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May 17, 2023

Just Back: The Highlights of Egypt

We‘ve just returned from a wonderful private tour of the highlights of Egypt: Cairo, the Pyramids, archaeological sites along the Nile River, the temples of Abu Simbel, and the riverside towns of Aswan and Luxor.

Our private Egyptologist guide accompanied us throughout Egypt, offering a depth of knowledge, warm hospitality and local connections that made our trip unforgettable. (We arrange private Egyptologist guides to escort travelers on all our private Egypt tours.)

We began in Cairo, the capital of Egypt and a great introduction to the country’s history.

Seeing the Pyramids of Giza is a truly breathtaking experience.

Our private Egyptologist guide helped us understand the history of the Pyramids, which are part of the vast necropolis of Memphis. In addition to the Pyramids, the area has tombs, temples, the Great Sphinx and other structures stretching from Giza to Dahshur that together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We saw the Sphinx, explored the tunnels inside the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, and saw the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid in Dahshur.

For our travelers, we arrange early access to the Pyramids to help avoid the crowds. Upon request, we also arrange special access to the Tomb of Wahtye, the lavish tomb of a high-ranking official in the Saqqara necropolis.

Close to the pyramids is the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), a state-of-the art archaeological museum that will be one of the largest in the world when it opens. We enjoyed an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview of the GEM, including the conservation complex where conservators are preparing artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

We also visited the Egyptian Museum, which has a renowned collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).

The Royal Mummies Hall—the highlight of the NMEC—displays the preserved remains of ancient Egyptian kings and queens.

Upon request, Artisans of Leisure can arrange access to conservation centers at Cairo’s top museums for behind-the-scenes looks at the preservation and restoration processes.

We also explored the best of the historic center of Cairo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with layers of Coptic, Islamic and Jewish history.

In Coptic Cairo, we visited the Hanging Church, a Coptic Christian church built atop the Roman-era Babylon Fortress; saw the Church of Saints Sergius & Bacchus, which dates to the fourth century and is the oldest church in Coptic Cairo; and saw the exterior of the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which is currently being renovated.

In Islamic Cairo, we visited the Citadel, a medieval complex of palaces, mosques, gardens and fortifications that served as the home of Egypt’s rulers for centuries.

We also enjoyed seeing Abdeen Palace, a 19th-century neoclassical palace built for the royal family…

…and visiting a local carpet school where students learn to create traditional handmade carpets.

We learned about the weaving process and browsed for carpets in the upscale shop.

One evening, we visited the famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar with our private Egyptologist guide. It’s a centuries-old market that’s a great place to shop and observe daily life in Cairo.

We browsed stalls and specialty shops that overflow with ceramics, jewelry, leather goods, silverware, antiques, carpets, spices and perfume.

During our time in Cairo, we were stayed at two of our favorite hotels in the city: The St. Regis Cairo, a luxurious hotel on the banks of the Nile River…

…and the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza.

We had memorable meals with views of the Nile River at several of our favorite restaurants in Cairo. Artisans of Leisure arranges reservations at the best local restaurants throughout Egypt.

Next, we flew to Luxor, a city on the Nile that’s the start or end point for most Nile River cruises. Many travelers on our private Egype tours enjoy a multiday luxury Nile River cruise from Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor. We arrange for their private Egyptologist guide and driver to meet them and take them on private excursions to archaeological sites and villages during their Nile cruise. This helps avoid crowds and provides a more intimate and customized experience along the Nile River.

We arrange the top luxury Nile River cruises, as well as private dahabiyas (traditional sailing barges) according to the interests of the travelers.

For travelers who want to move faster or who prefer to stay in hotels rather than on a cruise, we also arrange private overland tours between Luxor and Aswan with a private Egyptologist guide and driver, which is what we opted for.

Luxor contains the ruins of the ancient New Kingdom capital of Thebes, including the Luxor and Karnak temples. Across the river is the Theban necropolis in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Together these fascinating archaeological sites form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We visited the Valley of the Kings to see the majestic royal burial sites from the New Kingdom—among the most famous and well-preserved tombs in Egypt—including the tombs of Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Rameses V and VI.

In the Valley of the Queens, we especially enjoyed the spectacular Tomb of Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II. The interior is covered in vibrant paintings celebrating Nefertari’s life and beauty, making it one of the most colorful and exquisite tombs in the region.

We visited the Luxor and Karnak temples with our private Egyptologist guide just as the sunset turned the sky pink and purple.

Upon request, we can arrange additional activities around Luxor, such as hot-air balloon rides for bird’s-eye views over the Valley of the Kings, tours of tombs not open to the general public and visits to museums outside opening hours.

In Luxor, we stayed at the historic Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor. One of our favorite luxury hotels in the area, the Winter Palace has 19th-century charm, extensive gardens and Nile River views.

We also recommend the palatial Al Moudira, an enchanting boutique hotel option near the Valley of the Kings.

Next, we began our journey to Aswan with our private Egyptologist guide and driver. Our favorite stops en route were the Temple of Edfu, which was uncrowded because we weren’t on the cruise ship touring schedule, and the Temple of Kom Ombo, a particularly beautiful temple dedicated to both Haroeris (the falcon god) and Sobek (the crocodile god).

Aswan is a picturesque city known for its Nile River scenery, gardens, Nubian culture and archaeological sites.

We stayed at the atmospheric Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan. This palace hotel on the banks of the Nile River was constructed in the late 19th century and retains a sense of Old World glamour.

We loved the beautiful sunset views from the hotel.

Highlights of our private touring in Aswan were visiting the Temple of Philae, a complex on an island in the river; learning about the history of Nubian culture at the Nubian Museum; visiting the High Dam, which impounds Lake Nasser; and seeing the Unfinished Obelisk, which cracked during its construction centuries ago.

We especially enjoyed riding in a felucca (traditional wooden sailboat) across the Nile River to visit the Aswan Botanical Garden on El Nabatat (Kitchener’s) Island.

The garden is a leafy respite with palm-lined walkways and a collection of plants and trees from around the world.

From Aswan, we took a short flight to Abu Simbel, a pair of breathtaking ancient temples carved into sandstone cliffs on the edge of Lake Nasser. The monumental temples dedicated to Ramses II and Nefertari are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We loved touring the interiors of Abu Simbel and learning more about the hieroglyphics and colossal statues with our private Egyptologist guide.

Our private Egypt tour was a truly extraordinary and memorable experience. The country has so many incredible archaeological sites and such a rich history. We hope to return again soon.

private Egypt tours

Contact Artisans of Leisure to begin planning a private luxury Egypt tour featuring the best of contemporary and ancient Egypt.

Destinations:  Africa, Egypt

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