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Loading the Itinerary for an Egyptian Tour


Loading the Itinerary for an Egyptian Tour

by Jimmy Dunn

The Great Pyramids of Giza


In a country where medieval monuments are sometimes hardly even considered as ancient; where great monuments to civilization were built, and abandoned even while Old World cultures remained to be awakened; where Christianity first intermingled and then replaced paganism, it is not difficult to become overpowered by Egypt's possibilities.

In fact, it is common for tourists to Egypt to overload themselves and their itineraries with virtually impossible expectations, given the length of their stay in the country. Even good, standard packaged tours to Egypt usually have crowded schedules and due to competition and the novice tourist's desire to get their money's worth, there is always some pressure to fill the visitor's plate beyond its capacity.

Sphinxes at the Temple of Karnak

Of course, what tourists to Egypt can withstand is highly dependent on their age, how far they must travel to reach Egypt, and a few other factors. For someone arriving after a three hour flight from Europe, it will be much easier to wake up the next morning and jump on the tourist bus than it will for someone after a 24 hour trip from the US (about 10 hours non-stop from New York). In fact, it is perhaps interesting that we know of no tour for the well healed older American that simply allows them to sleep in an extra day before the tour really gets started, even though most Americans are well familiar with the effects of travel lag. Likewise, it will also be easier on a 25 year old under most any circumstances than it will be for a 50 or 60 year old, and age should also be taken into consideration when deciding on what is too much to pack into an itinerary. Other factors that may effect how much can be achieved on a single visit to Egypt would also include the time of year for the visit. This factor will effect how difficult it will be to visit monuments during the most crowded seasons, as well as how much heat one can tolerate when visiting sites in Upper (Southern) Egypt (particularly tombs).

The Citadel in Cairo

Furthermore, there is also the quality of the experience. While some may be perfectly happy to visit as many monuments as possible just to snap a few photographs, others will wish to have a better understanding of what they are seeing and the culture they are experiencing. They will also wish to be somewhat rested so that their general travel experience is much more pleasant. As my son once reminded me while we were traveling in Egypt, it's a vacation! Hence, packing as many monuments and as much sightseeing into the itinerary is not always the most desirable option.

Actually, for the casual visitor to Egypt, it is not difficult to get what we might call "Temple and Tombed out". They may think that their best value will be to visit every open tomb on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes), and every temple along the Nile Valley, but soon they find out that a well planned sampling of these monuments is more than enough, particularly during the midsummer heat. More than a few tourists find themselves skipping one leg or another of a tour excursion to sit and enjoy the hotel pool or just sleep in a while longer.

Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple on the West Bank at Luxor

Hence, many tours to Egypt are too short, though this applies less to Europeans than to Americans and other who are far removed from Egypt. For the long distance traveler to Egypt, the flight there and back will probably be one of the most expensive costs associated with a tour, while an extra day or two will be, or can be, very inexpensive. For Europeans and others closer to Egypt, this is less important because the expense of getting to Egypt and the time it takes to do so is much, much less.

Sites and the Length of Tours

Tours typically come in lengths ranging from simple day tours to over two weeks. Most packaged tours that are shorter than a week are specialized, usually created for people who wish to visit a specific location such as Cairo, or who have a limited amount of time such as visitors from ocean cruise boats are those with a relatively long layover in Egypt while on their way to other destinations. Those who specifically visit Egypt for its antiquities would do well to consider at least a one week tour, provided they have no plans for multiple visits. On the other hand, tours lasting longer than two weeks will provide a relatively comfortable and much more extended itinerary. The following table summarizes, by typical tours, an example of monuments (and some other activities) that will be visited given a specific tour length:

Seven Days

A week long tour will allow tourists to visit the most famous of Egypt's historical sites, but little else.

Cairo

Monuments

Activities

North of Luxor Monuments

Luxor

Monuments

Activities

  • The Luxor Bazaar
  • Felucca Ride (Small Sailboat)

Aswan Monuments

The Colossi of Memnon

Several items should be noted. First of all, several of these monuments, such as The Colossi of Memnon and The High Dam will usually be visited simply because they are on the way to other monuments. Secondly, there will likely be some form of entertainment each evening which may vary considerably from tour to tour. Hopefully one such venue will include a sound and light show either at Giza or Luxor. Tours such as this will usually include some "rest time" that can be spent visiting a few other monuments or other activities. Frequently, a part of the tour will be by Nile Cruise Boat, which in itself is an experience that should not be missed.

The Ten Day Tour

A ten day tour to Egypt will actually provide the visitor to Egypt a considerably better itinerary then any trip of a shorter duration. For one thing, it will provide the traveler with considerably more time in Cairo, one of Egypt's best kept secrets. Cairo is a city of grand, international culture, though few casual tourists think much about Cairo before their visit. Many leave, however, wishing they had more time to explore the Egyptian capital and it's environs.

Cairo

Monuments

Activities

North of Luxor

Monuments

Luxor

Monuments

Activities

  • The Luxor Bazaar
  • Falucca Ride (Small Sailboat)

Aswan

Monuments

Again, there will almost certainly be various evening entertainment, as well as some rest time that can be spent visiting additional local monuments or on other actives such as shopping. Other options may be available, though probably at the expense of some of the above mentioned activities. One good possibility is a short flight to Abu Simbel to see that famous temples of Ramesses II and his queen, Nefertari. It is also likely, given the growing importance of Alexandria, that tours will exclude some of the sightseeing in Cairo in order to make a short excursion to Egypt's north coast.

Tours lasting fourteen to sixteen days

As we have mentioned above, for many people who visit Egypt, the airfare will be the most expensive part of the journey, and so a somewhat longer stay can be very advantageous, revealing almost every aspect of Egyptian's ancient and modern culture. Such tours will also frequently provide additional benefits and perks. While the Nile Valley tours will be fairly similar to a ten day tour there will be additional destinations and perhaps a little more free time to enjoy the trip.

Cairo

Monuments

Activities

North of Luxor

Monuments

Luxor

Monuments

Activities

  • The Luxor Bazaar
  • Felucca Ride (Small Sailboat)

Aswan

Monuments

Alexandria

Monuments

At one time, Alexandria would have probably not been included on this list, though because of the new Alexandria Library and Antiquities Museum, it is becoming a much more popular destination. On a tour of this length, one should expect a few interesting perks, such as a stay in the Old Winter Palace in Luxor and perhaps a dinner in its famous 1886 Restaurant. Other such tours have included sessions with well known Egyptologists.

Ruins at Tell Basta

These longer tours should and frequently do allow for additional "free time" to either rest, shop or pursue other activities.

However, this is where most of the longer tours will become more difficult to define, often depending on one's interests. A tour of several weeks will usually continue in one of several different directions, though there might indeed be some overlapping.

Some tours will provide a greater depth of pharaonic exploration, while others will allow a Sinai excursion that can expand into a trip to Jordan. Frequently, those tours that explore additional pharaonic sites might be better considered by visitors who have more than a casual interest in its history, because while some of the sites are of considerable historical significance, they usually lack the grandeur of the great temples of Luxor or the Pyramids of Cairo. Additional sites that may be visited on an expanded tour might include such locations as Abydos and El-Kab, Dendera. Such tours may also visit Delta sites such as Tanis and Tel Basta, and will also doubtless make a visit to Abu Simbel in Egypt's deep south.

Seven Girls Monastery in the Sinai

Rather than spending time at sites that are likely to mostly be of interest to experienced ancient Egyptian enthusiasts, many tours will instead take in the Sinai for several days. This is a fun excursion that takes in both beach activities (or for that matter, inactivities), as well as some impressive sightseeing. Most such tours will land at Sharm el-Sheikh and use this City of Peace as a staging point for the inbound leg of the journey to St. Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. Nearby is also the popular Seven Girls' Monastery at Wadi Firan, as well as the Rock of Inscriptions and a few other sites that will probably be visited in route to or from St. Catherine's.

From the Sinai, many longer tours may also cross the Gulf of Aqaba in order to visit various religious sites together with the ancient city of Petra, familiar to many readers from the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In the big picture, the purpose of this article is to provide our readers with some idea of what is possible, as well as what is not. The tendency on both the part of the traveler and, do to competitive forces, even the tour operators, is to overload tours. While tour operators know the limits of their capabilities, tourists have at times made itinerary requests that are wholly unrealistic, not only from the standpoint of scheduling, but their own physical limitations.

Of course, this discussion involves primarily classic, mostly pharaonic tours. Other variations are certainly possible on the pharaonic theme, such as visits to the Oasis areas of the Western Desert. There are also many other types and variations of tours to Egypt that very extensively, such as religious tours, though they may almost all take in a few pharaonic sites along the way.

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Last Updated: June 22nd, 2011

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Tour Egypt aims to offer the ultimate Egyptian adventure and intimate knowledge about the country. We offer this unique experience in two ways, the first one is by organizing a tour and coming to Egypt for a visit, whether alone or in a group, and living it firsthand. The second way to experience Egypt is from the comfort of your own home: online.