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Inner mysteries of Egypt and the Nile - October 2023

Delight in this 14-night/15-day luxury tour of Egypt visiting Giza, Cairo, Saqqara, Luxor, El-Fayyum Oasis, Karnak, Edfu, Abydos, Dendera, Kom Ombo, the Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, and many more outstanding destinations in the land of the pharaohs! Enjoy unique special access to the enigmatic Sphinx monument and Great Pyramid during private visits.
Day 1 – October 13, 2023
Arrive in Egypt
Arrive in Egypt. Pick up at Cairo International Airport and transfer to Giza hotel. Orientation in evening. First night in 5* Giza hotel (Steigenberger Pyramids).
Meals: D
Overnight in Giza Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel – Pyramid view upgrade
Day 2 – October 14, 2023
El Fayyum
Departure by bus for the el-Fayyum Oasis. In the morning travel by bus to the el Fayyum Oasis. Visit the Pyramid of Hawara, built for Amenemhet IV, and also the site of the fabled Egyptian Labyrinth, one of the most mysterious constructions of the ancient world finished by Amenemhet IV’s daughter, Egypt’s fabled first female king, Sobekneferu. Lunchtime at hotel. Free afternoon with lecture on the next day’s visit to Qasr el-Sagha temple. First night in el-Fayyum
Meals: B L D
Day 3 – October 15, 2023
El Fayyum
Journey by 4 x 4 vehicles north of the great Lake Birket Quran (the Lake Moeris of classical times) and arrive at the Qasr el Sagha temple. Made of polygonal blocks and cyclopean masonry, this mysterious megalithic structure is one of the remaining enigmas of ancient Egypt. We spend the entire day investigating the temple and the surrounding area looking for clues as to who built it, when and why. Experience the evening at the temple site before returning to the hotel. Second night in el-Fayyum.
Meals: B L D
Day 4 – October 16, 2023
Saqqara
In the morning leave el-Fayyum for Saqqara. See the enigmatic Serapeum, a labyrinth of underground catacombs housing gigantic sarcophagi said to have once contained the mummified remains of sacred Apis bulls. See evidence of the advanced technology used in the construction of these massive granite sarcophagi. Visit the Pyramid of Teti to see the Pyramid Texts recording the journey of the soul of the pharaoh to the afterlife and visit the Heb-sed court in front the Step Pyramid, built for the pharaoh Djoser around 2675 BCE. Journey on to Giza. Second night at Giza.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Giza Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel – Pyramid view upgrade
Day 5 – October 17, 2023
Giza Pyramid and Sphinx
Private visit to the Sphinx enclosure to watch the sunrise between 5-7am. The Sphinx is one of the most iconic monuments in the world. It is the head of a pharaoh and the body of a lion, thought to represent Khafre, the builder of the Second Pyramid circa 2550 BCE. Afterwards view the exterior of the Great Pyramid, the panorama view, and the Valley Temple of Khafre. Private visit to the Great Pyramid at night. Third night at Giza.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Giza Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel – Pyramid view upgrade
Day 6 – October 18, 2023
Grand Egyptian Museum
Visit the Grand Egyptian Museum. Depart to Cairo Airport for a flight to Aswan. First night in Aswan. Note, the museum is not yet open but hopefully it will be by October 2023. In case the Grand Museum is not open, we will provide visits to the Egyptian Museum and the Museum of Civilization, including the Mummy Hall.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Movenpick Hotel, Aswan Island - Nile View upgrade
Day 7 – October 19, 2023
Abu Simbel
Drive by bus to Abu Simbel. On the way stop off to inspect a natural rock mesa on the edge of the Libyan Desert. Examine its geology and take in the ambience of the desert environment. In the afternoon visit the iconic rock-cut temple of Abu Simbel, built during the reign of Rameses II and moved to its current position during a mammoth engineering project following the building of the Nasser Dam in the 1960s. See also the rock-cut temple of his wife Nefertari. Second night in Aswan.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Movenpick Hotel, Aswan Island - Nile View upgrade
Day 8 – October 20, 2023
Philae Temple & Unfinished Obelisk
Visit the Temple of Philae dedicated to the Goddess Isis. Later, visit the gigantic unfinished granite monolith still attached to the bedrock in a quarry. Examine the methods used to extract obelisks and statues from the living rock including the inexplicable scoop marks suggestive of the use of a lost technology. Felucca ride to Elephantine Island where you can see the ruins of the Khnum Temple. Free time in the evening for wandering in Aswan’s old markets. First night on Nile Cruise.
Meals: B L D
Overnight on 5* Nile Cruise Ship
Day 9 – October 21, 2023
Kom Ombo Temple
Sail north to Luxor. Disembark to visit the Temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo, built under the rule of the Ptolemaic kings circa 180–150 BC. Second night on Nile Cruise.
Meals: B L D
Overnight on 5* Nile Cruise Ship
Day 10 – October 22, 2023
Edfu Temple
Continue on Nile Cruise. Disembark during the day to visit the magnificent temple of Horus at Edfu, built during the Ptolemaic period circa 175 BC. Its walls contain the most complete accounts of the creation of the world and the coming of the gods during the age of zep tepi, the First Time. See the temple’s holy of holies which includes a wooden boat on which the God Horus came down from heaven. Third night on Nile cruise.
Meals: B L D
Overnight on 5* Nile Cruise Ship
Day 11 – October 23, 2023
Karnak Temple & Luxor Temple
Arrive in Luxor, ancient Thebes, the capital of Egypt in the south. Disembarkation, followed by a visit to Karnak Temple. Transfer to the hotel and check in for some rest. In the early evening visit the Temple of Luxor, illuminated by lights. Built during the New Kingdom period, 1575-1050 BCE, it marks the beginning of the newly reopened Sphinx Avenue, which has 1000 sphinxes - 800 on either side - lining the ceremonial site to Karnak temple. First night in Luxor.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Sonesta St George - Nile View upgrade
Day 12 – October 24, 2023
Abydos Temple & Dendera Temple
Journey north by luxury bus to the Temple of Abydos, built for King Seti I around 1290-1279 BCE. See also the extraordinary ancient structure known as the Osireion, a subsurface temple located beyond the present temple and thought to be a symbolic representation of the Tomb of Osiris, god of the dead. See the building’s cyclopean masonry and polygonal walls similar to those of the Qasr el Sagha temple in the el-Fayyum Oasis and the Valley Temple of Khafre at Giza. Ponder on its immense age and unique construction. After lunch continue on to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. Visit its underground crypts where strange reliefs indicate the use by ancient Egyptians of advanced technologies. Return to Luxor. Second night in Luxor.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Sonesta St George - Nile View upgrade
Day 13 – October 25, 2023
Valley of the Kings, Ramesseum & Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple
Cross the Nile by boat and enter the Theban West Bank, the ancient Egyptian realm of the dead. Visit the Valley of the Kings and see the Tomb of Tutankhamun as well as other tombs decorated with reliefs showing the books of the underworld. Also visit the Ramesseum with its astronomical ceiling and colossal statues of Rameses II, as well as the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Stop off for photos at the Colossi of Memnon, gigantic statues of the pharaoh Amenhotep III dating to circa 1375 BCE. Third night in Luxor.
Meals: B L D
Overnight in Sonesta St George - Nile View upgrade
Day 14 – October 26, 2023
Habu Temple, Deir Medina & Howard Carter’s House
Visit the West Bank again to cover the rest of the important sightseeing which can’t be missed there, including the Habu Temple, Deir Medina, and Howard Carter’s House. In the early evening fly back to Cairo, transfer to a hotel in the Le Meridien Cairo Airport.
Meals: B L D
Day 15 – October 27, 2023
Cairo departure
Final goodbyes and transfer to Cairo airport.
Meals: B
Photos © Andrew Collins

The Splendours of Ancient Anatolia and Turkey - Sep 2023

Ancient Origins' Dr. Micki Pistorius reveals the histories and mysteries of Turkey and ancient Anatolia on this exclusive tour. From sublime views on the summit of Mount Nemrut, to the unique underground cities of Cappadocia, and of course a journey through Göbekli Tepe, this trip will provide you with amazing experiences!
Day 1 - Wed, 27 Sep, 2023
Istanbul

Arrive directly in Istanbul. Pick up at the airport and private transfer to the hotel. In the evening enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation by your tour leader.

Meals: D
Overnight in Levni Hotel (Sultanahmet), Istanbul
Day 2 - Thu, 28 Sep, 2023
Istanbul

After breakfast depart for your full day tour of Old Istanbul. The group will depart for the Hippodrome, where you will visit the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. Late afternoon, depart for the bustling Grand Bazaar, a fascinating place to see traders and do some shopping. Return to the hotel.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Levni Hotel (Sultanahmet), Istanbul
Day 3 - Fri, 29 Sep, 2023
Istanbul

After breakfast, depart for more sightseeing in Istanbul, including the Basilica Cistern, the Archaeological Museum complex and the Turkish Islamic Art Museum. Have lunch in a traditional restaurant. Time-permitting, visit the Spice Market. Return to the hotel.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Levni Hotel (Sultanahmet), Istanbul
Day 4 - Sat, 30 Sep, 2023
Istanbul – Adiyaman

After breakfast in Istanbul, transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Adiyaman. Proceed to visit Karakus Timulus, Cendere Bridge and Arsemia. Finally you will visit Nemrut Dagi (Mount Nemrut). At the apex of this mountain (at over 2,000 meters) are the enigmatic statues of a pre-Roman king, Antiochus I Theos of Commagene, and the various gods he believed to be his ancestors. The views from the summit are sublime.
(NOTE: it is a 30-45 minute walk to the summit depending on your pace. The path is uneven. We recommend wearing layers as the temperature is much colder at the summit).
You will then descend and drive to your hotel in Adiyaman.

Note: a light lunch will be served on the flight

----- Cendere Bridge is one of the world's oldest bridges still in use, constructed during the empire of Septimus Severus (193-211). Composed of 92 stones, each weighing around 10 tons, it is thought to be the second largest Roman bridge still in existence, spanning an impressive 122 metres. The bridge today appears as a simple, unadorned arch, but was originally decorated by four Corinthian columns dedicated to Septimus Severus and his wife. Arsemia was the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom and burial place of Mithridates. It is home to the largest rock inscription found in Anatolia, which describes the political and religious beliefs of the inhabitants.

King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene claimed himself a god, but there is no denying that his royal lineage was impressive. He was the creator of Mount Nemrut and the monumental pantheon of statues of himself and the gods on the mountain summit provide ring-side seats to history unfolding on the staged landscape before them. Gazing towards the east over centuries, the headstone of Antiochus would have seen the rise and fall of the Achaemenid Dynasty, as well as the Parthians; and gazing towards the west he would have seen the advance of Alexander the Great, the rivalry between the Seleucid and Orontid Dynasties for control of Armenia and finally the Roman legions marching into his land, swallowing his little Kingdom of Commagene. Behind the display of statues are some well-preserved slabs of stone which feature figures in relief carving and are originally thought to have formed a large frieze. Archaeologists interpret the figures as Antiochus' ancestors, which included Greeks and Persians. It is the perfect place to experience a sunset or sunrise as the views from the summit are sublime.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Dedeman Park Hotel, Adiyaman
Day 5 - Sun, 1 Oct, 2023
Adiyaman – Gōbekli Tepe - Urfa

Today we drive to Urfa, stopping en-route at one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites - Gōbekli Tepe. We will spend a couple of hours exploring Gōbekli Tepe, the world's oldest stone temple complex, constructed nearly 12,000 years ago, making it the oldest megalithic site on the planet. See its extraordinary circles of T-shaped standing stones with carved reliefs of birds, animals and other abstract forms. Learn its history and place in the origins of civilisation.

Drive to Urfa, check-in at hotel and early evening, visit the Pools of Abraham in the centre of Urfa.

----- Göbekli Tepe, the oldest place of worship in the world, is an archaeological site without equal. Prior to its discovery in 1994 and its subsequent excavation it was widely believed by anthropologists that religion evolved as a result of living in larger communities which was itself the result of the change from foraging to agriculture. However, Göbekli Tepe has turned our theories of our own evolution on their head. The vast religious site dates from the hunter gatherer period and there is no evidence of any agriculture or even human habitation, suggesting that it may have been the emergence of religion that lead us to civilisation and thus to agriculture. The site contains a vast array of circular structures and huge pillars, some with beautiful limestone carvings of lions, foxes, snakes and birds, believed to be gatekeepers of the entrance to the next world. To date, less than ten percent of the site has been excavated.

Urfa (a.k.a. Sanliurfa, "the prophet's city", or Edessa in ancient times) is the most spiritual city in Eastern Turkey. It is a major centre for pilgrimage and its traditions are very much alive and well. The "Sanli-" part of its name (meaning "great" or "dignified") was awarded by the Turkish legislature in 1984 in recognition of the city's pivotal role in the Turkish war of Independence. Of particular note for visitors are Urfa Castle (the current walls were constructed by the Abbasids in 814AD), the Pool of Sacred Fish where Abraham was thrown in to the fire by Nimrod, the park of mosques, the market area and the Urfa museum.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 6: Mon, 2 Oct, 2023
Excursion to Karahan Tepe – Sogmatar - Harran

In the morning we will visit Karahan Tepe and Sogmatar. Later in the afternoon, travel to the ancient city of Harran, once the centre of Egypt's Hermetic tradition. See its "Astrological Tower", citadel and the local village known for its unique ‘beehive’ homes. Return to Urfa early evening.

----- Not far from Göbekli Tepe is another Pre-Pottery Neolithic site called Karahan Tepe, which dates to a similar age as Göbekli Tepe. Stone rows, T-shaped stone pillars, and other standing stones cover a hill but they have not been excavated.

Sogmatar, about 57 km (35.41 miles) from the ancient city of Harran, flourished as a cultic center and holy city during the time of the Abgar dynasty of Edessa, from the 2nd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Among the ruins in Sogmatar are the remains of walls and turrets on the main hill that date to the 2nd century AD. A sanctuary to the planets is also found on the hill. Among the gods worshiped in the city are the principle deities from the surrounding cultures such as Sin, the Mesopotamian moon god whose main site of veneration was Harran.

The main temple, which still stands today, was an open-air temple where sacrifices were held. The temple was built on a hill which is surrounded by the ruins of seven large buildings which may have had religious significance. If these seven structures are associated with the temple, they may represent the five planets visible in antiquity and the sun and moon. It is not clear if there are any astronomical alignments associated with the hill or the seven structures surrounding it. The nearby subterranean temple which contains definite references to the planets and the moon god, however, makes it probable that this sacred hill involved worship of the celestial bodies as well. This makes the site potentially important for the study of ancient astral religion

Mentioned in the Book of Genesis, Harran is believed to have once been home to the Prophet Abraham. The site of the first Islamic university in Anatolia, Harran also boasts the remains of an 8th century mosque, a citadel and some 300 year- old beehive mud homes which enjoy a constant temperature throughout the year, winter or summer.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 7: Tue. 3 Oct, 2023
Urfa

Today you can take your time to explore the Urfa Archaeological Museum and the nearby Mosaic Museum.

Rest of the day is free to explore more of Urfa, including its tombs and Urfa Castle.

The Urfa Archaeological Museum contains many of the archaeological finds from Göbekli Tepe including steles and sculptures. It also contains Hittite sculptures from Golpinar and pieces from Harran, Nevali Cori and Kabahaydar.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 8 - Wed, 4 Oct, 2023
Urfa – Ankara

Take the morning flight to the capital Ankara. On arrival we will have lunch followed by an afternoon visit to the Anatolian Civilisation Museum of Ankara and then Ankara Fort. In the museum you can expect to see artefacts and reconstructions from various Neolithic sites such as Catalhoyuk. Return to hotel in Ankara.

----- The Ankara Anatolian Civilisation Museum boasts many archaeological finds related to the excavations in Hattusa and Çatalhöyük, and will help you to gain a good understanding of these areas. The historical centre of Ankara sits overlooking the town on a hill and is littered with the remains of Hittite, Phrygian, Byzantine, Roman and Christian monuments and settlements. Of particular interest as a surviving example of ancient architecture is the Temple of Augustus. Often also referred to as 'Angora', Ankara is home to the Angora goat with its luxury wool and the unusual animal breeds of angora cats and rabbits.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Hilton Garden Inn, Urfa
Day 9 – Thu, 5 Oct, 2023
Ankara – Hattusa – Cappadocia

After an early breakfast we will set off from Ankara to the Hittite capital of Hattusa (approx 3 hours drive). Spend 2-3 hours exploring the site and after lunch proceed by road to Cappadocia (3 hours). Dinner on arrival at hotel in Gōreme. Note: this day will involve quite a lot of driving.

----- Hattusa was once the centre of the Hittite Empire, dating back to the late Bronze Age. Set in what were once rich agricultural fields and among scenic, rolling hills, the city has some fine examples of early ancient architecture. Originally the inner city was a vast array of temples and monuments, overlooked by the royal residence on the acropolis. An architectural masterpiece in its time, the city gateway was once adorned with reliefs of warriors, lions and sphinxes, framing four temples, each of which had their own courtyard. The city was destroyed, along with the Hittites themselves, in the 12th century BC. By the 20th century, the principal remains of Hittite inscriptions were found on over 10,000 tablets.

The archaeological site of Hattusa, former capital of the Hittite Empire, is notable for its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved (temples, royal residences, fortifications), the rich ornamentation of the Lions' Gate and the Royal Gate, and the ensemble of rock art reliefs of the gods at Yazilikaya. The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C.

Meals: HB
Overnight in Radisson Blu, Ankara
Day 10 - Fri. 6 Oct, 2023
Cappadocia

After breakfast spend the day exploring some of Cappadocia's famous sights and dramatic landscapes. Sites will include: Gōreme Open Air Museum, Kaymakli Underground City and some of Cappadocia’s fairy chimney landscapes.

----- The Gōreme Open-Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and is a vast complex of monasteries, each of which has its own church. These churches are the finest of the rock-cut churches, boasting beautiful frescoes (wall paintings). There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and the largest one is Kaymakli Underground City. These troglodyte cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, and expanded over the centuries as various pillaging armies crossed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. The Kaymakli Underground City has low, narrow and sloping passages and consists of eight floors below ground, although only four of them are open to the public today. The number of the storage rooms in such a small area supports the idea that a great number of people resided here, archaeologists estimate figures of up to 3,500 people. As well as chapels, stables and storage, an efficient man-made system of air shafts provided ventilation even at the deepest levels of the underground cities, meaning people could survive there for lengths of time when necessary. The people of Kaymakli village have constructed their houses above nearly 100 tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards.

Meals: HB
Overnight in MDC Cave Hotel (or similar), Cappadocia
Day 11 - Sat, 7 Oct, 2023
Cappadocia - Konya

Drive towards Konya. On the way, we stop at Ashikli Hoyuk for a brief visit to this site, which is 10,000 years old. Stop for lunch. Visit Çatalhöyük, the world's oldest city, then return to Konya for a tour around its archaeological museum, with its spectacular Çatalhöyük exhibition. In the evening take in a Whirling Dervishshow.

--- Konya is an affluent, mid-sized city in Central Turkey. It is the centre of all things Sufi and also strongly linked to Seljuk culture.

Çatalhöyük, widely believed to be the world's first town, is one of the best preserved examples of a Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement. Built around two hills of the Anatolian plateau, the settlement was inhabited for 2,000 years between 7500 BC and 5700 BC. Çatalhöyük began life as a village and, unusually, in a time when village settlements were abandoned and new land used to build cities, the buildings were adapted and urbanised to accommodate a growing population. With a particularly advanced culture for its time, Çatalhöyük boasts impressive early artworks: unusual artistic wall paintings, flint daggers with decorated bone handles and most notably, the clay and marble figurines found scattered around the site which archaeologists take as evidence of a female deity. The housing designs are perhaps the most striking – all the houses were clustered together in a maze-like manner, but instead of streets or footpaths the roofs functioned as paths between the houses which were accessed through steps and ladders leading through the ceiling. With no windows either, these 'doorways' in the ceiling were also the only means of ventilation. Çatalhöyük also had unusual burial customs, burying their dead under the floorboards, painting skulls with ochre.

Meals: HB
Overnight in MDC Cave Hotel (or similar), Cappadocia
Day 12 – Sun, 8 Oct, 2023
Konya – Istanbul

Take the morning flight back to Istanbul. End your trip with a delightful private sunset cruise on a yacht on the famous Bosphorus river. After disembarking, enjoy a farewell dinner with your group and tour leader.

----- Joining the Black Sea with the smaller south-western Sea of Marmara, the 20 mile-long Bosphorus has always been a site of great strategic and commercial importance. The desirable traits of providing access to Asia and being particularly narrow has meant that The Bosphorus has a long history of conflict that dates back to the 5th century BC with the Persians. The Bosphorus' shoreline is densely populated and possesses a number of architectural features that demonstrate its rich historical past.

Meals: B, D;
Overnight in Novotel Bosphorus, Istanbul
Day 13 – Mon, 9 Oct, 2023
Departure

Transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your onward travel.

** If you would like to extend your stay in Turkey or any of the neighbouring countries contact us for options. **

Meals: B
Photos © Andrew Collins