AIA Tours: land

Absolute Egypt, 2021

Tour Dates: January 20 to February 5, 2021 (17 days)

Tour Leader(s): Stephen Harvey ,

with 3 nights aboard private 8-cabin dahabiyas (sailboats)

Absolute Egypt is carefully crafted to provide the discerning traveler with the finest Egypt tour available. It combines all the best attributes of an in-depth, all-inclusive, well-paced luxury trip.

“I enjoyed everything. Best tour I have ever taken. Accommodations and food were all excellent. The scheduling was excellent and worked perfect for me. I like to be kept busy and see as much as possible, which we did. I have no criticism.” – Willow, Washington

Highlights include:

  • Traveling with Egyptologist Stephen Harvey plus a wonderful local Egyptologist guide and an excellent trip manager, who have been working together for years and have received excellent reviews;
  • The exclusivity of a maximum of just twelve participants plus your triad of leaders;
  • A 15-night itinerary, longer than most Egypt tours, so that your pace is in-depth and not rushed;
  • The best accommodations:
    • Pyramid-view rooms at the 5-star Mena House hotel in Giza for four nights to start your trip;
    • Three nights in Luxor at the 5-star Old Winter Palace in Luxury Garden rooms, which are quieter and larger than the Standard Nile-view rooms;
    • Three nights cruising the Nile aboard a private, eight-cabin dahabiyas (a traditional Nile sail boat). Our group of 12 guests (plus our three trip leaders) will sail aboard two of these smaller-sized vessels that will travel together to avoid the crowds cruising in a convoy of large Nile riverboats;
    • Spacious rooms with great views at the 5-star Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan hotel for three nights;
    • In the middle of the trip you stay one night at the best available hotel in Abydos so that you can explore two less-visited and fabulous sites, Abydos and Dendara;
  • Special meetings with excavators and conservators, including behind-the-scenes visits, when possible.

Please join our small group of just 12 travelers plus our expert leaders on this January 2021 departure. It will be an enjoyable, fascinating, and unforgettable adventure!

Main Tour Pricing per person (15 nights):
Double Occupancy (11 to 12 Participants) $12,145
Double Occupancy (9 to 10 participants) $12,445
Single Supplement* $2,795
With fewer than 9 participants, a small group surcharge may be added.
Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability).

Extension Price per person (4 nights):
Double Occupancy (11 to 12 Participants) $3,595
Double Occupancy (8 to 10 participants) $4,095
Double Occupancy (6 to 7 Participants) $4,395
Single Supplement* $1,095

With fewer than 6 participants, a small group surcharge may be added.Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability).

Ramesseum columns. Image © R.T. Nielsen

An image from within the Tomb of Nefertari. Image © R.T. Nielsen

The Sphinx and the Pyramids at Giza. Image © R.T. Nielsen

Feluccas seen along the banks of the Nile. Image © R.T. Nielsen

Seti I, burial chamber. Image © R.T. Nielsen

Luxor Temple. Image © Elsie

Abu Simbel, whose two temples were commissioned by Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century B.C. © operator


Day 1: Depart home
Day 2: Arrive Cairo, Egypt | Private transfer to hotel in Giza | Welcome dinner
Day 3: Giza Plateau
Day 4: Cairo: Egyptian Museum, Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Gayer-Anderson Museum
Day 5: Saqqara | PM at leisure
Day 6: Fly to Sohag | Abydos
Day 7: Abydos | Dendara | Luxor
Day 8: Karnak | Luxor Temple
Day 9: Valley of the Kings | Deir el Bahari | Luxor Museum
Day 10: Valley of the Queens | Deir el Medina | Embarkation at Esna
Day 11: El Kab | Edfu | Sailing the Nile
Day 12: Gebel el-Silsila | Kom Ombo | Sailing the Nile
Day 13: Aswan | Disembarkation | Philae | Nubia Museum
Day 14: Elephantine Island | Aswan
Day 15: At leisure in Aswan
Day 16: Aswan | Fly to Abu Simbel | Fly to Cairo | Farewell dinner
Day 17: Cairo | Fly home

Optional Pre-Tour Extension to JORDAN

Day 1: Cairo | Fly to Amman, Jordan | Jordan Archaeological Museum | Amman city tour | ACOR
Day 2: Jerash | Ajloun Castle | Amman
Day 3: Mt. Nebo | Madaba | Lunch at a local home | Um er-Rasas | Petra
Day 4: Petra
Day 5:  Petra | Wadi Rum | Amman | Fly Home

View Detailed Itinerary

(B)=Breakfast, (L)=Lunch, (R)=Reception, (D)=Dinner

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: Depart home

Thursday, January 21: Arrive Cairo, Egypt |
Private transfer to hotel in Giza
You will be met upon arrival at Cairo’s airport and transferred to Giza’s historic Mena House, a palatial hotel set amid forty acres of gardens, with magnificent views of the adjacent Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops). Gather for dinner at the hotel this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Marriott Mena House hotel in Pyramid View rooms for four nights. (D)

Friday, January 22: Giza Plateau | Welcome dinner
Spend the morning exploring the Giza Plateau, including the Great Pyramid of Khufu; Solar Boat Museum; Eastern Cemetery, with its vibrantly-decorated mastaba of Meresankh III; mortuary temple of Khufu; timeless Sphinx; and nearby Valley Temple of Khafra. After lunch at a nearby restaurant we return to our hotel this afternoon. This evening we gather for a welcome reception and dinner with our three expert trip leaders: AIA lecturer Stephen Harvey, our Egyptology guide, and our Trip Manager.  (B,L,R,D)

Saturday, January 23: Cairo: Egyptian Museum, Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Gayer-Anderson Museum
Spend the morning at the Egyptian Museum, which houses the celebrated treasures of Tutankhamen and the Royal Mummy Room. After lunch overlooking the Nile we visit two major Islamic sites: the 9th-century mosque of Ibn Tulun (both Cairo’s largest mosque in terms of land area and its oldest mosque in its original form) and the adjacent Gayer-Anderson Museum (a superb example of 17th-century domestic architecture with a vast collection of furniture, carpets, curios, and other objects). Return to the Mena House hotel this evening for dinner. (B,L,D)

Sunday, January 24: Saqqara
This morning we visit the Imhotep Museum on our way into the extraordinary necropolis at Saqqara, where we see the Step Pyramid of Djoser; the pyramid and causeway of Unas; the mastaba of the “two brothers,” Nyankhkhnum and Khnumhotep; and (pending permission) the newly-discovered, closed-to-the-public, 5th-dynasty Tomb of Wah Ti. After an outdoor lunch at Saqqara Palm Club, we return to the Mena House hotel for an afternoon at leisure to relax, enjoy the pool, and pack for our early flight tomorrow morning. Gather for dinner at our hotel. (B,L,D) ­

Monday, January 25: Fly to Sohag | Abydos
Transfer to the airport early this morning for our flight to Sohag. Upon arrival we drive to Abydos, one of the oldest and most important ancient cities in Egypt, where AIA lecturer Stephen Harvey has worked for over 25 years. Begin our visit at Shunet es-Zebib, one of the oldest standing massive brick structures in the world, the architecture of which points to some features of later structures, like the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. Next explore Kom el-Sultan, another large, Early Dynastic Period mud-brick structure, which includes an early Temple of Osiris where excavations have revealed hundreds of stelae yielding information about the cult of Osiris. After lunch we will visit the Temple of Ramesses II, with impressive reliefs of the Battle of Kadesh on its exterior walls and delicately-preserved paint colors. Check-in to our hotel and gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the House of Life Abydos hotel. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, January 26: Abydos | Dendara | Luxor
This morning we return to Abydos to visit the spectacular Temple of Seti I, where was discovered the “Abydos King List”—the long, invaluable list of pharaohs of the principal dynasties (as recognized by Seti) that was inscribed on a wall. The temple also has seven chapels with exquisite reliefs.

After lunch we drive to Luxor, stopping en route at the Temple of Hathor at Dendara, which has recently been extensively restored, revealing its startlingly well-preserved painted astronomical ceiling and reliefs. Upon arrival at Luxor we settle in at our hotel and gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor Hotel (Old Wing) for three nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, January 27: Karnak | Luxor Temple
A short drive through town brings us to Karnak, the world’s largest temple complex (built over the course of two thousand years), where a generous amount of time is scheduled for exploring this astounding and immense archaeological site. Our visit will include Karnak’s Open Air Museum, which has on display many newly reconstructed buildings. We return to our historic hotel on the east bank of the Nile and enjoy lunch and some time at leisure. Before dinner we visit the adjacent Luxor Temple, which is illuminated to striking effect. (B,L,D)

Thursday, January 28: Valley of the Kings | Deir el Bahari | Luxor Museum
In the Valley of the Kings, our morning exploration includes several royal tombs, including the legendary Tomb of Tutankhamen and the spectacular Tomb of Seti I. Continue on to the stunning mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari, including the Third Terrace Sanctuary of Amun with its beautifully preserved painted decoration. After lunch we return to the east bank of the Nile and visit the small, but excellent, Luxor Museum. Return to our hotel and then gather this evening for dinner. (B,L,D)

Friday, January 29: Valley of the Queens | Deir el Medina | Embarkation
Spend the morning in the Valley of the Queens, where we gain access to the touching Tomb of Khaemwaset, a young son of Ramesses III; and the Tomb of Nefertari, often called the most beautiful tomb in Egypt. Continue on to Deir el Medina, the ancient village of the workers who built the pharaohs’ tombs, where we visit the beautifully-preserved Tomb of Sennedjem and the recently-restored Ptolemaic Temple of Hathor. Our last visit on the west bank is the tomb of Ramose before we drive to Esna and embark our sailing vessel, a traditional Nile sail boat called a dahabiya, which will be our home-away-from-home for the next three nights. Our group will sail aboard two of these smaller-sized vessels that will travel together and avoid the crowds cruising in a convoy of large Nile riverboats. We enjoy a late lunch as we sail up the Nile. The afternoon is at leisure until we gather this evening for dinner onboard. Overnight aboard an eight-cabin dahabiya for three nights. (B,L,D)

Saturday, January 30: El Kab | Edfu | Sailing the Nile
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast onboard before visiting El Kab—one of the oldest settlements of Upper Egypt and now a famous necropolis with remarkable tombs of nobles and army generals. Continue to the city of Edfu for a tour of the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus—Egypt’s most complete and best-preserved temple. Return to our dahabiyas and relax as we sail up the Nile. This evening, enjoy an onboard dinner of Egyptian specialties presented with a performance of local music and dancing. (B,L,D)

Sunday, January 31: Gebel el-Silsila | Kom Ombo | Sailing the Nile
Set out this morning to visit Gebel el-Silsila, a New Kingdom sandstone workshop where twelve 18th-dynasty tombs were recently discovered. Sail onward to the twin Temples of Sobek and Horus at Kom Ombo, including a visit to the magnificent (though small), new Crocodile Museum. Continue cruising to Aswan, and partake in a final gala dinner onboard. (B,L,D)

Monday, February 1: Aswan | Disembarkation | Philae |  Nubia Museum
Disembark this morning at Aswan and visit an ancient granite quarry with an unfinished obelisk. Set out on a short boat ride to the island of Philae for a visit of its Temple of Isis, which has been called Egypt’s most beautiful temple. After lunch we check-in to our beautiful, recently renovated hotel on the Nile. This afternoon, visit Aswan’s elegant Nubia Museum, which exhibits many of the more than 3,000 artifacts recovered during the excavations of Nubian sites that were threatened by the construction of the High Dam. We return to the hotel and gather later for dinner. Overnight in the Nile wing of the 5-star Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, February 2: Elephantine Island | Aswan
Embark feluccas (small, traditional sailing vessels) to visit the archaeological site on Elephantine Island. Then we take a motor boat ride through the Nile cataract for lunch at a Nubian restaurant. This afternoon, enjoy a walk through Aswan’s suq, the most charming and traditional of the markets in Egypt, where one can find interesting Nubian ethnographic items such as baskets, pottery, and scarves that are unique to the Aswan area. We return to the hotel and gather later for dinner. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, February 3: At leisure in Aswan | Farewell dinner
Today is at leisure, to relax at our luxurious hotel overlooking the famous cataracts of Aswan. Enjoy a final lecture with generous time for Q&A with both Stephen Harvey and our local Egyptology guide. This evening we gather for a farewell reception and dinner at our hotel hosted by our triad of leaders. (B,L,R,D)

Thursday, February 4: Fly to Abu Simbel | Fly to Cairo
Transfer to the airport early this morning for a short flight to Abu Simbel, where we visit the two world famous and fantastic rock-cut temples of Ramesses II (built to honor himself and his queen, Nefertari). Moved when the Aswan High Dam was built, they are a marvel of ancient and modern engineering. Then fly to Cairo and check-in to our luxurious airport hotel, which features fully soundproofed rooms and, most importantly, direct access to Terminal 3 via footbridge. Dinner is at our hotel this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Le Méridien Cairo Airport. (B,L,D)

Friday, February 5: Fly home
Check out this morning and enter the airport to catch flights homeward. (B)



Optional, Pre-Tour Extension  January 15-21, 2021 (7 days)

Jordan is home to great cultural wonders, warm and hospitable people, and stunning desert and mountain landscapes.
You will explore superb ancient and early Christian sites, as well as the modern Arab city of Amman. Enjoy fine accommodations and meals, plus travel and learn with AIA lecturer/host Stephen Harvey (with 6 or more participants) and an excellent local guide, making this an exceptional opportunity to witness some of Jordan’s greatest highlights.

Friday, January 15, 2021: Depart home

Saturday & Sunday, January 16 & 17: Arrive Amman, Jordan | The Jordan Museum | Amman city tour | ACOR
On Saturday you will be met upon arrival at Amman’s airport (AMM) and transferred to our hotel. Over these two days we plan on several fascinating excursions. Explore The Jordan Museum, which provides an introduction to the people and cultures of Jordan throughout all periods of the country’s history, including archaeological material. Our city tour includes the Citadel, visiting the 8th-century Omayyad Palace; the Temple of Hercules, which was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century; a small Byzantine church; and the old Roman city’s restored odeon and its theater, which seated 6,000 people. Schedule permitting, also visit the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) for a private tour with its Director. Overnight at the 5-star Intercontinental Jordan Hotel for three nights. (1B,2L,2D)

Monday, January 18:  Jerash | Ajloun Castle | Amman
Begin today with a drive to the impressive Roman city of Jerash, nestled in a green, fertile valley. Stroll along the city’s colonnaded streets and through ancient marketplaces, and visit imposing theaters sitting beside Roman, Christian, and Muslim houses of worship. Continue on to one of the best-preserved examples of medieval Arab military architecture in the Near East, the spectacular, 12th-century Ajloun Castle. Return to Amman in time for dinner. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, January 19: Mt. Nebo | Madaba | Lunch at a local home | Um er-Rasas | Petra
After breakfast, depart for Mt. Nebo, from where we will have a clear view of the surrounding terrain, including the mountains of Moab, Jerusalem, and Judea. Continue on to Madaba, which has been inhabited for about 4,000 years and contains the most impressive work of art to survive from the mid-6th century: a mosaic map of the ancient Holy Land, the oldest one in existence, located in St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church. Visit the site’s ruins of the 6th-century basilica, the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, and the monastery; as well as the Church of Saints Lot and Procopius, Martyrs, which contains a masterpiece of the Madaba School of mosaics. After a cooking demonstration and lunch at a local home we set out for Petra, stopping along the way to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Um er-Rasas, a walled site with several well-preserved churches and mosaics. Arrive in Petra, check-in to our hotel, and gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Mövenpick Resort Petra for two nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, January 20: Petra
Early this morning we will walk about a mile through the siq (gorge) that takes us into (and, later, out of) the splendid Nabataean capital city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our first view of the rose-red city of Petra, carved almost 2,500 years ago, is the dazzling Al-Khasneh Farun (Treasury). From there we walk along the Streets of Façades and view the magnificent tombs, theater, markets, Petra Church (with its glorious mosaics), and Great Temple. Late this afternoon we visit the small site museum and then return to our hotel, where we dine tonight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, January 21:  Wadi Rum | Amman | Fly to Cairo
Depart Petra early this morning, driving through Wadi Rum Protected Area, which is a mixed natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage site. Wadi Rum’s desert landscape varies from narrow gorges to natural arches and towering cliffs, and 12,000 years of human occupation are evidenced by petroglyphs and archaeological ruins. After a simple, traditional lunch served in the shade of a Bedouin tent, we are transfered to the airport (AMM) in time for our flight to Cairo (CAI), where we meet our fellow travelers for the main tour. (B,L)


For reservations or questions, please email us at (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884).

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