OASES OF THE WESTERN DESERT
OASES OF THE WESTERN DESERT
Palm gardens in Bahariya Oasis
"The world then is a grey void and only the morning fire breaks the cold north breeze. Our eyes instinctively turn to the East where the sun is rising. If there are no clouds, there comes a yellowish tinge in the sky that throws a curious elusive, elongated shadow behind camels and men, so faint that you can scarcely call it a shadow at all. Then comes a reddish tinge that gives warmth. It is just between dawnbreak and sunrise that there is colour in the desert. Once the sun is risen there is nothing but the endless stretch of blue and yellow, and the blue fades and fades until by midday the sky is almost wrung dry of colour. Morning brings new vitality; night brings peace and serenity. These are the hours wherein one learns the desert's charm".
Ahmed Hassanein Bey, from 'The Lost Oases'.
This tour explores the antiquities and natural wonders of the Oases of the Western Desert of Egypt. We start our trip at the Cairo Museum and then travel to Alexandria where we explore the modern Library and the Antiquities Museum. The following day we visit the Kom es-Shuqqafa Necropolis with its famous Roman sculpture. We also visit the beautiful mediaeval Fort Qaitbey, built on the ruins of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
We next head west along the north coast of Egypt, stopping at El Alamein where we see the WWII Battle Museum and Cemetery. From here we head to Siwa Oasis, famous for its Oracle temple visited by Alexander the Great. We explore the 13th century fortress of Shali and the ruins of Aghurmi village which has spectacular views over the Oasis. We also spend a day exploring the natural beauty of the Great Sand Sea with its enormous dunes and have a swim in the thermal pools at Bir Wahed.
We head east to Bahariya Oasis across the open desert, stopping at Nuwamisa Oasis. In Bahariya we see the recently discovered 'Golden Mummies' which are now on public display. We see Late Period painted tombs, the Temple of Alexander and relax in thermal hot springs. Our journey then takes us south through the spectacular White Desert to Farafra Oasis. We visit the local hot springs and wander in beautiful palm gardens.
In Dakhleh Oasis we explore the fascinating mediaeval town of Qasr, set in a magnificent desert landscape. We explore the ruins of of Deir el-Haggar Temple built which was built by the Roman Emperor Nero. We also visit Balat where we see Old Kingdom mastaba tombs with painted tomb chambers and a mediaeval town. In Kharga Oasis we see the picturesque Late Period and Roman Temples of Hibis, Nadura, Qasr el-Ghueita and Qasr Dush. We spend a free day in Luxor before the tour ends in Cairo with a visit to the Khan el Khalili markets.
The ruins of Aghurmi, Siwa Oasis
Day 1: Depart Australia - arrive Cairo
Our flight on Singapore Airlines leaves Australia in the afternoon with a short stop over (1-2 hours) in Singapore.
Day 2: Morning at leisure - Cairo Museum
We arrive into Cairo in the early morning. We are met by our bus and head to our hotel in the downtown area of the city. There is time to rest and freshen up after the flight. We have some lunch and then visit the superb Cairo Museum with its world famous collection of artefacts. We will explore the collection looking at artefacts from the Oases and later part of Egyptian history. There is also free time to explore the collection.
Day 3: Bus to Alexandria - Museum of Alexandria - Library
In the morning we travel north by bus to Alexandria. After checking into our hotel and having some lunch we visit the new Museum of Alexandria, home to a fascinating collection of sculpture from the later periods of Egyptian history. Finds include artefacts from the harbour and lighthouse. In the late afternoon we see the new Library, a wonder of 21st Century architecture, which houses a fascinating collection of artefacts from the site.
The Shali, Siwa Oasis
Day 4: Kom es-Shuqqafa Catacombs - Roman Theatre - Fort Qaitbey
The morning is spent exploring the remarkable remains of the Kom es-Shuqqafa Necropolis which was built in the Roman Period. The tombs are grouped around a central rotunda and are famous for their relief sculpture which includes the funerary god Anubis dressed as a Roman Centurion. In the afternoon we see the Kom ed-Dikka Roman Theatre and the evocative Fort Qaitbey, built upon the ruins of the famous lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Day 5: Taposiris Magna - El Alamein - bus to Siwa Oasis
In the morning we head west by bus along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. We stop to see the Ptolemaic Temple of Osiris at Taposiris Magna and the World War II battle site of El Alamein. Here we see the fascinating War Museum with its memorabilia of the famous battle and walk through the well maintained Commonwealth War Cemetery. In the afternoon we continue our journey along the coast before heading inland towards the Sahara. We arrive at our hotel in Siwa Oasis in the late afternoon.
Day 6: Siwa Old City - Gebel Mawta tombs - Aghurmi Oracle Temple
We spend the early part of the day exploring the picturesque remains of the 13th Century mudbrick fortress of Shali with its labyrinth of multi-storey buildings. We then see the Gebel Mawta 'Hill of the Dead', a cemetery with painted tombs. After lunch we see the romantic remains of the settlement of Aghurmi where Alexander the Great consulted the famous Oracle of Amun. There are spectacular views of the Oasis in every direction.
Day 7: Great Sand Sea - Bir Wahed hot springs
Today is set aside to explore the superb natural wonders of the Siwa region. We head out into the deep desert west of the Oasis to explore the dramatic Great Sand Sea where the sand dunes spread for hundreds of kilometres. We see Pleistocene fossils and the rare remains of meteorites on the way. In the late afternoon we visit Bir Wahed for a hot spa bath and explore this picturesque desert landscape in the local vicinity.
The Great Sand Sea, Siwa
Day 8: Desert journey to Bahariya Oasis
We leave Siwa Oasis heading east across the desert to Bahariya Oasis. We stop briefly to see the dramatic landscape of Areg Oasis and have Bedouin tea at the pools of Nuwamisa Oasis, located on the edge of the Great Sand Sea. The trip takes us through dramatic desert landscapes on our 340 km trip to Bahariya Oasis. In the evening we check into our hotel in Bawiti, the main town of the oasis.
Day 9: Temple of Alexander - Museum - Tombs - hot springs
The day is set aside to explore some of the cultural heritage of Bahariya Oasis. We have a look at the remains of the small Temple of Alexander and the little 26th Dynasty Chapels of Ain el-Muftella. In the afternoon we visit the local Museum which houses the famous 'Golden Mummies' which were discovered in the 1990's. We also see the interesting painted tombs of Zed-amun-ef-ankh and Bannentiu. In the late afternoon there is time to rest and relax as we visit to the Bir el-Ghaba hot springs on the edge of the desert.
Day 10: Morning free - Bus south to Farafra - White Desert
In the morning there is free time to relax or go for a walk through the Oasis palm gardens. Our journey in the afternoon takes us 90km south of Bahariya Oasis to Farafra Oasis. En route we stop to see the stunning White Desert. This is an otherworldly region of wind-carved white rock formations. This forms a spectacular back drop as the sun sets when the landscape takes on a fantastic eerie appearance. Participants have the option of camping in the desert or staying in a hotel in Farafra.
Day 11: Farafra Oasis - Bir Sitta hot springs
We spend the day exploring the natural beauty of Farafra Oasis and the surrounding desert. We take a walk in some of the nearby palm gardens and visit a pleasant hot spring at Bir Sitta. There is a chance to visit the Badr Museum gallery, go for a walk, or relax.
Day 12: Bus to Dakhleh Oasis - Qasr Old City
We travel by bus to Dakhleh Oasis, a distance of 250km. The road passes through scenic desert country with dramatic landscapes and cliffs as we enter the Oasis. We have some lunch at Qasr and explore the Old Mediaeval City which still preserves something of the old way of life once common in the desert. You will have an opportunity to explore its winding narrow streets and discovering houses with carved wooden doors. The escarpment behind the city is spectacular! In the evening we check into our hotel in Mut.
The White Desert, Farafra Oasis
Deir el Hagar Temple, Dakhleh
Day 13: Mut - Deir el-Haggar - Free Time
The morning is spent walking around the town of Mut and its surrounds. This includes the Old Citadel with its ruined houses and the small Ethnographic Museum. After lunch we visit the picturesque ruins of the Roman temple of Deir el-Haggar, built by the Roman Emperor Nero, and see some more of the stunning desert lndscapes. In the afternoon there is time for a relaxing hot spa in the local sulphur springs.
Day 14: Balat - Bashendi - bus to Kharga Oasis
We check out of our hotel and head east to the unspoiled village of Balat which retains much of its medieval character. From here we visit the fascinating mastaba tombs of the Old Kingdom at Qilat ed-Dabba. We next stop at the village of Bashendi where we see the tomb of a local Muslim Saint and the Roman Tomb of Kitnes. In the afternoon we head 190km east to Kharga Oasis where we check into our hotel.
Day 15: Kharga Archaeological Museum - free afternoon
In the morning we visit the well laid out Archaeological Museum which preserves artefacts from all of the Oases of the western desert. Highlights include the painted funerary goods found at Ismant el-Kharab in Dakhleh. The afternoon is set aside to relax or for exploration of Kharga Oasis. There are numerous possibilities to choose from including: swimming in the hotel pool, shopping in the main town for locally made handy crafts, wandering around old Kharga town or arranging an additional trip to the desert.
Balat streetscape, Dakhleh Oasis
Hibis Temple, Kharga Oasis
Day 16: Hibis Temple - Nadura - Bagawat - hot spa bath
Today we explore some of the wonderful cultural heritage of Kharga Oasis. In the morning we see the superb Persian Period Temple of Amun at Hibis, set amongst a grove of palms. We then have a brief look at the Roman Temple of Nadura located on a hill to the north of the town. In the afternoon, after lunch,there is time to explore the Christian tombs at el-Bagawat. Dating from the 4th Century AD, there are 263 mudbrick tombs, many of which contain painting of Biblical themes. In the afternoon we relax in a hot spa bath.
Day 17: Qasr el-Ghueita - Qasr ez-Zayyan - Qasr el-Dush
Today we explore some of the wonderful antiquities along the Darb el-Arba'en, the '40 Day Track' which leads down into the Sudan. In the morning we see the superb Late Period and Roman temple of Qasr el-Ghueita which is located in an impressive fortress. Nearby is the picturesque Qasr ez-Zayyan Temple which lies half buried in sand. In the afternoon we head to the southern end of Kharga Oasis. Here we see the stark landscape of the Sahara and the romantic ruins of Qasr el-Dush, a frontier fort and temple at the southern frontier of the Roman Empire.
Day 18: Bus to Luxor - Luxor Temple
We travel out of the Western Desert as we climb up onto the Nile escarpment and head east across the open desert to Luxor. The landscape includes stark mountain plateaus and the broad sweep of the desert. In the afternoon we arrive in Luxor and check into our hotel. After lunch we visit Luxor Temple to see the superb sculpture and relief as the sun goes down.
Day 19: Free morning in Luxor - fly to Cairo - Khan el-Khalili markets
The morning is free for exploration in Luxor. There are countless opportunities to keep one occupied. You could visit Karnak Temple, see the Temple of Deir el-Bahri, visit the Valley of the Kings, or go for a felucca ride on the Nile. In the afternoon you catch your flight to Cairo. There is time for shopping in the Khan el-Khalili markets.
Day 20: Morning rest - afternoon flight to Australia
In the morning there is some free time to relax and finish packing. We then head to Cairo International Airport for our flight to Australia which leaves Cairo in the early afternoon. There is a brief stop-over in Singapore en route.
Day 21 Arrive in Australia
Arrive back in Australia in the late afternoon.
* 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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