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 by dahabiya from Minya to Aswan. Our dahabiya is a replica of a 19th Century vessel with 9 ensuite cabins, a lounge and open deck - we will sail when wind permits (the dahabiya has no motor but is accompanied by a tug if needed). As needed we will be met at the shore and transferred by bus to the archaeological sites but in many instances we will be able to walk. In Aswan we transfer to a luxury modern cruise boat for our journey on Lake Nasser from Aswan to finish our trip at Abu Simbel.

The program will begin in Cairo where we will visit the newly opened Great Egyptian Museum. A state of the art modern museum that showcases the archaeology of ancient Egypt. We then leave Cairo and head to Dahshur to see the two pyramids of King Sneferu. After lunch we visit the ruined pyramid of Huni at Meydum before continuing to Minya where we check into our dahabiya sailing boat.

Our first day sailing will be south from Minya, stopping in the afternoon to visit the renown painted tombs of the nobles at Beni Hasan. The next day we continue sailing and arrive at Malawi where we see the newly restored museum and visit the temples of Ashmunein and tombs of Tuna el Gebel. We then cross the river to visit the ruins of the classical city of Antinoopolis, the city founded the Roman Emperor Hadrian to commemorate the death of his companion Antinous. We also see the remains of the Al Adhra Monastery.

The next day we explore the painted tombs of the 12th Dynasty nomarchs at Deir el Bersha. We sail upstream in the dahabiya and anchor overnight near Amarna. We explore this fascinating site, the ancient capital of King Akhenaten, including the North painted tombs. We continue our journey south and see the recently opened 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 and continuously occupied and developed since. The following day we 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.

Our journey 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 the site of Medamud where we explore the ruins of the Ptolemaic temple of the war god Montu. We arrive in Luxor and visit Luxor Temple. There is some free time to explore the markets of Luxor before we see the sculptures in the Luxor Museum. The following day as visit the magnificent mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri. In the afternoon we explore the Valley of the Kings where the tombs can now be photographed. We also make a brief visit to the rarely visited Temple of Isis at Deir el Shelwit.

The next day we leave Luxor and sail to El Tod where we visit the temple of the war god Montu. Located in a small rural village it preserves a sense of a bygone era. We continue sailing in the afternoon and pass through the Esna lock. 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 overnight at 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 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 fly back to Cairo on the morning of the following day and our tour ends with an exploration of some of the city's medieval Islamic heritage. There is free time in the afternoon in the Khan el Khalili markets for last minute shopping.

Day 1: Arrival in Cairo
Our Emirates flight leaves Australia in the morning and there is a short stopover in Dubai. We arrive in Cairo on the evening of the same day and head to our hotel. Overnight Cairo.

Day 2: Great Egyptian Museum
The day is set aside to explore the newly opened Great Egyptian Museum. Constructed near the Giza pyramids, the new building houses the highlights of Egyptian archaeology. Overnight Cairo.

Day 3: Dahshur - Meydum - drive to Minya
In the morning we leave our hotel in Cairo and visit the site of Dahshur. Here we explore the two pyramids of King Sneferu and have the option of entering the northern Red Pyramid. We continue our journey to Meydum, the spectacular collapsed pyramid of King Huni. In the afternoon we continue our drive south to Minya where we join our dahabiya.

The Bent Pyramid at Dahshur
The tomb of Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan

Day 4: Beni Hasan tombs
We begin our dahabiya cruise. We spend the morning sailing and in the afternoon we visit 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.

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

Day 6: Sheikh Ibada (Antinoopolis)
Today we visit the little visited archaeological site of Antinoopolis, the city founded in AD 130 by Hadrian to commemorate his love Antinous. It contains the shattered remains of a classical city. We also see the remains of the nearby Al Adhra Monastery.

Day 7: Deir el Bersha
In the morning we see the painted tomb chapels at el Bersha. The main group of tombs are dated to the 12th Dynasty and include the famous tomb of Dhutihotep II showing the transport of a statue. In the afternoon we sail southwards.

Day 8: Amarna
Today we explore the principle ruins of Tell el-Amarna, the ancient capital of King Akhenaten. We explore the painted North Tombs belonging to the chief nobles of the reign. We also visit the royal tomb located in the desert valley behind the city and see the Aten Temple. In the afternoon we continue sailing.

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

Day 9: Meir
This morning we visit the fascinating painted tombs of Meir, the main necropolis of the 14th Upper Egyptian province (nome). The tombs are mainly of the 6th Dynasty but also include some of the 12th Dynasty e.g. the beautiful tomb of Ukh-hotep.

Day 10: Sailing
The day is a rest day set aside for sailing on the dahabiya. We continue our journey south and 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.

Sailing on the Nile
The White Monastery at Sohag

Day 11: Sohag Monasteries
Today we explore two Coptic Monasteries near Sohag. We see Deir el-Abyad (the White Monastery) with its impressive pillared church and other buildings dated from the 5th Century. In the afternoon we explore Deir el-Ahmar (the Red Monastery) with its church of St Bishoi.

Day 12: Akhmim
This day is set aside to visit the ruins of ancient Panopolis (Akhmim), the capital of the 9th Upper Egyptian nome, which was sacred to the god Min. We see the Ramesside Temple which retains a well preserved statue of Ramesses's daughter Meritamun. In the afternoon we sailing southwards.

Day 13: 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, and take a short walk across the desert to the Temple of Ramesses II. After lunch we continue our journey south, passing through the Nag Hammadi barrage.

Exploring Abydos
The temple of Montu at Medamud

Day 14: Dendera
We continue our sailing up the Nile. In the afternoon we stop to 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 15: Medamud
We sail most of the day, passing the important modern town of Qena. The scenery is particularly beautiful here as we change direction for a more southerly course. In the afternoon we stop to visit the ruins of the temple of the falcon-headed war god Montu at Medamud. The extant remains are largely Ptolemaic and Roman in date and include an avenue of sphinxes and some well-preserved scenes.

Day 16: Luxor Temple - afternoon in the markets - Luxor Museum
In the morning we visit Luxor Temple, located in the heart of the modern city. We explore this beautiful monument. In the afternoon there is free time to relax or explore the markets of Luxor. In the evening we visit the fascinating Luxor Museum, which contains magnificent objects discovered in the local area, including objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Day 17: Deir el-Bahri - Valley of the Kings - Deir el Shelwit
In the morning we visit the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty, including an opportunity to view the newly reconstructed Third Terrace. We have lunch in a local cafe before travelling by bus to the Valley of the Kings. Here we see three of the royal tombs of the New Kingdom (recently available to photograph). In the afternoon we visit the little-known Roman temple of Isis at Deir el Shelwit which has recently been restored.

Day 18: Tod
Today we explore the beautiful Temple of the falcon-headed god Montu at Tod. Dating largely to the Ptolemaic Period it preserves many interesting scenes of the major deities. We continue sailing south and in the evening pass through the Esna barrage.

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.

The temple at El Tod
The tomb of Pahery at 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 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 sail this time through the narrow part of the river where the sandstone cliffs come down to the river's edge.

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 Speos 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.

Day 23: Kom Ombo
This morning 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.

Philae Temple
Elephantine Island at Aswan

Day 24: Aswan - Philae
Our dahabiya cruise comes to an end in Aswan. We travel by the bus into town and visit 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. There is some free time in Aswan to explore the local markets. We join our cruiseboat on Lake Nasser.

Day 25: Kalabsha - Beit el Wali
In the morning we see the beautiful painted rock-cut temple of Ramesses II at Beit el-Wali, and also explore the impressive Roman Period temple of Kalabsha, dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis, which has been re-erected with a view over Lake Nasser. The cruise boat sails in the afternoon.

The temple of Wadi Es-Sebua
Stunning Abu Simbel

Day 26: Wadi es-Sebua, Dakka, Maharakka
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 a scenic landscape. Later we explore the romantic desert Temples of Amada (18th Dynasty) and Derr (Ramesses the Great).

Day 27: Abu Simbel
In the morning we travel to Qasr Ibrim Island which we view from the boat. In the afternoon 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. We have plenty of time to wander around the temples - in the evening we see the 'Sound and Light Show'.

Day 28: Fly to Cairo - Islamic Cairo
In the morning we fly to Cairo. In the afternoon we tour the Old City of Cairo and see the awe-inspiring buildings of the Islamic Period. A high-light is the monumental 19th Century Mosque of Mohamed Ali in the Citadel of Saladin and we also see the awe-inspiring 14th Century Mosque of Sultan Hassan. The day ends in the Khan el-Khalili markets with time set aside for shopping. Overnight Cairo.

Day 29: Depart Cairo early afternoon
The morning is at leisure to relax and finish packing. We depart Cairo International Airport in the early evening on Emirates Airways for our flight to Australia with a stopover in Dubai.

Day 30: Arrive in Australia
We arrive into Australia in the evening.

* 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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