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Travel in the style of the ancient pharaohs along the storied Nile River—the lifeblood of Egypt. Gaze up at the Pyramids at Giza, and discover the world’s largest collection of Egyptian artifacts at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Explore the spectacular Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, where Egypt’s great pharaohs constructed elaborate tombs and monuments among the desolate desert cliffs; and puzzle over the colorful hieroglyphs on the Temple of Hathor at Dendera and the remarkable royal imagery in the mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. Enjoy traditional dance and music performances aboard our luxurious ship as we glide past bustling villages, lush palm forests, and striking remnants of Egypt’s multilayered history. As we sail this storied waterway, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—from guided tours of iconic sites to culinary experiences and active adventures.
Arrive in Cairo and transfer to our iconic hotel, which offers spectacular views of Gîza’s famed pyramids. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as the sun sets over the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Set out this morning to explore the Pyramids at Giza, elaborate burial complexes built some 4,500 years ago for Egyptian pharaohs. Our hotel is situated at the foot of the pyramids, ensuring that we arrive before the crowds for a peaceful view of the sun rising over the limestone peaks. Next, visit the Solar Boat Museum, home to a restored cedarwood barge built to transport Pharaoh Khufu to the afterlife and sealed in the Great Pyramid around 2500 B.C. Ponder the riddle of the Great Sphinx, the 240-foot-long monolith carved out of the limestone bedrock of the Gîza plateau during the reign of Pharaoh Khafre. Then learn about the rich history of the Nile region during a talk given by our National Geographic expert. After the sun goes down, see the pyramids illuminated by Gîza’s spectacular multicolored light show.
Fly to Luxor, which makes up part of what was known in antiquity as the great city of Thebes. Settle into our historic hotel, where British archaeologist Howard Carter regularly gave updates after the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s treasure-filled tomb in 1922. Wander amid the fragrant gardens and opulent rooms of this former palace, once a winter retreat for the Egyptian royal family. Then visit the nearby Luxor Museum to peruse ancient relics. Tonight, take a guided walk through the souk, an open-air market where vendors sell spices, silks, jewelry, and fragrant street food.
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Spend the day exploring the Valley of the Kings, ancient Egypt’s “gateway to the afterlife.” Enjoy an optional hot-air balloon flight to gain a stunning bird’s-eye view of the sites that dot this stark desert valley, where the pharaohs constructed underground tombs to hold treasures, jewelry, sacred objects, furniture, and even food for the next world. Here, in 2018, a highly publicized National Geographic–supported investigation using ground-penetrating radar concluded that there were no hidden chambers behind King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Discover the neighboring Valley of the Queens, where queens and some royal children were buried, and view the impressive mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut—the longest reigning female pharaoh. Then enjoy a special visit to the well-preserved mortuary Temple of Ramses III, who is believed to have been the victim of an assassination plot led by one of his wives. Board our riverboat this afternoon; then explore the vast open-air temple complex of Karnak, marveling at the towering columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall. After dinner, toast the beginning of our Nile cruise with cocktails and canapés on the sundeck.
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Glimpse daily life along the banks of the Nile River as we make our way to Dendera, one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. Enormous mud brick ramparts enclose more than 130,000 square feet of desert studded with remnants of shrines and towering colonnades. Marvel at the vibrantly painted hieroglyphs adorning the roof of the Temple of Hathor. Later, return to Luxor and explore Luxor Temple, created over hundreds of years by various pharaohs. This evening, delight in a mesmerizing performance by whirling dervishes and a traditional belly dancer.
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Follow the procession route of the pharaohs as we cruise south along the Nile, where magnificent temples and ancient villages line the banks against a dramatic desert backdrop. Disembark at Edfu to explore the well-preserved Temple of Horus, erected to honor the god of the sky. Stand tall beside larger-than-life carvings of pharaohs on the outer walls, and gaze up at the blackened ceiling of the hypostyle hall, believed to be the result of ancient arson. Travel further upriver to Kôm Ombo, a temple perched high on the east bank of the Nile and dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god. Tonight, enjoy a lively evening of music and dance with performers adorned in galabia, traditional Egyptian dress.
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Continue sailing south to Aswân, a busy market town located just north of the colossal Aswan High Dam, completed in 1970 to tame the regular flooding of the mighty Nile. Meet National Geographic grantees who are excavating an ancient quarry at nearby Gebel el Silsila, where laborers once cut stone for the construction of temples such as Luxor and Karnak. Explore the island temple of Philae, a site of ancient pilgrimage for devotees of the goddess Isis. In the 1960s the entire temple complex was moved to its present location on Agilkia Island because of flooding caused by the construction of the Aswan dams. Visit a nearby quarry to learn about ancient carving techniques and view the “unfinished obelisk.” This enormous monument, half-carved out of granite bedrock, was intended to be larger than any ancient obelisk ever erected, before a large crack caused the project to be abandoned. In the afternoon, explore the Nile by felucca, a traditional wooden boat with one or two distinctive lateen sails. After an educational presentation from our expert, join the captain and crew for a gala dinner.
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Disembark at Aswân and check in to our hotel—converted from a 19th-century Victorian palace, where notable guests such as Sir Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie once stayed—and admire sweeping views of the river from your balcony. This afternoon, choose to visit a traditional Nubian village, ride in a motorboat to the upper reaches of the Nile, or explore the vibrant Aswan Botanical Garden. Watch the sun set over swaying date palms as you sample delicious Mediterranean cuisine during a private dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant.
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Fly to Abu Simbel, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to two of Egypt’s most impressive temples, built by the Egyptian king Ramses II. In the 1960s, the site was dismantled, lifted, and reassembled some 600 feet west and 200 feet above the original site, a feat of engineering rivalling the original construction of the temples. Stand at the base of the colossal statues of Ramses II and puzzle out the hieroglyphs carved on the walls of the inner hall. Later, continue by local flight to Cairo and enjoy a free evening to explore Egypt’s capital city on your own.
Delve deeper into ancient history during a visit to the Egyptian Museum. View relics recovered from Tutankhamun’s tomb, documents made of delicate papyrus, elaborate sarcophagi, and a collection of royal mummies. After lunch, explore the walled city of Islamic Cairo, originally founded as the royal enclosure of the Fatimid caliphs. Weave your way through narrow streets lined with hundreds of mosques, tombs, and madrassas. Then make your way to Old Cairo, the location of the earliest original settlement, where the Canal of the Pharaohs once connected the Nile to the Red Sea. This area is home to the Coptic Christian community, the ruins of Roman fortifications, the first mosque built in Egypt, and the oldest synagogue in Cairo. This evening, gather for a festive farewell dinner to celebrate our adventure.
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Transfer to the airport in Cairo for your flight home.
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