Ancient Egypt

We did a 12 day package tour to Egypt in February 2005. The theme was of course Ancient Egypt - the world's first major civilization and also the longest-lasting. Ancient Egyptian civilization is taken to have begun about 3000 BC and to have ended about 300 AD, so it lasted more than 3000 years.

This page contains a historical overview, a map, our itinerary and an introduction to the standard layout of the temples. If you are in a hurry to start your tour with us then you will find the link at the bottom of this page.

A brief history

Our itinerary

In a nutshell, we slept 3 nights in a Cairo hotel then flew to Luxor where joined our boat. We cruised up to Aswan and then returned to Luxor before flying home via Cairo. There used to be cruises all the way from Luxor to Aswan but the middle Nile area has a large concentration of Islamic fundamentalists and tour boats stopped cruising this section after a boat was fired upon, injuring a tourist.

Day 0: Le Tignet / Nice / Paris / Cairo

Day 1: Cairo

The Cairo Museum of Archeology and 3 mosques: Ibn Touloun, Sultan Hassan and Mohammed Ali (in the citadel)

Day 2: Cairo / Memphis / Saqqara / Cairo

The Giza pyramids, the Sphinx, Memphis (capital of the old Kingdom) and its necropolis, Saqqara. Son et Lumiere at the pyramids in the evening.

Day 3: Cairo > Luxor (by plane)

Thebes (now called Luxor) was the capital of Egypt during much of the duration of ancient Egypt. We visited Karnak and the Temple of Luxor, built in honor of the sun god, Ra.

Day 4: Luxor / Thebes / Esna / Edfu

The Valley of the Nobles, the Valley of the Artisans and the Valley of the Queens.

Day 5: Edfu / Kom Ombo / Aswan

The temple of Horus at Edfu. The Temple of Kom Ombo on the banks of the Nile.

Day 6: Aswan / Abu Simbel / Aswan

A long drive in a high-speed coach across the desert in a caravan of about 100 coaches. The coaches travel by caravan to minimise the risk of attack, but since we all arrived at the same time the two temples (built in honor of Ramses II and his wife Nefertari) were very crowded - it was the only day that I did not enjoy. But one cannot fail to be impressed by UNESCO's achievement in moving the two temples (and the hills that they were built on!) to higher ground to escape flooding when the Upper Aswan dam was built, creating Lake Nasser.

Day 7 Aswan / Esna

We visited the temple of Philae which was submerged when the lower Aswan dam was constructed, then rescued by UNESCO.

Day 8: Esna / Luxor

The High Dam. A quarry of pink granite with an unfinished obelisk. The temple of Philae. This temple had been submerged by the construction of the lower dam but was rescued by Unesco and moved to a different island. The Kitchener Island and its botanical gardens. The Nubia Museum. A perfume factory.

Day 9: Luxor / Dendera / Luxor

Built in the Greek period, the Dendera temple was dedicated to the goddess Hathor. We also visited a jewelry shop and yes, Catherine bought a cat ornament.

Day 10: Luxor / Cairo / Paris / Nice / Le Tignet!

After visiting the Valley of Kings and the Hatshepsut temple in the morning, we began out trip home in the evening. 22 hours of travel between leaving the boat and arriving home!

Before you join us on our tour, you should check out this quick introduction to the layout of Egyptian temples:

Standard Temple layout

The above diagram gives the standard layout of ancient Egyptian temples. Unlike modern churches, Egyptian temples were not places where ordinary people could congregate. Quite the opposite in fact - only a few top officials would be allowed to join the priests in the hypostyle courtyard, and only for certain feasts. Progressing towards the sanctuary, only priests with increasingly high rank would be allowed to enter the various halls and only the high priest or the king could enter the sanctuary itself to place offerings in front of the divine statue.

Note how the hypostyle courtyard is open to the sky and thus bright while hypostyle hall is darker since the main wall is half closed. The sanctuary, with its low ceiling and no windows, would have been almost totally dark.

The pylon represents the mountains between which the sun rises every morning.

Not shown in this diagram is the brick wall that would have surrounded the temple and the sacred lake that would have been part of the site. The sacred lake represents the universe before time began and its water would have been used for purification purposes.

The above diagram is taken from Egypte, Vallée du Nil published by Hachette. For more details, visit the site of the British Museum site.

Click HERE to join us on our trip. There are nine pages, one for each day (days 8 and 9 share the same page.)