B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


The January 2006 tour of Egypt had as its theme Ramesses the Great and we mainly looked at monuments of the 19th and 20th Dynasties (1300-1100 BC). The group consisted of 17 enthusiastic participants which included: Alex Bremner, Ann and Ian Brown, Michael and Margaret Coady, Daniel Glancy, David Keys and Janet Prott-Keys, Ken Lee, Antony Mawer, Lesley Pinnington, Heidi Sinclair, Viriginia Waite, Katherine, Victor and Carol Winterfeldt and Carolyne Zietsch, The tour was led by Dr Michael Birrell who was assisted by Amr Mohamed.

Our first day was spent at the Cairo Museum having a relaxed wander around the collection and trying to recover from our flight from Australia. The following day we headed off to Saqqara to see the Step Pyramid. We made a valiant attempt to view the tomb of Horemhab near the Unas Causeway (not normally open to tourists) but were chased away by police on camels! That certainly made for an interesting start to the tour!

The following day we headed north from Cairo to visit the sites of Bubastis and Tanis, Delta cities that were homes to the kings of the Third Intermediate Period. We enjoyed walking around the ruins of the site of Tanis where and were treated to a recreation of a scene from the Indiana Jones film 'Raiders of the Lost Arc' - a beam of sunlight showed us the location of the Well of Souls where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden!

The following day we went to Giza - quite a few members of the group disappeared into the desert on camels perhaps never to be seen again. The following day we headed south to Luxor by plane and checked into our comfy 3-star hotel the Nile Valley Hotel. Some of us had lunch at the Winter Palace, the grand old hotel of Luxor, and pretended we were staying there. One evening we went for a relaxing Felucca ride on the Nile to watch the sunset and the ever changing activities on the River.

The week we spent in Luxor was full of 'Wonderful Things'. We visited the Valley of the Kings to see three royal tombs and also stopped in to see the very fine temple of Sety I. The picturesque Ramesseum, mortuary temple of Ramesses II and the workers village at Deir el-Medina were popular excursions. A visit to Luxor Temple in perfect winter sunshine was by consensus one of the highlights.

Exploring the temple of Luxor

The following day we crossed the river on the ferry and then caught the bus north to see the ruins of the temple of Sety I at Abydos. Everyone enjoyed the superb wall paintings in the main temple and then we crossed the desert to have a quick look at the equally fine temple of Ramesses II. On the way back to Luxor we stopped at Dendera to wander in awe at the colossal pronaos of the Temple of Hathor. The following day we spent most of the day wandering around the dramatic ruins of Karnak, home to the cult of Amun-Re. No one can see this temple and not be impressed by the enormous dimensions of the hypostyle hall, or be entranced by the dimly lit statue of Hathor in the Temple of Ptah. That evening we took a carriage ride through the streets of Luxor to a new restaurant called the Sofra Restaurant, and enjoyed a very pleasant meal (even if there was no alcohol available!). The carriage drivers elected to have a race down the street on our way back to our hotel which left our hearts racing as we hung on for dear life. Our final day in Luxor was spent at Medinet Habu, one of the most beautiful places in Egypt (and my personal favourite!). We had frequently had lunch opposite the temple while exploring the West Bank at Luxor and now finally we went inside to see the superb wall paintings. Next we headed to the Valley of the Queens to see three of the spectacularly panted royal tombs.

The following day we went by bus to Aswan, stopping along the way to see the Temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo. This entailed an early start but we all enjoyed the sight seeing and had late lunch in Aswan over looking the Nile while watching the feluccas sail by. In Aswan we stayed at the Marhaba Hotel at the northern end of the city - it has a beautiful view across the river to the tombs of the Nobles, and a pleasant roof terrace. The sunsets were particularly spectacular perhaps aided by the consumption of a number of lime vodkas and G&T's.

In Aswan we visited the Island of Philae to see the remarkable Temple of Isis. En route some members of the group were overwhelmed by the shopping opportunities and had to be reminded that the temple was hoving into view! We also visited the granite quarries and went to the Nubia Museum. A pleasant afternoon was spent at the Nubia House Café with spectacular views over the river as the sun went down over the First Cataract. Our last day in Aswan entailed climbing the rock steps to the Nobles Tombs - the stairs definitely reminded some of us that we had been eating far too much baklava! A quiet afternoon felucca ride and lunch on an island was much appreciated.

Afternoon tea at the Nubia House restaurant - First Cataract at Aswan

The following day we flew down to Abu Simbel and checked into our cruise boat - the Kasr Ibrim. We saw the rock-temples and then saw the 'sound and light' show which was good fun. The next few days were spent travelling on Lake Nasser - the weather was un-seasonably overcast and cool but we enjoyed our visits to the temples on our way back to Aswan. A camel ride at Wadi es-Sebua across the desert was a highlight though a camel managed to tread on Heidi's camera - no damage done however thank goodness!

The January 2006 group at Abu Simbel

In Cairo we went for a walk through the Islamic quarter and in the Cemetery of the Dead climbed to the top of the minaret of the Tomb of Barquq. We also returned to the Cairo Museum and enjoyed its many wonders.

Michael Birrell

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