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 three-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 7 nights by dahabiya from Luxor 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 most 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 spend a day in the newly opened Grand Egyptian Museum. We then explore the pyramids and sphinx of Giza, before flying to Luxor. In Luxor we visit the impressive Luxor Temple which has recently been cleaned and now reveals rich coloured walls. There is then some free time to explore the markets of Luxor and have afternoon tea in the Winter Palace if desired.

The following day we visit the magnificent mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri. In the afternoon we see Howard Carter's House and explore the Valley of the Kings where the tombs can now be photographed. We then explore the stunning remains of Karnak Temple including the mighty Hypostyle Hall. In the afternoon we return to Luxor and in the evening see the magnificent sculptures in the Luxor Museum. 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 following day we head north of Luxor by bus to see the stunning temple of Sety I at Abydos. This contains some of the best preserved art of the New Kingdom. In the afternoon we head to Dendera to see the Temple of Hathor. Recently restored, the original colours are now clearly visible. Our final day in Luxor is spent exploring the impressive Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu. One of the last of these mortuary complexes, it is also the best preserved. In the afternoon we explore the Valley of the Queens, with the option of paying for a separate ticket to the restored tomb of Queen Nefertari.

We then join our dahabiya (traditonal sailing boat with en suite cabins) which will be our home for a week. We start with a day of sailing southwards on the Nile, passing through the Esna Barrage (a lock on the Nile) during the evening. In the morning we visit the Roman temple of Khnum at Esna - this is still partially covered by the modern town. We also explore the old quarter of Esna with its traditional market. 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 in the evening and the following day we explore some of the city's medieval Islamic heritage with free time in the Khan el Khalili markets for last minute shopping.

Day 1: Arrive Cairo
Participants should arrive in Cairo - we will gather for dinner at 7pm. Overnight Cairo.

Day 2: Memphis - Saqqara Pyramids and tombs
Today we visit the ruins of Memphis where we see the colossal statue of Ramesses the Great in the local museum. We then visit Saqqara where we see the remarkable 3rd Dynasty Step Pyramid of King Djoser. We also explore the well preserved Old Kingdom mastaba tombs of Mereruka and Kagemni, and the 6th Dynasty Pyramid of King Tety. In the afternoon there is time to rest and relax. Overnight Cairo.

The Pyramids of Giza
The Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri

Day 3: Grand Egyptian Museum
Today we visit the recently opened Grand Egyptian Museum. This new museum contains the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts in the world which have been newly curated to show them off to best effect. We explore the highlights of Egyptian sculpture, and the treasures of Tutankhamun, with some free time in the afternoon to wander in the galleries. Overnight Cairo.

Day 4: Giza pyramids
In the morning we visit Giza where we see the Pyramids of the 4th Dynasty. We see the remarkable cedar boat of Khufu and then visit the pyramid of Khafre. We then explore Khafre's impressive Valley Temple and see the Sphinx. In the afternoon we fly to Luxor and check into our hotel. Overnight Luxor.

Day 5: Luxor Temple - Luxor markets - free time
In the morning we visit Luxor Temple, located in the heart of the modern city. We explore this very photogenic monument including Ramesses II's dramatic scenes of the Battle of Kadesh on the front pylons. In the afternoon there is free time to relax or explore the markets of Luxor. Overnight Luxor.

Day 6: Deir el-Bahri - Carter's House - Valley of the Kings
In the morning visit the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty, including an opportunity to view the newly reconstructed Third Terrace. We then visit Howard Carter's House. Now a memorial to Carter's life, we see the fascinating replica of Tutankhamun's tomb. After lunch we head to the Valley of the Kings where we see three of the royal tombs of the New Kingdom (the real Tomb of Tutankhamun is an optional extra). Overnight Luxor.

Day 7: Karnak Temple - Luxor Museum
The morning is set aside to explore the ruins of the Temple of Karnak. We visit the forecourt and Hypostyle Hall, before wandering around the impressive shrine. We explore see the festival hall of Tuthmosis III, and the small Temple of Ptah. In the afternoon we visit the Luxor Museum, which contains magnificent objects discovered in the local area, including objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun. A highlight is the cache of statues discovered in Luxor Temple. Overnight Luxor.

The splendour of the Ramesseum
The avenue of sphinxes at Luxor Temple

Day 8: 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 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 afternoon is spent at the impressive mortuary temple of Ramesses II, known today as the Ramesseum. Overnight Luxor.

Day 9: Abydos - Dendera
In the morning we drive north of Luxor to see the superb temple of Sety I at Abydos. This contains some of the finest art of the New Kingdom and is remarkably well preserved. After lunch we head to Dendera to see the Ptolemaic temple of Hathor. Built by Ptolemy XII, it has recently undergone a remarkable process of cleaning which has revealed the rich decoration of the building. Overnight Luxor.

Day 10: Medinet Habu - Valley of the Queens
In the morning we see the monumental mortuary temple of Ramesses III known today as Medinet Habu. This is the best preserved of the royal funerary temples and contains superb painted scenes from the 20th Dynasty. We also see the Valley of the Queens which contains painted tombs of the Ramesside Period. There is some free time in the afternoon for last minute shopping in the Luxor markets. We join our luxury dahabiya sailboat.

Day 11: Sailing to Esna - Esna markets
Today we start our dahabiya sailboat up the Nile. We sail 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. Overnight dahabiya.

Day 12: 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. Overnight dahabiya.

Day 13: 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. Overnight dahabiya.

Exploring Edfu Temple
Anchored at Gebel Silsila

Day 14: 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. Overnight dahabiya.

Day 15: 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. Overnight dahabiya.

Day 16: 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. Overnight dahabiya.

Day 17: Aswan 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. We join our Lake Nasser cruise boat where we have a late lunch. The afternoon is free for rest and relaxation. Overnight cruise boat.

Day 18: 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. Overnight cruise boat.

Day 19: 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. Overnight cruise boat.

Philae Temple
Elephantine Island at Aswan

Day 20: 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. Overnight Cruise boat.

Day 21: 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 22: Islamic Cairo - Khan el Khalili markets
In the morning 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 some free time in the Khan el-Khalili markets for last minute shopping. Overnight Cairo.

Day 23: Depart Cairo

* 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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