B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


The January-February 2004 tour of Egypt was the second running of the exciting new Amarna program and included a number of people who had been to Egypt with the Company before. The group was very enthusiastic and had a deep interest in the sites visited. The tour group consisted of 19 participants: Janine Blagg, John Burke, Morel Da Ros, Steven Darlow, Shirallee Gillies, Vesna James, Jeremy Kam, Shyam Lee-Joe, Alan and Lois Little, Margaret Luckman, Christine Mair, Caroline Riddell, Philippa Shaw, Heidi Sinclair, Bob Snow, Matt Spiers, Anne Spurway and Yvonne Stuckey. The program was led by Michael Birrell with assistance from Amr Mohamed.

The tour group spent the first few days in Cairo staying once again at the Pearl Hotel in Maadi. We visited Saqqara where we had a chance to spend a while in the tomb of Horemhab, and visited the tombs near the Pyramid of Tety where we met up with the team from Macquarie University. At Giza quite a few members of the group went for a horse or camel ride to explore the area around the Great Pyramid. Our stay in Cairo happened to coincide with the end of the Muslim feast of Ramadan which certainly added local colour to our experience.

Our visit to the Fayyum Oasis included a morning at the Roman ruins of Karanis where we stopped to see the small but beautiful collection of objects in the Graeco-Roman Museum. Lunch was at the Auberge du Lac, the old hunting lodge of King Farouk. One of the high-lights of the program was climbing to the top of the Pyramid of King Senwosret I at Lisht to see the sunset over the Western Desert.

The January 2004 tour group at Amarna. © Michael Birrell

Five days were then spent in Minya, staying at the comfortable Cleopatra Hotel. We days were spent exploring the ruins and tombs of Amarna, with everyone enjoying the descent into the dark Royal Tomb lit only by torch light. Restrictions on photography in the private tombs provided plenty of opportunities for creative photography. We also visited the ruins of Ashmunein and Tuna el-Gebel, where we read the hymn to the Aten.

In Luxor we stayed at the Luxor Hotel, home to Howard Carter during his stays in the early 20th Century. This was our base for a week of exploration of the superb local monuments. We visited the east and west banks, which included exploration of the ruins of Malkata, palace of King Amenhotep III. A day spent in the temple of Karnak gave us the chance to see the splendour of this ancient site - most tour groups only stay for 40 minutes!

A number of day trips were undertaken from Luxor. We went north to see the painted temples of Sety I and Ramesses II at Abydos and also journeyed south to see the temple of Amenhotep III, set in a dramatic desert landscape.

In Cairo we explored the markets of the Khan el-Khalili and re-visited the Cairo Museum to study the New Kingdom galleries. Our end of tour dinner in Maadi was outrageous and I'm sure the event still has the local population talking.

Michael Birrell

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