Immerse yourself in the art, archaeology, language and culture of ancient and modern Egypt on a wondrous three-week journey through 4,500 years of history.
Join archaeologist Dr Melanie Pitkin for the ultimate exploration of Egypt, visiting the major sites of Cairo, Giza and Luxor as well as exploring the lesser-known yet equally fascinating treasures of Middle Egypt, including Karanis, Amarna and Beni Hasan. Gain special access to ongoing dig sites led by international teams of Egyptologists, and see artefacts normally hidden from view in museum collections.
Then cruise up the Nile into New Kingdom and Ptolemaic history, visiting Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel.
Extend your Egyptian adventure with an optional tour to Alexandria, the heart of Greco-Roman Egypt.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested departure in the evening from Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights to Cairo via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Overnight in flight.
Arrive in Cairo in the morning and transfer to the hotel (included in tour price).
Check in to the hotel and enjoy an afternoon at leisure before a welcome briefing with Melanie and fellow travellers in the early evening, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Begin your exploration of Cairo by meeting some of the craftsmen whose traditions have kept Egyptian culture alive across millennia of political change. See the furniture makers of Midan Ataba and the spinners and glass blowers of the City of the Dead, before a visit to Qa’it Bey Mosque.
Enjoy lunch at the famous Café Riche, meeting place of Egyptian intellectuals and revolutionaries throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
In the afternoon, enjoy a special tour of the highlights of the Egyptian Museum, including the Royal Mummies and the treasures of Tutankhamun.
In the morning, visit the statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II and the outdoor museum at Memphis. Continue to Saqqara to explore the Imhotep Museum, Unis Causeway, Tombs of Mereruka and Kagemi, Serapeum and Step Pyramid of Djoser. The Step Pyramid, designed for Pharaoh Djoser in the 27th century BC by his polymath vizier Imhotep, is the oldest extant pyramid in Egypt. Visit parts of the necropolis currently being excavated by the French and Dutch-Italian archaeological missions.
Also visit the Bent and Red Pyramids in Dahshur before returning to the hotel in the late afternoon.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
In the morning, check out from the hotel and visit Manial Palace, a beautiful palace constructed by Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik between 1899 and 1929. The palace evinces the complex identity of this period in Egypt’s history in its mixture of Rococo, Art Nouveau, Ottoman, Moorish and Persian architectural styles.
Continue to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, opened in 2017, which displays a wealth of art and artefacts, and trace the history of Egypt from the archaic period through the pharaonic dynasties, Coptic and Islamic Egypt right up to the modern day.
In the afternoon, take a special guided tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza (not yet open to the public), designed to be the largest archaeological museum in the world. Check in to the hotel in the evening, followed by dinner at the hotel.
Bask in a glorious sunrise gradually lighting up the pyramids of the Giza Plateau, with a morning at leisure at your hotel within sight of the pyramids themselves. Then, after a talk by Melanie, set out for a visit to some of the great sites of pharaonic Egypt.
See the mighty Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, three generations of 26th century BC pharaohs, and the Great Sphinx. Also visit the Solar Boat Museum, which displays the reconstructed solar barge belonging to Pharaoh Khufu, and the mastaba tombs of the Old Kingdom pharaohs. Round out your exploration with a camel ride through the desert sands.
Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Check out from the hotel and head south into the lesser-visited region of Middle Egypt, a gentle stretch of the Nile Valley which lies between Cairo in the north and Luxor in the south. Visit the archaeological site of Karanis near the Faiyum (ancient Crocodilopolis), and the pyramid of Pharaoh Amenemhat III at Hawara, the last pyramid built in the Middle Kingdom period.
In the evening check in to the hotel, the New Hermopolis near Amarna, a specially-designed ecological complex surrounded by landscaped gardens, built to celebrate the historical heritage of Middle Egypt.
In the morning, enjoy privileged access to the archaeological site of Tel el-Amarna, the ruins of the City of Akhenaten. During his 17-year rule in the mid-14th century BC, Pharaoh Akhenaten shifted his capital to Amarna, instituted religious reforms to centralise worship on the solar deity Aten (rather than the pantheon of various gods) and pioneered a distinctive elongated but somewhat informal artistic style – not to mention marrying Nefertiti (amongst other wives) and fathering Tutankhamun.
In the afternoon, visit the Middle Kingdom cemetery site of Beni Hasan, the catacombs of Tuna el-Gebel and the tomb of the High Priest Petosiris.
The evening is at leisure to relax in the New Hermopolis.
Check out from the hotel in the early morning and travel to Abydos and Dendera, with lunch en route.
In Abydos, explore what is one of the world’s most significant ancient cities, home of the Great Osiris Temple and the Temple of Seti I with its famous Abydos King List, the chronological record of pharaohs from the 1st to the 19th Dynasties which still provides the basis for our understanding of pharaonic Egypt. In Dendera, see the impressive Hathor Temple, one of the best preserved in all of Egypt.
Continue to Luxor, and check in to the hotel in the evening, followed by dinner.
Modern Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, capital of Egypt during much of the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom periods. In the morning, visit the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, cultic centres for the gods Amun, Mut and Khonsu and important sites for the annual Opet Festival which celebrated these gods, and often the site of the coronation of the pharaoh.
After lunch, continue your exploration of ancient Thebes with visits to the Colossi of Memnon, the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses II (the Ramesseum), the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu, and the Luxor Museum.
The evening is at leisure.
In the morning, take the opportunity for an optional hot air balloon ride over the Luxor plain, gaining a falcon god’s eye view of the remains of the ancient city (weather permitting; not included in tour price, additional cost applies).
Following a talk by Melanie, visit some of the most celebrated sites of New Kingdom Egypt in the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Nobles. See the imposing Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s powerful female pharaoh who ruled in the 15th century BC.
Also visit Deir el-Medina, the workers’ village where the craftsmen who constructed these royal tombs lived. The most significant village of its kind ever discovered, Deir el-Medina provides a unique glimpse into the life of relatively ordinary ancient Egyptians.
Check out of the hotel and begin the first of two days cruising south up the Nile River from Luxor to Aswan.
The longest river in Africa (and arguably the world), the Nile has been the lifeblood of Egypt for as long as humans have inhabited the land. So few are the alternate sources of water in Egypt that the Ancient Egyptians divided their country into two parts: the ‘Black Land’ of fertile soils on the banks of the river, and the ‘Red Land’ of uninhabitable desert wastes that comprise the remainder of the country. Even today, about 95% of Egypt’s population live on the banks of the Nile.
Lunch and dinner are on board.
As you trace the Nile up its sinuous course, visit Edfu, site of the Hellenistic Temple of Horus built between 237 and 57 BC, the most well-preserved temple of its kind still extant.
Also see the unique Temple of Kom Ombo, a ‘double-temple’ perfectly symmetrical along its main axis, with each half dedicated to a different set of gods. The north is dedicated to Horus the falcon god, deity of the sky and hunting, while the southern half is sacred to the crocodile-headed Sobek, the god of the Nile’s fertility.
In the morning, disembark the cruise boat and travel to Philae, to explore the double-colonnaded Temple of Isis, built on the banks of the Nile by Pharaoh Nectanebo I in the mid-4th century BC and still elegantly presiding over the river’s gentle flow.
In the afternoon, check in to the hotel in Aswan before an evening at leisure.
In the morning, travel via the colossal 1960s engineering marvel of the Aswan High Dam to the Unfinished Obelisk of Hatshepsut. Commissioned by the mighty pharaoh in the 15th century BC, the obelisk, which would have been by far the largest ever constructed, was being carved out of a natural granite outcropping when cracks developed and the project was abandoned. It remains there still, a work of art forever half-emerged from nature, even after 3,500 years.
Visit the Nubian Museum, whose collection focuses on the relationship between Ancient Egypt and its fertile but restive southern neighbour Nubia, and after lunch visit the Elephantine Island and take a felucca (traditional wooden sailing boat) to the Botanical Garden on El Nabatat Island.
The evening is at leisure.
In the morning, enjoy a talk by Melanie and then visit the archaeological site of the nobles’ tombs at Qubbet el-Hawa. Currently being excavated by a Spanish dig team, you will gain special access to the site to see archaeological discoveries in the making.
After lunch, visit a traditional Nubian village to acquaint yourself with the distinctive culture of southern Upper Egypt.
Dinner tonight is at the hotel.
In the morning, check out from the hotel and transfer to Aswan Airport for a flight to Abu Simbel (included in tour price).
Arrive in Abu Simbel in the early afternoon and transfer to the Temples of Abu Simbel. These two imposing temples were originally carved into a rocky promontory during the 13th century BC to honour Pharaoh Ramesses II, conqueror of the Hittites in the Battle of Kadesh, and his Queen Nefertari.
In one of the 20th century’s great feats of engineering, the temples were dismantled and shifted, piece by piece, across 200 metres to their present location to make way for the flooding of their original site during the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.
In the late afternoon, check in to the hotel, followed by dinner in the evening.
Check out from the hotel and transfer to Abu Simbel Airport for a flight to Cairo (included in tour price).
Arrive in Cairo in the afternoon and transfer to the hotel. In the evening, visit the Khan el-Khalili souk, one of the country’s most lively bazaars, in which goldsmiths, lampmakers, cobblers and coffee sellers still ply their trade. Also visit the Tentmakers’ Market for a demonstration of khayamiya, the traditional appliqué technique used in Arab textile manufacture since the Mamluk era.
Dinner is in a local restaurant in the Khan el-Khalili.
Spend a day acquainting yourself with the Islamic and Coptic history of Cairo.
After a talk by Melanie, visit the Museum of Islamic Art, containing thousands of ceramics, textiles, and artefacts rendered in crystal, glass, metal and plaster, from all over the Islamic world. Also visit the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, the Khedivate-era mosque which is one the landmarks of the capital, the Ibn Tulun Mosque, the largest and oldest in Cairo, and the Gayer-Anderson Museum, with an unmatched collection of traditional Egyptian interior furnishings.
After free time for lunch, enjoy an afternoon in Coptic Cairo, discovering this distinctive form of Christianity with its own language, rites and culture stretching back to the 1st century AD, and gain a glimpse into the thousand-year-old Jewish heritage of Cairo.
In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Melanie and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
For those continuing on to the Alexandria post-tour, depart Cairo this morning for Alexandria.
For those not continuing on to the post-tour, transfer to Cairo Airport (included in tour price). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your onward travel arrangements.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
09 November 2018
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa to visit Egypt, which may be obtained on arrival at a cost of approximately USD 30 per person (as at time of publication).
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including local wine and beer with dinners
- Airport/hotel group transfer on tour arrival and departure if travelling on suggested flights
- Lectures and talks throughout with your tour leader, Dr Melanie Pitkin
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Nile River cruise from Luxor to Aswan
- Economy Class flights from Aswan to Abu Simbel and from Abu Simbel to Cairo
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if not travelling on group transfers
- Airport porterage
- Optional activities as described in itinerary (subject to availability)
- Items of a personal nature including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Visa for Egypt (obtainable on arrival)
Cairo – Marriott Hotel *****
Giza – Mena House Hotel *****+
Amarna – New Hermopolis ****
Luxor – Steigenberger Royal Palace *****+
Nile River Cruise – Sonesta Moon Goddess ****+
Aswan – Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel *****
Abu Simbel – Seti Abu Simbel Lake Resort ****+
NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.
28–30 January 2019 (3 days) / Locally Guided
Explore Alexandria, one of the great cities of the Greco-Roman Period, where Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian culture merged to produce some of history’s most spectacular architecture.
Visit the remains of the ancient Alexandrian educational system in the archaeological site of Kom el-Dikka, and the 21st century Bibliotheca Alexandria which revives the spirit of the famous Library of Alexandria. See the remains of Roman Egypt in Pompey’s Pillar, and wander through the Medieval Citadel of Qa’it Bey, built by a doughty Mamluk Sultan.
- Get up close to Late Antique culture at Kom el-Dikka, and experience the majesty of the 21st century Bibliotheca Alexandrina
- See one of the largest ancient monoliths, the 27 metre-tall triumphal column Pompey’s Pillar
- Visit a Mamluk citadel built during the 15th century to keep the Ottomans at bay
Monday 28 January 2018 / Arrive Alexandria
Arrive in Alexandria in the afternoon and enjoy lunch at the Greek Club.
After lunch, visit the Citadel of Qa’it Bey, a fort built on the spot once occupied by the wondrous Lighthouse of Alexandria. In the late 15th century AD, Mamluk Sultan Qa’it Bey erected the citadel to defend Egypt against the menacing Ottoman Turks.
Check in to the hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure.
Tue 29 Jan / Alexandria
In the morning, visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a vast library inaugurated in 2002 as a celebration of the ancient Library of Alexandria and an attempt to revive the spirit of learning of its historic forebear. The complex contains four museums covering Antiquities, Manuscripts, the History of Science and the life of the slain president Anwar al-Sadat.
After a light lunch, visit Pompey’s Pillar, a Roman triumphal column carved from a single piece of red Aswan granite, the archaeological site of Kom el-Dikka, whose auditoria were once part of the Alexandrian educational system, and the catacombs of Kom el-Shoqafa.
Enjoy a special farewell dinner.
Wed 30 Jan / Depart Alexandria
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
If departing today, transfer from hotel to Alexandria Borg El Arab Airport (included in tour price). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.