Date of Trip: November 2010
This was an outstanding trip with superb arrangements provided by Ruth Shilling. The main tour was a Photographers Tour of Egypt with just 2 couples. We added on excursions to Aswan & Abu Simbel, and a 3 day trip to Jordan for my wife and me. I would highly recommend using their services.
Thurs, Nov 11 — arrive Cairo 8:30 pm and transfer to Mena House Oberoi for Photographers Tour.
Fri, Nov 12 — Relax at the Mena House. Watched the horse carts take people up to the Great Pyramid. Went to the Sound & Light Show at the pyramids at 6 pm. Had an excellent dinner at the Indian restaurant in the hotel.
Saturday, Nov 13, 2010
Leaving Giza (where our hotel was) we drove southward through fertile farmlands to the pyramids at Dashur, dated even older than the pyramids at Giza! The Red Pyramid is almost as large as the Great Pyramid at Giza. The surface area is the same, but the slope is gentler, so it is not as tall. The Bent pyramid was a key center of worship during the Middle Kingdom. It is also the only pyramid to retain most of its original casing stones. The Black Pyramid (Middle Kingdom mud brick) can also be seen from here.
We visited a carpet factory. We had lunch at a guesthouse in the Black Land, the farming area. It was also a chance to see some the nearby farmers and their animals up close. See Blue Lotus of Saqqara Guesthouse. In the afternoon we visited a site that is not open to the general public – the Pyramids at Abu Sir. There are 3 pyramids, each with a mortuary temple, and an interesting noble’s tomb. There is also a high point here from which we can see the other pyramids in the distance.
Watched a Sufi dance show in the evening at the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo returning to the hotel after midnight.
Sunday, Nov 14, 2010
We slept in after the late night return. We left at 9 am for Saqqara after breakfast with our take out lunch. Again we drove south of Giza through the Black Land where the people have farmed the rich Nile silt for thousands of years. . Visited Imhotep Museum, Titi Tomb, and the Step Pyramid.
The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is dated even older than pyramids at Giza and Dashur. It was here that the genius architect Imhotep built the first monuments in stone. There is much to see at Saqqara, so we spent most of our day there.
A quick stop at a Papyrus Institute & Shop to see how the papyrus “paper” is made from the papyrus plants. Dinner at an outdoor restaurant close to the hotel.
Monday, Nov 15, 2010
Tried to catch the Pyramids and Sphinx from a restaurant at sunrise but it was foggy. Rode around in a horse carriage to find a better vantage point but it was not to be! It was fun to see the camels get ready for the day at the pyramids. After breakfast at the hotel, we left the desert antiquity sites for the historic downtown Cairo. We began with a panoramic view of the whole city from the Citadel, first built in the 12th century A.D. by Salah al-Din (Saladin), where we also visited the famous Mosque of Mohamed Ali, also called the “Alabaster Mosque”. Next we traveled through old narrow streets to a place known as the “Avenue of the Tent Makers.” It is here that the men sew the intricate applique that is one of the crafts Egypt is famous for. Leaving the Tent Makers Avenue, we passed through one of the old gates in the city wall that surrounded Cairo. This street is the local Souk, the place where the local people shop for all kinds of goods. Quick walk through Khan El Khaleli bazaar followed by a late lunch at a local Egyptian specialty, Kusheri fast food restaurant.
Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010
An early morning 8 am camel ride on the Giza Plateau gave us a chance to photograph the pyramids from the desert. The next stop was at the Solar Boat Museum followed by a visit to the Sphinx before the crowds got too bad. The Sphinx faces east to greet the morning sun, so morning is the time that the light shines on the face.
We had lunch at the Felfela restaurant near the Le Meridien Hotel — best falafel! Then back to Giza plateau for our special permit visit to the Sphinx enclosure after the clouds cleared at 4 pm. We had exclusive access through the sunset time until 5:30 pm!
Wednesday, Nov 17, 2010
This morning we checked out of our hotel in Giza-Cairo to take a short 1-hour flight south to Luxor at 7:40am.
Here in Luxor we see the temples and tombs from the New Kingdom era (1550-1070 B.C.). We began our sightseeing on the West Bank of Luxor, where some of the most famous artifacts have been found, including the King Tut collection. We started with a visit to Hatshepsut’s Deir El Bahari Temple. Called “The Most Splendid of All,” it was built at the very beginning of the New Kingdom and served as an inspiration for the generations to come.
Although they no longer allow us to take our cameras inside the Valley of the Kings, we visited this site because it is one of the most famous in the world. This is where Howard Carter found King Tut’s tomb and amazed the world with the many marvelous things found therein. The tomb of Ramesses VI was recently restored and is truly spectacular. You also get to choose another 3 tombs to visit.
Next stop was thoroughly enjoyable lunch at a local family’s home.
One of the temples is not on the normal tourist route, so it is particularly nice to visit. The mortuary temple of the famous Ramesses II is called the Ramesseum.
Check in to Hotel Sonesta St. George, Luxor on the Nile.
Early evening visit to the Luxor temple and we stayed for the evening lights. The Avenue of the Sphinxes leads to us to this picturesque temple with its obelisk and colossi statues of Ramesses II guarding the entrance. Built mostly by Amenhotep III, there is a wide open court that portends the open-roofed temples of his successor, Akhenaten, worshipper of the sun-god Aten.
Thursday, Nov 18, 2010
At 9 am we traveled north of Luxor for 3 hours to the legendary temple of Abydos, the place of pilgrimage from the dawn of Ancient Egyptian history. Here is where many of the oldest artifacts have been found. The Temple of Seti 1st is from the New Kingdom and is heralded as the “High Art of Ancient Egypt”. The reliefs here are incredible!
Next we visited the Hathor Temple at Dendera which was built during the Ptolemaic (Greek) era to honor the Goddess Hathor.
Early dinner at our bus driver, Mohammed’s home — nice new modern 2 story home with western toilets! Had very tasty lamb that was cooked for the Eid Festival 2 days ago!
Friday, Nov 19, 2010
4:40 am departure for a spectacular sunrise balloon ride over the West Bank of Luxor.
We visited the largest temple complex of all, Karnak on the East Bank of Luxor. Not just a temple, but a whole series of temples with the magnificent Hypostyle Hall in the middle of the central axis. Karnak is so stunning one could spend a week photographing here.
Late lunch at a nice new restaurant near the temple. Buffet and cold beer!
Sunset Felucca cruise on the Nile was spectacular. There was no wind, so we had to be towed by a motor boat!
Saturday, Nov 20, 2010
Karnak Temple opens at 6am. The privilege of being there before the crowds arrive in the clear morning light at sunrise is like nothing else. We also visited the Open Air Museum, where we see the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III, the Middle Kingdom White Chapel and a number of other well-preserved artifacts. Here we found some of the most exquisite carvings of hieroglyphs. Back to the hotel about 9am. There was time for a late breakfast before packing up for the next day’s ride to Aswan.
Finished Photographers sightseeing Tour and shared photographs with our group. We walked over to the Luxor temple for sunset pictures on the Nile. We spent an additional night in Luxor at the Sonesta St George, Luxor.
Sun, Nov 21 — Luxor-Aswan by road with guide. Sightseeing at Edfu Temple & Kom Ombo Temple. Overnight in Aswan at Basma Hotel, Aswan. Free internet in the lobby was our first opportunity to catch up on email. We took a motorboat in the early evening to visit a Nubian village.
Mon, Nov 22 — Visited Philae Temple in the morning at 8:00am. Drove from Aswan to Abu Simbel at 11:00am with the convoy. Interesting desert view including mirages! Arrived in Abu Simbel after 3 hours and visited the temples in the afternoon. Saw the Sound & Light show in the evening followed by dinner at the rustic Seti First Hotel.
Tues, Nov 23 — Drove back to Aswan via convoy by road and went directly to Aswan airport for flight to Cairo. Overnight at Iberotel Hotel & Casino
Wed, Nov 24 — start Petra Tour-2 Day 1. Flight Cairo, Egypt/Amman, Jordan. MS 719, 8:30/10:05am.
Leaving the Amman airport and driving southward toward Petra, your first visit was to Madaba where the St George’s Greek Orthodox Church has a famous 6th century AD mosaic on the floor, showing the pilgrimage from the surrounding areas to the Holy Land.
Our next visit was to a mosaic factory followed by Mount Nebo where there is a Memorial for Musa (Moses) and a 4th century church which Italian Franciscan priests excavated and restored in 1933. The panoramic view overlooks the Jordan River Valley, the Dead Sea, Jericho and Jerusalem.
We then drove to the Dead Sea, one of the world’s true natural wonders and a unique destination. At 417 meters (1,373 ft.) below sea level, the mineral-rich waters and mud flows have natural health and beauty benefits acclaimed globally. The unparalleled buoyancy and warmth of the water has everyone floating. Its health-promoting thermo-mineral springs and famous cosmetic black mud have been praised by visitors for millennia. The drive from the Dead Sea to Petra through the mountains was very scenic. We reached Petra after viewing a spectacular sunset in Dana. Room service for dinner after a long day! Hotel: The 5 star Movenpick Resort Petra Hotel located at the entrance of the Petra site.
Thurs, Nov 25 — A full 6 hours of sightseeing in the Red Rose City of Petra starting at 7 am with a local guide. Breakfast at the hotel followed by the tour of the Rose Red City of Petra. The city is thought to have been first established in the 6th century BC by Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. Petra remained largely in Nabataean hands until around 100 AD, when the Romans diverted to the north the caravan routes that had brought Petra its wealth.
The approach to Petra is unforgettable, made on horseback through the Outer Siq and then on foot through the Siq itself. The Siq ends in an open space which is dominated by the Treasury, Petra’s most famous building. You also saw Pharaoh’s Castle, the Triumphal Arch, the Amphitheater and Monastery before returning to our hotel. We had a very relaxing Turkish Bath in the afternoon, followed by room service again!
Friday, Nov 26 (Day 3 of PT-2) Petra — QAI Airport — Cairo (B):
You had some time this morning for an excursion to Wadi Rum before leaving about 2:00 PM for the airport in Amman. A two hour tour by 4-wheel drive jeep through the desert to see Lawrence’s spring. Continued driving past majestic mountains, explored a gorge and saw some ancient rock drawings. Flight from Amman to Cairo, 7:10/8:40pm. Hotel: Iberotel Hotel & Casino
Saturday, Nov 27 –Depart for Amsterdam. Egyptair # 757: Cairo International (CAI) to Amsterdam-Schiphol (AMS) at 10 am.
Sunday, Nov 28 to Tuesday, Nov 30 — Amsterdam
Tuesday, Nov 30 Leave Amsterdam at 11 am on KLM for Seattle via LAX.