You should arrive at the airport to take your direct flight to Luxor. After our arrival late this evening, we transfer to our home for the next seven nights, the five-star Mövenpick MS Hamees.
After breakfast we’ll explore the Valley of the Kings, dominated by the pyramid-shaped El Qorn, or ‘the horn’, the highest peak in the Theban Hills. So much artistic beauty is hidden beneath the barren earth of this hot, dry, rock-strewn valley. The incredible state of preservation and the vividness of the paintings and hieroglyphics are simply remarkable. It is tantalising to imagine what treasures all these tombs once held, lost to incredibly efficient grave robbers thousands of years ago. One of the smallest but most significant tombs in the valley belongs to the boy-king Tutankhamun, famously discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. As you enter the tomb, you’ll be astounded by the extraordinary beauty of the brightly painted walls – a real privilege! We’ll also enjoy a guided tour around the little-visited mortuary temple of Ramses III, the Medinet Habu. Remarkably well-preserved and surrounded by massive mud-brick walls, which also enclosed sections of the pharaoh’s palace, parts of the temple’s ceiling remain intact and many of the original colours are still visible. Our tour ends at the temple of Queen Hatshetput, widely regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs and the longest-reigning female ruler of Egypt. The temple, with its three-tiered colonnaded terraces, absolutely dazzles and seems to mirror the dramatic limestone cliffs from which it is partly cut. We return to our ship at lunchtime and set sail for Esna, where we go through the large locks on the river and moor overnight.
We have an early start this morning to visit the temple of Khnum, the ram-headed god whom the ancient Egyptians believed created mankind on his potter’s wheel. Situated below ground level, the temple is extraordinary for having been built in the first century AD – relatively recently by Egyptian standards! However, its architecture, style and decoration are in keeping with far more ancient temples. On the walls you’ll see Roman emperors dressed as pharaohs giving offerings to the Egyptian gods. We continue with a stop at Kom Ombo, which you may visit today if you wish, although we normally visit the temple on day 6. We return to the ship with plenty of time to relax as we sail down to Aswan, where we moor overnight. After dinner on board tonight, you are invited to join our ‘galabeya’ party for all guests. It’s a wonderful chance to partake in a long-running tradition that takes place on all Nile ships!
Today we’ll start our exploration of Aswan by visiting the world-renowned Aswan High Dam, which measures an incredible 364 feet (111 metres) high with a crest length of 12,562 feet (3,830 metres). Completed in 1970, it allowed the annual Nile flood to be controlled by man for the first time in history. We continue to the temple of Isis, the last built in the classical Egyptian style. Look closely and you’ll notice clues that the temple was reused as a Christian church, with crosses carved into the older reliefs and defaced images of the gods. Originally located at Philae, the temple had to be rescued from the rising waters of Lake Nasser before the completion of the Aswan High Dam. After lunch, we take to the water on a lateenrigged felucca, the traditional sailboats of Egypt, for a relaxing ride around the beautiful El Nabatat Island. Previously known as Kitchener’s Island, it was gifted to Lord Kitchener when he served as Consul-General in Egypt. With the beautiful setting sun and the gentle wind in your sail, this will undoubtedly be a highlight of your holiday.
We rise early to catch the short flight from Aswan to the small airport at Abu Simbel, located along the shores of Lake Nasser. This is the location of one of Egypt’s most remarkable and iconic monuments, the majestic rock-cut temples of Ramses II and his queen Nefertari. Four towering statues of the pharaoh guard the entrance and testify to the power of ancient Egypt over the kingdom of Nubia and its southern neighbours. The interior of the main temple is lit by the rays of the sun twice a year, on the pharaoh’s birthday and the day of his coronation. The smaller temple to Nefertari is one of the few sites where the statues of the pharaoh and his queen are equal in size. Like the temple of Isis at Philae, the Abu Simbel temples were relocated here to avoid the rising waters of Lake Nasser in an incredible UNESCO-led operation in the 1960s. We fly back to Aswan in time for a late lunch, with some time to relax on board. In the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a visit to a typical Nubian village and family home on one of the islands in the Nile.
Today you have a relaxing day on board to enjoy the sun deck, pool and bar as the MS Hamees continues its meander back north along the Nile. We call at Kom Ombo, famous for the wonderfully sited riverside temple, which we visit this afternoon. Unique in Egypt, the temple is dedicated to two gods: Horus, the sky god and Sobek, the local crocodile deity. The layout of the temple reflects the twin dedication, with perfectly symmetrical halves and carvings of the two gods on either side.
We set sail this morning back towards Luxor. After lunch, we visit the temples of Karnak and Luxor on the eastern bank of the Nile. The astonishing Hypostyle Hall is the most remarkable part of this vast complex, said to be the largest religious centre of the ancient world. One of the many interesting features is the first documented peace treaty in history, between Ramses II and the Hittites. Another highlight is the great Obelisk of Hatshepsut, carved from a single block of polished red granite. At 97 feet (29.5 metres) high and weighing in at over 300 tonnes, it has stood here for over 3,450 years. We also visit the smaller, but equally remarkable Temple of Luxor, which was originally connected to Karnak via the two-mile long Avenue of the Sphinxes. Tonight, prepare to experience the popular belly dance show – you may even join in if you wish!
Early this morning, we transfer to Luxor airport for the return direct flight to the UK, after an eye-opening and truly memorable holiday.