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Pyramids to Petra
Transport - Ferry, Minibus, 4WD, Felucca, Overnight sleeper train, Camel, on foot
Accommodation - Hotel (11 nts), Overnight sleeper train (2 nts), Beach hut (2 nts), Desert camp (1 nt), Felucca (1 nt)
Meals - 11 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 5 Dinners
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Fly to Cairo
Make your way to your first night’s accommodation in Cairo and check in. Hotel – 1 night
With a population estimated at 15 million people, Cairo is by far Africa’s largest city, yet despite its size, it still manages to retain a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Its long and colourful history dates from the 7th century, when it was established by the Arab leader Amr ibn al-As, and called Fustat (the tent). Modern Cairo is a city packed with wonders; this morning you visit the Pyramids of Giza which have overlooked the city for millennia, bearing witness to the ingenuity of their ancient architects and builders. You’ll also make a fascinating visit to the Egyptian Museum, home to the incredible Tutankhamun collection and countless reminders of the wonders of the Pharaohs. This evening board your overnight train for Aswan. Overnight train (B)
Arrive in Aswan where the pace is more relaxed. White sailed feluccas dot the Nile and fisherman go about their day. This Nubian city is an important market town and the bazaar here is one of the country's best and a great place to practice your haggling and purchase some souvenirs. This evening we dine with a local family and gain an insight into local customs. Hotel – 2 nights (BD)
You may wish to take an optional visit to Abu Simbel today, either by flight or by minivan. Abu Simbel is a magnifent temple build by Ramses II with an imposing facade which marked the gateway to the Pharoah's land.
If you choose to remain in Aswan you can visit the Philae temple reached by boat, the unfinished obelisk or take in a museum. A relaxing promenade along the Nile banks will bring plenty of great photo opportunities.
Your overnight Nile adventure begins as you set sail on a traditional felucca, a traditional wooden boat with canvas sails. Life on board is simple and relaxing as you watch local life on the Nile pass you by. The friendly Nubian boat crew take care of the sailing and provide hearty meals during the voyage. The boat has a canopy to offer shade and protection. There is no toilet on board but comfort stops can be made enroute and a toilet tent will be errected at the nightstop. At night you sleep on comfortable matresses on the deck. The local muezzin will no doubt give you an early wake up call, while the frogs will sing you to sleep at night fall. Relax and enjoy this unique experience. Felucca – 1 night (LD)
Farewell to your crew this morning. As you travel by minibus in Luxor you have the option to visit Temple of Kom Ombo or Edfu on the way. Once called Thebes, Luxor is the ancient capital of Egypt and there is much to see here.
Karnak temple is a spectacular complex of huge coloums, towering obelisks and ornate statues. Your guide will bring the history alive. Hotel – 1 night (BL)
A visit to the west bank takes you to the Colossi of Memnon two huge 17 meter statues which represent the Pharaoh Amenhotep II and are carved from granite blocks. Next you hop onto donkeys for an exhilerating ride through the fields of sugar can and local villages, you will see many farmers using this same mode of transport watch them for some technique tips! Onwards to the spectacular Valley of the Kings an ancient burial ground of the noble. Here you will visit three of the best preserved tombs some still with colourful hieroglyphs intact. Entrance to the temple of King Tutankhamen's tomb is an optional extra. After joining a local family for lunch the afternoon is free for your own adventures. You can visit the Luxor Museum or take afternoon tea or a cocktail at the historic Winter Palace hotel treading in the footsteps of the rich and famous from the past.
This evening your overnight sleeper train takes you back to Cairo. Overnight train (B)
Today there is a full day to explore the chaotic city of Cairo. Coptic Cairo was first settled in the 6th century BC, here you will visit the Hanging Church said to be a site where Mary and Joseph rested with baby Jesus as they fled from King Herod. Ben Ezra which is Egypts oldest synagog dating from 9th Century and a Greek Othadox Cemetry. Islamic Cairo is home to Khan el-Khalili a maze of intwinded streets and passages filled with merchants of types trying to sell their wares. Colourful stall sell everything from tourist souveniers to clothing, silver and spices. Bargaining here is fierce. Hotel – 1 night (B)
Mt Sinai & St Catherine’s
Early this morning you set off east towards the Suez Canal, where huge ships appear to sail across the desert, and take the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel under the canal to enter the Sinai Peninsula. It’s a full day’s journey to St. Catherines’s today (total 7-8 hours) but with a stop at Ein Musa en route.
Few descriptions of this remote corner of Egypt do it justice. Sliced through by deep wadis (valleys created by seasonal watercourses), its mountains of sandstone and granite change colour throughout the day as the fierce desert sun crosses the sky; the sunsets are particularly spectacular. The mountains are almost entirely devoid of vegetation; indeed this harsh landscape offers little sustenance but is, nevertheless, the traditional land of the Bedouin, who have mastered the art of survival in such extreme conditions. Although many have now settled in the towns that lie scattered along the Sinai coastline, they still cling to their nomadic ways and keep their traditions very much alive.
Turning south from the Suez Canal you continue along the coast. When you’re about 45 minutes away from St Catherine’s – your final destination today – you’ll start to see the walled valley of the Feiran Oasis, home to some 12,000 date palms and the site of Sinai’s earliest Christian community.
The final leg of the drive brings you to St. Catherine’s village. Nestling in a valley at the foot of Mount Sinai (also known as Jebel Musa, or Mount Moses) it’s said to be the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world.
Egypt’s highest mountains - Mount Sinai (2285m) and Jebel Katerin (Mount St. Catherine - 2642m), both overlook the monastery.
The hike to the summit is fairly demanding and it takes around 3hrs. It can be windy so care may need to be taken, although camels can be hired to take you most of the way up the mountain. However, you will need to dismount in order to reach the summit as they are unable to climb the steps! This is a beautiful climb though, which offers a taste of the serenity and magnificence of Southern Sinai's high mountain region. You descend by the stepped path, which is a shorter route of 3750 rock steps back down to the village. Care needs to be taken as each step dates back to the 6th century AD, when they were cut by monks and are mis-shaped and random. Hotel – 1 night (B)
Visit the monastery of St Catherine today. Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe that this was the spot where God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses, and the Burning Bush from whence God spoke was transplanted in the monastery, it attracts pilgrims from all over the world.
After your visit, you’ll continue to Nuweiba (about 2 hours) to the tiny beach settlement of Sawa Camp. On a rare section of golden sands you discover your beach hut accommodation for the next two nights. Right beside the water and backed by rugged mountains this is a great place to relax. Beach huts – 2 nights (BD)
The Red Sea coast boast some of Egypt’s most spectacular diving and snorkelling. The warm and relatively shallow waters here support a series of coral reefs unsurpassed outside Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Over the years, successive generations of minute polyps have deposited the calcium they extract from the sea as limestone external skeletons on to the fossilised remains of their predecessors. Enjoy a snorkel safari in the Southern Oasis, a remote and pristine area with a huge variety of colourful marine life and coral and get to know the brightly-coloured tropical fish that populate this wonderful undersea world. (BD)
Today you’ll say goodbye to your Egyptian leader and continue through the port dock to board the ferry for the 1.5hr crossing to Aqaba in Jordan. Upon arrival, you’ll meet your Jordanian leader.
Taking the ferry can be a bit tedious when weather conditions or administration and immigration matters can lead to the ferry departing or arriving later than scheduled, so it's a good idea to be prepared and take a book or pack of cards and some snacks and be prepared to go with the flow. Sometimes the voyage can be rough so seasickenss precautions may be advisable. Arriving in Jordan's only coastal port, Aqaba you check in to your hotel and relax. Hotel – 1 night (B)
The Desert Highway offers some incredible scenery on your first journey through Jordan; upon arrival at the entrance to Rum, you’ll transfer to 4WD vehicles and head once more into the desert!
During your stay you may see the black ‘beit ash shar’ tents of the hardy Bedouin who still wander throughout the Middle East, as they have for centuries. Moving between the few grazing spots which dot the parched landscape, they survive by breeding goats, sheep and camels. Although the traditional nomadic way of life is starting to disappear as some Bedouin succumb to the lure of fixed accommodation, many adhere stolidly to the old way - albeit with the occasional addition of a 4WD vehicle for transport! Living in such a hostile environment has taught them long ago the importance of a friendly welcome and the ancient code of hospitality to travellers still survives.
You camp in the Wadi Rum protected area, surrounded by high mountains and sand dunes and in true desert fashion, you can usually sleep in a traditional Bedouin tent or under the stars. As the sun sets on the rocky outcrops, an astonishing transformation takes place; the sandstone changes hue, passing through a spectrum of yellow, gold, orange, red and finally purple, as the shadows lengthen and the stars come out; the skies are clear and stars stand out brightly. The Milky Way, satellites and shooting stars can be clearly seen; the perfect opportunity for star-gazing! The coniditions are basic and a sleeping bag and warm clothes are recommened as although it can be hot during the day the nights can be very cold. Our bedouin hosts provide warm hospitality and hearty meals. Bedouin-style camp (communal sleeping arrangement) - 1 night (BD)
Travel by minibus (two hours) journey to Petra. Petra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and one of the Middle Easts biggest highlights and the World's most famous "lost city". At the end of the kilometre-long path, you are rewarded by a glimpse of the most beautiful building of all - the Khazneh or Treasury - so-called because the Bedouin believed that the urn crowning the edifice held a cache of gold and jewels. The first sight of this perfectly proportioned tomb, carved from the towering rock, is truly unforgettable, but there's much more to come! Hotel – 2 nights (B)
A full day to explore Petra. Some 2400 years ago the Nabataeans taxed the trade caravans that plied between southern Arabia and the shores of the eastern Mediterranean. Using the proceeds they built the first houses and temples here. Later, these taxes proved even more rewarding, and today the Nabataean legacy includes houses, tombs, temples, a (Roman-built) amphitheatre and much more.
Although it is a tiring walk, it is well worth making the hour or so ascent up the rocky path, which leads to the Monastery, a vast structure rivalling even the Treasury. Time should also allow you to climb to one of the High Places, the mountain-top alters where ritual sacrifices were made; from here there are spectacular views of the mountains, valleys and canyons below! (B)
NB - Watch out for donkeys on the walk up to the Monastery, they can be quite pushy so take care.
Following the King's Highway you reach the historic castle of Karak. Crusaders of the 12th Century battled the Muslim armies led by the Ararb hero Saladin (Salh ad-Din) here.
Then stop at the Dead Sea where you will have some free time to experience the unique floating sensation of this body of water so heavily salted that it's impossible to sink. This is the lowest point on earth some 420m below sea level and the second saltiest body of water in the world.
Finally check into your hotel in Madaba a friendly suburb just outside Amman. Hotel – 1 night
Transfer from hotel to Amman airport where the trip ends for Land Only clients (B)
Please note: You’ll be accompanied on your journey by a Group Leader to smooth the way; one leader will accompany you through Egypt, and a separate leader will join you for the Jordan section of your trip.
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There were so many highlights on the trip, culminating in a day long discovery of Petra, where the word "wow!" was never far from my lips. Camping in Wadi Rum was a real magical haven.