B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


The first program of this tour season was a tour of Egypt looking at its history and archaeology. The group was a relatively small one and included: Elicia Cosentino, Jessica Mayers, Paula Nason, Allan Stuckey and Gilliane Tedder. The tour leader was Dr Michael Birrell and the Egyptian guide was Amr Mohamed.

The tour began with a few days in Cairo where we spent time looking at the pyramids and mastaba tombs at several sites. We arrived in Cairo early in the morning and after a hearty breakfast made our way to the Cairo Museum to have a first look at the wonderful collection. We stayed at the good old Pearl Hotel in Maadi, a very comfortable and quiet little hotel in the suburbs of Cairo.

The following day we headed to Saqqara to see the Step Pyramid. We had perfect clear weather and Gillian went for a donkey ride around part of the site. We next visited Meidum, site of the ruined pyramid of King Sneferu. We went into the pyramid itself and some were also game for crawling down the robber's tunnel into the nearby Mastaba to see the stone sarcophagus of the owner. At Dahshur we went down into the multiple chambers of the pyramid and enjoyed a superb view north towards Saqqara. Afternoons were generally spent having a beer down by the Nile.

The following day we went to Giza and enjoyed a walk round the site and a camel ride. The view from the lunch time restaurant was spectacular with direct views of the Sphinx and Pyramids. The afternoon was spent exploring the Khan el-Khalili markets.

The October 2005 group at Giza

We then flew south to Luxor and checked into our 3-star hotel near the river called the Nile Valley Hotel. Located on the west bank, it is very convenient for the antiquities and a short ferry ride to the centre of town. Our first day was spent walking across the Theban Hills, with superb views down onto Deir el-Medina, the ancient village of the workmen who built the royal tombs. We stopped to look into the Valley of the Kings, and spent the afternoon in the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. A day was spent in the ruins of Karnak temple exploring the wonders of the largest temple in Egypt. One cannot help but be humbled by the scale of the monuments. In addition, we explored other ruins on the West Bank including Deir el Medina, the village of the workmen, the Ramesseum and the temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu.

Our walk across the Theban Hills in the morning mist

The group then travelled south to Aswan by bus - en route we stopped to see the enormous temple of Horus at Edfu and the ruins of Kom Ombo. A highlight of the trip was a serene boat ride on the Nile. We also saw the tombs of the Nobles, visited Philae to see the Temple of Isis and went on a camel ride across the desert at sunset to see the ruins of the Monastery of St Simeon. Back in Cairo we explored some of the wonderful mosques in the old quarter and went back to the Cairo Museum for a longer look.

Michael Birrell

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