B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


Sailing up the Nile on a dahabiya

The coming back thus, after an excursion in the felucca,
is one of the many pleasant things that one has to remember of the Nile.
The sun has set; the afterglow has faded; the stars are coming out.
Leaning back with a satisfied sense of something seen or done,
one listens to the old dreamy chant of the rowers, and to the ripple under the keel.
The palms, meanwhile, glide past, and are seen in bronzed relief against the sky.
Presently the big boat, all glittering with lights, looms up out of the dusk.
A cheery voice hails from the poop. We glide under the bows.
Half a dozen smiling brown faces bid us welcome,
and as many pairs of brown hands are outstretched to help us up the side.
A savoury smell is wafted from the kitchen;
a pleasant vision of the dining room, with table spread and lamps ready lit,
flashes upon us through the open doorway.
We are at home once more.
Let us eat, drink, rest, and be merry;
for tomorrow the hard work of sight-seeing and sketching begins again.

Amelia Edwards, A Thousand Miles up the Nile

Sunset on the Nile


This four-week B.C. Archaeology Tour of Egypt is designed to evoke the journey of renown British traveller and author Amelia Edwards who sailed 'A Thousand Miles up the Nile' in a dahabiya in the 1870s. We will travel up the Nile for 3 weeks by dahabiya from Minya to Aswan. Our dahabiya is similar to a 19th Century vessel with 12 ensuite cabins, a lounge and open deck - we will sail when wind permits (the dahabiya has no motor) but will be pulled by a tug when needed. We will be met at the shore and transferred by bus to the archaeological sites but in some instances we will be able to walk. In Aswan we transfer to a luxury modern cruise boat for our 4-night journey on Lake Nasser from Aswan to finish our trip at Abu Simbel.

The program will begin in Cairo where we visit the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and see the pyramids and sphinx of Giza. The following day be travel by bus to Minya where we check into our dahabiya sailing boat. In the afternoon to see the beautiful painted tombs of the nobles at Beni Hasan.

The next day we begin our sailing journey on the Nile - we sail all day stopping at the anchorage near the site of Amarna. We then spend wo days exploring Amarna, the ancient city of Akhetaten. We see the royal tomb, the north and south painted tombs and the central city. In Malawi we see the newly restored museum and visit the temples and Christian basilica of Ashmunein and the tombs and catacombs of Tuna el Gebel.

We continue our journey south and see the recently restored painted tombs at Meir. The following day is devoted to sailing on the Nile with time to read and relax. At Sohag we explore two early medieval Coptic Christian Monasteries which were founded in the 5th Century. We also see the new Sohag Archaeological Museum and explore the antiquities of the site of Akhmim which includes a colossal statue of Meritamun, the daughter of Ramesses II.

We continue upstream to explore the impressive remains of the Temple of Sety I at Abydos. It preserves stunning examples of coloured wall reliefs. We also see the Osireion, a symbolic tomb of Osiris, and the Early Dynastic mudbrick enclosure known as the Shunet el Zebib.

Our journey on the dahabiya takes us upstream to Dendera where we see the Temple of the goddess Hathor. Recently restored, the original colour of the ceiling is spectacular. We then sail to Luxor and visit Luxor Temple. There is some free time to explore the markets of Luxor. The following day we visit the magnificent mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri. In the afternoon we see Howard Carterís House and explore the Valley of the Kings where the tombs can now be photographed.

The following day we explore more monuments on the westbank at Luxor. In the morning we see the Village of the Workmen at Deir el Medina and two of the painted tombs. In the afternoon we see some of the tombs of the Nobles and the beautiful Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II.

The next day we explore the stunning remains of Karnak Temple including the mighty Hypostyle Hall. After lunch we have a brief excursion south of Luxor to see the Temple of Montu at El Tod. Located in a small rural village it preserves a sense of a bygone era. We return to Luxor and in the evening see the sculpture in the Luxor Museum.

We then have a day of sailing and pass through the Esna Barrage (a lock on the Nile). In the evening we explore the old quarter of Esna with its traditional market. The following morning we visit the Roman temple of Khnum at Esna - this is still partially covered by the modern town. Our voyage then takes us southwards to El Kab where we explore the painted tombs of the New Kingdom nobles and see the ruins of the Temple of Nekhbet within the city walls.

At Edfu we take a horse drawn carriage to the Temple of Horus, the best preserved of the ancient Egyptian temples. We sail all afternoon and next morning visit the rock cut shrines at Gebel Silsila before continuing our journey upstream. We anchor near Kom Ombo and next day see the romantic ruins of the temple of Sobek and the newly opened crocodile mummy museum. Our journey on the dahabiya ends in Aswan where we enjoy visiting the granite quarries and see the stunning Temple of Isis on the island of Philae.

We then join our luxury cruise boat (with ensuite cabins) for our journey on Lake Nasser. We see the impressive ruins of the Roman Temple of Mandulis at Kalabsha and the rock cut temple of Ramesses II at Beit el Wali. Our cruise boat then heads south to Wadi es-Sebua where we explore the Ramesside temple. We also see the remains of the Temple of Thoth at Dakka and the small Roman temple at Maharakka. The next day we come to the end of our journey 'A Thousand Miles up the Nile' when we dock at the magnificent temples of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. We explore these masterpieces of ancient architecture and see the Sound and Light Show.

We then drive back to Aswan where we take a felucca ride around the scenic islands. We stop to explore Kitchener's Island with its beautiful palmery. We also visit St Simeon's Monastery located in the desert to the west of Aswan. We fly back to Cairo on the evening and the following day we explore the Cairo Museum (or the Great Egyptian Museum if open). In the afternoon there is time to explore some of the city's medieval Islamic heritage including free time in the Khan el Khalili markets for last minute shopping.

Day 1: Arrival in Cairo
You should arrive in Cairo and will be transferred to our hotel. Overnight Cairo.

Day 2: Saqqara - Giza
In the morning we visit Saqqara. We explore the Step Pyramid, the pyramid of Unas and the private tombs of Mereruka and Kagemni. We have lunch (a la carte) in a café. In the afternoon we visit the famous site of Giza. We explore the area around the Great Pyramid, see the boat museum containing the cedar boat of Khufu, the Valley Temple of Khafre and the Sphinx. Overnight Cairo.

Day 3: Drive to Minya - Beni Hasan
In the morning we leave our hotel in Cairo and drive to Minya where we join our dahabiya cruise boat. In the afternoon, after lunch on the boat, we visit the site of Beni Hasan. Here we explore the beautiful painted tombs of the 11th and 12th Dynasties. We celebrate the beginning of our cruise with champagne on the deck of the dahabiya at sunset.

The Pyramids of Giza
The tomb of Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan

Day 4: Sailing from Minya to Amarna - Amarna Museum
We start our dahabiya cruise. We spend the morning sailing through a beautiful landscape where the cliffs come close to the river. We enjoy observing life on the riverbank and the fishermen. In the evening we anchor at Amarna. We see the recently opened Archaeological Museum at Amarna which lies near the riverbank.

Day 5: Amarna (Day One)
This is the first of our two days at the ancient city of Akhetaten, modern Amarna. We start by looking at the Royal Tomb built to house the remains of King Akhenaten and his immediate family. The tomb is carved in an isolated desert valley east of the city. We then see monumental Boundary Stelae U, carved by Akhenaten to define the limits of his new city. After lunch on the dahabiya we explore the North Tombs with their stunning paintings and view across the desert plain.

The temple of the Aten at Amarna
One of the noble's tombs at Meir

Day 6: Amarna (Day Two)
Our second day at Amarna starts in the ruins of the North and Riverside Palaces and the houses in the North City. We then explore the ruins of the Central City including the temples to the Aten and the Royal Palace. After lunch on the dahabiya we see the South Tombs where we study the Hymn to the Aten in the tomb of Ay.

Day 7: Ashmunein - Tuna el-Gebel
In the morning we visit the recently restored Malawi Museum. It has an excellent collection of artefacts from the ancient site of Khmunu, modern Ashmunein. We also visit the ruins of the temple of Thoth and see the ruins of the Christian Cathedral of the 5th Century. We have a picnic lunch provided by the dahabiya and then explore Tuna el-Gebel including the famous Ptolemaic tomb of Petosiris. We also explore the underground galleries housing the mummified remains of the sacred ibises and baboons of Thoth.

Day 8: Meir
This morning we drive to Meir where visit the fascinating painted tombs of the 14th Upper Egyptian province (nome). The tombs are mainly of the 6th Dynasty but also include some of the 12th Dynasty. The most beautiful of the painted tombs are those of Ukh-hotep and Pepy-ankh. We return to the dahabiya and in the afternoon we sail to Asyut.

Day 9: Sailing - Sohag Museum
This morning we continue our journey sailing south on the dahabiya - we have the opportunity to enjoy the river bank and its never-ending fascination. There is free time to read, or listen to music. We stop along the way for lunch and anchor at Sohag. In the afternoon we visit the new Archaeological Museum in Sohag.

On the deck of the dahabiya
The White Monastery at Sohag

Day 10: Sohag Monasteries - Akhmim
In the morning we explore two Coptic Monasteries near Sohag. We first see Deir el-Abyad (the White Monastery) with its impressive pillared church dated to the 5th Century. Afterwards we explore Deir el-Ahmar (the Red Monastery) with its church of St Bishoi. In the afternoon we visit the ruins of ancient Panopolis (Akhmim), where we see the well preserved statue of Ramesses's daughter Bentanta.

Day 11: Sailing to Abydos
The day is spent sailing from Sohag to Baliana. We enjoy the superb landscapes of the river with their numerous islands and small villages. In the evening we anchor at the town of Baliana.

Day 12: Abydos
This morning we explore the site of Abydos. We start with the stunning memorial temple of Sety I at Abydos which preserves beautiful painted scenes. We also see the Osireion, a symbolic tomb for Osiris. After lunch we visit the Temple of Ramesses II and also see the 2nd Dynasty mudbrick enclosure known as the Shunet el Zabib. In the afternoon we pass through the Nag Hammadi barrage, a lock on the river Nile.

Exploring Abydos
The temple of Karnak at Luxor

Day 13: Dendera
We spend the day sailing up the Nile to Qena, passing through some stunning landscapes with towering cliffs. In the afternoon we see the spectacular Temple of Hathor at Dendera (capital of the 6th Upper Egyptian nome). Largely erected during the Ptolemaic Period it has recently been restored and this has exposed much of the original colour.

Day 14: Sailing to Luxor - Luxor Temple - Luxor markets
We sail most of the day, leaving our berth at Qena and heading for Luxor. The scenery is particularly beautiful here as we change direction for a more southerly course. In the afternoon we arrive in Luxor where we dock. We and explore the magnificent Luxor Temple and also go for a walk in the nearby Luxor markets.

Day 15: Deir el-Bahri - Carter's House - Valley of the Kings
In the morning we visit the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty, including an opportunity to view the recently reconstructed Third Terrace. We have lunch (a la carte) in a local cafe before seeing the house of Howard Carter. We then visit the Valley of the Kings. Here we see three of the royal tombs of the New Kingdom (photographs permitted with extra ticket).

Day 16: Deir el-Medina - Tombs of the Nobles - Ramesseum
In the morning we visit Deir el-Medina, the ancient village of the workmen who cut the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. We explore the village and the superb painted tombs of Senejdem and Inherkau. We have lunch (a la carte) in a local café. We then see a number of the other painted tombs in the so-called 'Valley of the Nobles' including the 18th Dynasty tomb of Ramose. The late afternoon is spent at the beautiful mortuary temple of Ramesses II, known today as the Ramesseum.

The temple at El Tod
The tomb of Pahery at El Kab

Day 17: Karnak - Tod - Luxor Museum
In the morning we visit the superb ruins of the temple of Amun-re at Karnak. These monuments were erected during the New Kingdom and are amongst the largest collection of religious buildings in the world. After lunch (a la carte) in a local café we see the temple of the war-god Montu at Tod. This monument is little visited and evokes an earlier age. In the evening we see the magnificent collection of sculpture in the Luxor Museum.

Day 18: Sailing to Esna - Esna markets
Today we continue sailing southwards, heading towards the Esna barrage. In the afternoon we pass through the Esna barrage and anchor near the town. We take a fascinating walk in the old quarter of Esna and see the markets.

Day 19: Esna
In the morning we see the Ptolemaic Temple of the Creator god Khnum at Esna, still partially buried in the town. After lunch we take a leisurely sail up river, sitting on the deck and watching the world go by. In the afternoon we drop anchor near the ruins of El-Kab.

Day 20: El Kab
In the morning we walk to the ruins of the ancient city of el Kab where we see the temples and the superb painted tombs of the 18th Dynasty. We return to the dahabiya and sail for the rest of the afternoon to the city of Edfu where we anchor for the night. We have dinner on the deck of the boat as we watch the sun go down over the Nile.

Day 21: Edfu
In the morning we explore the wonderful Ptolemaic Temple of Horus. Built for the leading state god of ancient Egypt, the temple of Edfu is one of the best preserved in the country. In the afternoon we continue our sailing, this time through the narrow part of the river where the sandstone cliffs come down to the river's edge. We dock at Gebel Silsila.

Exploring Edfu Temple
Anchored at Gebel Silsila

Day 22: Gebel Silsilah shrines
Today we explore the remarkable New Kingdom shrines at Gebel Silsila. This includes the Shrine of King Horemhab and the shrines of the 18th Dynasty officials who quarried stone in this region. The cruise on our dahabiya then continues up the Nile. There is free time to relax, read and watch the life on the river bank. We anchor on the shore to the north of Kom Ombo.

Day 23: Kom Ombo
This morning we sail a short distance to Kom Ombo where we explore the beautiful ruins of the temple of the crocodile god Sobek at Kom Ombo. The temple is late Ptolemaic and completed by the Roman Emperors. We also see the new Museum of the Crocodiles which displays finds from the area. Our cruise then continues upstream towards Aswan. We enjoy the life of the river and relaxing on our boat. We reach the outskirts of Aswan where we anchor for the night. This is our last night on the dahabiya.

Philae Temple
Elephantine Island at Aswan

Day 24: Granite quarries - Philae
After breakfast we leave the dahabiya and travel by bus into Aswan where we visit the famous granite quarries which still preserve an unfinished obelisk. We then take a motorboat to the temple of Isis on the island of Philae, one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt. Often called 'Pharaohs' Bed', Philae was the ultimate destination of Victorian era travelers who came down the Nile on a dahabiya. We join our Lake Nasser cruise boat where we have a late lunch. The afternoon is free for rest and relaxation.

Day 25: Kalabsha - Beit el Wali
In the morning we visit the impressive Roman Period temple of Kalabsha, dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis, which has been re-erected with a view over Lake Nasser. We also see the beautiful painted rock-cut temple of Ramesses II at Beit el-Wali. In the late morning we begin our cruise on Lake Nasser. Lake Nasser cruise boat.

Day 26: Wadi es-Sebua, Dakka, Amada, Derr
In the morning we visit the picturesque temple of Wadi es-Sebua, constructed by Ramesses the Great. The temple is situated in a dramatic desert landscape and was moved when the Aswan Dam was built. We take a camel ride across a vast desert landscape to see the ruins of the Temple of Dakka (Ptolemaic Period) and the Roman shrine of Maharakka. The afternoon is spent cruising through the scenic landscape. We visit the temples of Amada and Derr which preserves stunning painted scenes. Lake Nasser cruise boat.

Day 27: Abu Simbel
In the morning we arrive in Abu Simbel, the remarkable Nubian temples of Ramesses II and his wife Nefertari which were carved into the native rock. These spectacular temples were moved during the building of the High Dam. In the evening we see the Sound and Light Show at Abu Simbel. Lake Nasser Cruise boat.

The temple of Wadi Es-Sebua
Stunning Abu Simbel

Day 28: Aswan - Kitchener's Island - St Simeon Monastery
In the morning we drive across the desert to Aswan. We spend the afternoon on a felucca sailboat exploring the beautiful islands of Aswan. This includes a stop to visit the Botanical gardens on Kitchener's Island. We also ride a camel (or take a short walk) to the 10th Century Monastery of St Simeon located in the desert west of Aswan. In the evening we fly to Cairo. Overnight Cairo.

Day 29: Cairo Museum - Islamic Cairo - Khan el Khalili markets
In the morning we visit the Cairo Museum which houses some of the great masterpieces of Egyptian archaeology. After lunch (a la carte) in a café we visit the Old City of Cairo and see the awe inspiring buildings of the medieval Islamic Period. A highlight is the monumental 19th Century Mosque of Mohamed Ali in the Citadel of Saladin and the impressive 14th Century Mosque of Sultan Hassan. There is free time in the Khan el-Khalili markets for last minute shopping. Overnight Cairo.

Day 30: Depart Cairo
We are transferred to Cairo International Airport for our departure.

* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.


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