THE GREAT OASES

Day 1– Monday 19th November 2012

Fly London to Luxor with EgyptAir and on arrival we take our private transfer and check in to the first-class Old Winter Palace, Garden Pavilion Wing for three nights on a room and breakfast basis.

Day 2 – West Bank

Our tour begins as we take our private launch across the river and head to the Valley of the Kings. Here we enter three tombs as suggested by Medhat on the day. From here, we ascend the mountain path for the walk over the mountain of Meretsegar, ‘She who loves silence’ for the most spectacular views of the whole of the West Bank. We descend via the Worker’s Village of Deir el Medina, home to the workmen and artisans who created the tombs in the Royal Valley. After a refreshing lunch at the Africa Restaurant we drive to the Ramesseum, the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses the Great, followed by a stop at the Colossi of Memnon. (BL)

Day 3 – Precinct of Amun

An early start today as we head to Karnak for sunrise, a perfect time for that ‘special’ photograph before most regular tours arrive. Medhat will lead us through the Precinct of Amun looking at the main features, as well as some of the less visited sanctuaries. We plan to return to the hotel for a late breakfast but you may decide to stay on at this vast site and investigate further on your own. Time to relax this afternoon before an evening visit to the Luxor Museum. (B)

Day 4 – Dendera and Abydos

We board our four wheel drive vehicles, head north and make a stop at Dendera, the Ptolemaic Temple of Hathor. A chance to admire the newly cleaned restored walls and ceilings of this lovely temple. On to Abydos, the cult centre of Osiris, where we enter the Temple of Seti I, with some of the most beautiful reliefs to be found in the whole of Egypt. We also view the massive blocks of the Osireion before a short walk takes us to the Temple of Ramesses I I with its exceptional reliefs of the Battle of Kadesh. After a picnic lunch, we continue to Sohag were we check in to a permanently moored cruise-boat, the M/S Hotep, for two nights. (BLD)

Day 5 – Akhmim

Today we take the short journey to view Wanina, then to the Red Monastery where we have been invited to view the work of the American Research Centre in Egypt where we see some of the original colours of murals surviving from the 10th Century. In the White Monastery we see Pharaonic blocks reused in the monastery’s construction. We have a picnic lunch before heading across the Nile to Akhmim and the magnifi cent statue of Meritamun, daughter of Ramesses I I. We also hope to be able to visit Hawawish close by. (BLD)

Day 6 – Nile and Desert

This morning we travel the desert road to Kkarga Oasis. We stop at the fortress and settlement of Ain Labekha. Here we find huge mud brick walls, towers, temples and tombs. We stop for a picnic lunch before continuing to Kharga Oasis. We visit the early Christian Cemetery of Bagawat where we see some outstanding Byzantine frescoes. On arrival in the oasis itself we check in to the Pioneer Hotel for two nights. (BLD)

Day 7 – Persians and Romans

We set off for the Persian period temple of Hibis that has recently undergone restoration work and we are now able to see some of the well preserved reliefs. We continue to the Roman Fortress at Qasr Dush and walk to a temple dedicated to Osiris. A final stop this morning at Qasr el-Ghueita, a site extensively used by the Romans but initially founded in the Middle Kingdom. We return to our hotel for lunch and some free time before we take a sunset trip to the fortress and temple at Nadura. Perched high on a hilltop there are stunning views over the oasis with the Hibis Temple and Bagawat Cemetery clearly seen in the far distance. (BLD)

Day 8 – To Dakhla

Our day begins as we visit the ancient settlement of Dabaadib with its fortress, aqueducts, Christian church and temple. Then we travel towards our next oasis, Dakhla. At Balat we visit the huge Old Kingdom mud brick mastabas of the local governors including that of Kentika. We also explore the contemporary settlement of Ain Asil, an administrative centre during the reigns of Pepi I and Pepi I I. We have a picnic lunch before we arrive at the Desert Lodge where we check in for two nights. Time this evening to enjoy the hotel’s very own hot spring or watch the sun go down from the gardens or roof terrace. (BLD)

Day 9 – Desert Views

First to Deir el Haggar, erected during the reign of Nero. Graffi ti from 19th Century travellers alongside Coptic murals and Roman cartouches make this an intriguing site. Next to Muzzawakka where we hope to see newly restored tombs from the Roman period. Then to the medieval village of el Qasr within walking distance of our hotel. We head back to the Desert Lodge for lunch, then a late afternoon walk to the Yardang fields and limestone rock formations in the desert, not far from our hotel. (BLD)

Day 10 – White Desert

A day exploring the spectacular scenery of the White Desert, where strange chalk white sculptures known as Inselbergs dominate the landscape. We have plenty of time to walk in this protected park littered with fossils and iron pyrites. We enjoy a picnic lunch and then as the day ends we make our way to the Sheherazade Camp. Here we have luxury tented accommodation and dinner will be in a tented dining room. (BLD)

Day 11 – To Bahariya

We leave the White Desert and drive to Crystal Mountain, where we see hillsides laced with quartz crystals. In stark contrast we drive on through the dark terrain known as the Black Desert. In Bahariya Oasis we visit the small museum that houses some of the ‘Golden Mummies’ and then continue to the Amasis Chapels and Ain Muftillah. We have lunch on arrival at the Qasr Bawiti Hotel where we check in for one night. (BLD)

Day 12 –The Faiyum

This morning we set off for the Faiyum and the Wadi el Hitan Protected Area to visit the Valley of the Whales. We view the fossil remains of mammals and vegetation on a well laid out trail. We have a picnic lunch while exploring the lakes and a Saharan waterfall in the Wadi el Ryan. Next to the temple at Dionysias, now known as Qasr Qarun founded in the 3rd Century BC. Tonight we stay at the Auberge Hotel on the shore of Lake Qarun. (BLD)

Day 13 – North Shore

Another special day as Medhat introduces us to three special sites on the north shore of the Lake. First to the temple remains at Qasr el Sagha followed by a look at the ruins of the town and temples of Dimai. We continue to Karanis the largest Greco- Roman town site in the Faiyum that has given us a huge understanding of everyday life under Greek and Roman rule. Tonight we stay at the Iberotel Hotel close to Cairo Airport. (BL)

Day 14 – Sunday 2nd December 2012

This morning we make the short journey to the airport for our direct EgyptAir flight from Cairo to London. (B)

Medhat Saad, one of our most experienced expert guides, leads this extensive tour of the Great Oases of the Western Desert. This journey offers a chance to look at some amazing archaeology that is still being discovered and recorded. Medhat will share his wealth of knowledge and introduce us to many friends whilst travelling through incredible landscapes to explore some of Egypt’s lesser known and rarely visited sites.

(B) = Breakfast (BL) = Breakfast and Lunch (BLD) = Breakfast Lunch and Dinner