idea of the layout of this 19th Dynasty temple, and it was here that Petrie discovered what is known as the Israel stele. The small, but interesting museum shows just how much stone was looted from the temple of Amenhotep III.
Moving west we will start up the road leading to Hatshepsut’s Temple, stopping to take in the ongoing archaeological dig that is the Asasif. Here we will walk across the site to the tomb of Keruef, steward to Queen Tiye with its depictions of Amenhotep III at his jubilee festivals alongside his son Amenhotep IV. We can also visit the 26th Dynasty tomb of Pasaba.
In a straight line west from Karnak through the temple of Seti I lies the Holy of Holies, Djesr-Djseru, the magnificent mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, possibly Egypt’s most famous female pharaoh. Much restoration has been done, notably in recent years by the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. There is much to look at here, especially the descriptions of Hatshepsut’s voyage to the land of Punt.
After a rooftop breakfast, you will make your way to the East Bank, taking a boat north down the Nile towards one of the largest open-air temple complexes in the world, Karnak.
As you arrive at the landing and walk past Karnak plaza, we should see the mighty first pylon silhouetted by the morning sun. The approach is through a small avenue of ram-headed sphinxes to what is known as the 1st Pylon. This is the beginning of a walk back in time starting with Nectanebo of the Late Period all the way back to the Middle Kingdom of Senusret I.
There are so many aspects of Karnak that it is impossible to list them here. Wander through the forest of stone that is the Hypostyle Hall, stare up at the impossible heights of the Hatshepsut and Tuthmose obelisks, take a trip through the Botanical Garden of Tuthmose III and witness the Battle Reliefs of Seti I. Take a little used path to the Temple of Ptah with its awesome Sekhmet statue, or find the Temple of Osiris at the eastern end of the complex.
You can visit the Open-Air Museum and find the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut and the White Chapel of Senusret I.
From here the newly opened Avenue of the Sphinxes leads back to Luxor Temple.
After lunch, you can take the opportunity to explore the Luxor souk for those extra souvenirs you may want. You will be leaving Luxor this evening and heading back to Cairo.
An early breakfast in Cairo, then you will be driven to Egypt’s most famous landmark the Giza Plateau and the Pyramids.
As we approach Giza, we should catch our first glimpse of the pyramids between the buildings of southern Cairo. Having secured our entrance tickets, we will make our way up onto the plateau.
Nothing can prepare you for your first close up view of the pyramids, it is a scene that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It is almost inconceivable to be outside the Great Pyramid and not go inside, but be warned, it is a bit of a climb inside and surprisingly warm – highly recommended.
From the pyramids we will make our way down towards the Valley Temple and the Sphinx Temple. Entry to the Sphinx is down through the Valley Temple. This is a good chance to see close up the incredible precision of the stone cutting, before going through to the walkway that runs along one side of the Sphinx enclosure. From here you can see the Dream Stele of Tuthmose IV and get a good view of the enigmatic face of the Sphinx.
Leaving Giza, you will be driven to either the new Grand Egyptian Museum (if open), the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization or the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which used to hold some 120,000 artefacts, some of which have never been on display to the public before. Here you will find the golden jewellery of Tutankhamun including his famous Golden Mask, the Amarna room with its enigmatic statues of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten.
After the museum you will make your across town to Cairo International Airport in plenty of time for your flight home.