Highlights of our Recent Egypt Tour – And Why To Travel to Egypt Soon!
By Laura Ranieri Roy
It is a very special time in Egypt. I will even venture to say, the most special, perhaps, since after Tutmania hit in the 1920s with Carter’s tomb discovery. With a bounty of new archaeological discoveries, openings and re-openings of tourist sites, museums and luxury hotels, the country remains in jubilation – and on the cusp of a spectacular renaissance. No surprise that Egypt features on Conde Naste’s list of best places to travel in 2023. Even if you have visited the country 5, 10 or 25 years ago, now is the time to plan a return.
The long-awaited GEM
The much-delayed opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza, anticipated to be the world’s largest and most stunning archaeological museum, is set to finally open in 2023. In sha allah. It will be a magnificent new home for the 5000-plus treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb, towering colossi, gleaming galleries – and even the world’s first hanging obelisk. All at the foot of the Giza plateau with majestic views of the desert. I have personally been waiting for this opening for over a decade. Here is how it looked in November 2022 – from the outside.
Yes, the GEM is a reason to plan a trip -but there are so many other reasons. We recently returned from leading an incredible Ancient Egypt Alive small group tour through the country in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Tut discovery. Our 16 travelers got an intense, “up close and personal” look at many of the greatest wonders of Ancient history. Including special behind-the-scenes tours with world-famous archaeologists at work.
A few of the exciting reasons to go – or return to Egypt include:
- the newly opened Avenue of the Sphinxes, Luxor
- The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Cairo – new home to the Mummies
- The newly renovated Egyptian Museum in Cairo
- Newly opened tombs in Saqqara and Luxor
- Sparkling clean and bright, hotels – many new – looking wonderful post -andemic
- Colours restored on many temples
- New comforts for tourists – from electric cars to tour site, to boardwalks at the pyramids – to beautiful new restaurants
Active, inquisitive, and Adventuresome: A special breed of traveler comes to Egypt with us!
Our travelers in 2022 were a unique breed of mature yet energetic, inquisitive, and adventure-minded explorers who soaked in every pyramid and temple exploration with utter delight and amazement. They were a special group of Canadians and Americans for sure, but past trips have included inspired like-minded souls such as these. Generally 50-plus, but not always and we had a few 40-somethings on this tour. Over the years, we also get many in their 70s and even 80s — some of whom lead the charge into the pyramids and up to the tombs. Others take it at their own pace with us – and we accommodate all abilities. Another rare thing is this: our intimate and like-minded groups really get to like each other – many friendships are struck – and even a romance once!
A chance to time travel and touch history!
The kind of enriched small group tours we lead to Egypt are not about a leisurely breakfast and fancy drinks by the pool. You are up early on the road… eager to catch the morning sun rising over the desert, illuminating the pyramids you will explore in-depth – or to hike up the western mountains in Thebes to explore a 4000-year-old temple or tomb beating the crowds for a more private meaningful experience where we can. These travelers are adventurous and keen to sample local food, learn about architecture, and harken to rich stories that our Egyptologist guide brings to life on the ancient gods and kings… and how these wonders were built. They are ready to time travel, crack the hieroglyphic code – and truly touch history! Big hugs to all the intrepid adventurers who have made this pilgrimage with Ancient Egypt Alive in the 10 years we have run tours.
Warmth and Exuberance – Memorable Encounters with Modern Egypt
When people talk about Egypt, the ancient pyramids, temples and tombs generally top the list. More rarely, do you actually hear about the wonderful people and culture of modern Egypt. One of the delights our small group tours experience is an immersion into the modern Islamic and Coptic culture of Egypt – and encounters with the local people. I personally find Egyptians to be so warm, welcoming, and possessing a great sense of humour – and the children are absolutely delightful.
As our bus navigated through middle Egypt, we were swarmed by starry-eyed school kids, as if we were Royals or rock stars… Westerners are still a novelty in many parts of the country. And in the village of Beni Hasan, (where our bus got a little stuck in the mud) – the villagers lined the street, smiling, waving and blowing kisses. Local men assembled to create an alternate way out, preparing the roads with sand to ease the journey.
From the rural children on donkey back to the local craftsmen of el Qurna… to the Sufi dancers, tomb guards, tourist police, and sometimes too eager local vendors, meeting modern Egyptians, some proud to be the descendants of the Pharaohs, is a true highlight of the tour.
Archaeology Alive – Supporting excavations and our “sehind-the-scenes” site tours
Most of our small group tours also support archaeologists, and their work like few tours do. This was especially the case with our October-November 2022 Tutankhamun Tour.
We supported two excavations in 2022 – and were treated to behind-the-scenes tours at these wondrous archaeological sites – by two legends in archaeology.
A private tour of Amarna, Akhenaten’s Kingdom with Barry Kemp CBE, Director of the Amarna Project.
The Great Temple of Aten, heretic king Akhenaten’s strange roofless temple to his sun god was ravaged to the ground by his successors in antiquity. The great Barry Kemp, Miriam Bertram and the team have been hard at work for over a decade restoring the rebel king’s stronghold.
Our tour gave us a view of the reconstruction work (using the same Egyptian limestone and materials the ancient temple was built with), a walk about the small Aten Temple, and a climb up the beautiful cliffs to see the stunningly painted tombs of the nobles, the royal tomb itself — along with one of the 16 boundary stele where Akhenaten wrote out his vision for his kingdom.
Most impressive? A three-way tie between the beautiful views of the Nile valley, the fluid and natural Amarna art with its stunning blues and yellows – and the way Barry Kemp, a model of mature fitness, was able to bound up those steep cliffs with ease. Many of us decades younger struggled with the climb.
Behind the scenes at Colossi of Memnon – with Dr.Hourig Sourouzian
One of the most iconic sites of Egypt for millennia have been the twin-standing colossi, not far from the Nile on the West Bank of Egypt. They are still known as the Colossi of Memnon – and were a top tourist attraction in Greco-Roman times.
Today, we know that the Colossi of Memnon are not just statues but a gateway. They mark the entrance of the largest mortuary temple in Egypt: Kom el Hetan, the work of Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye and their great architects. Long ago destroyed by at least one or more ancient earthquakes, today it is a rich archaeological site. This great mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III is rising once again thanks to the incredible work of Dr. Hourig Sourouzion and her now late husband, Dr. Rainer Stadelmann.
Dr. Sourouzian, a vibrant, dynamic lady, generously took us behind the Colossi to reveal many of her thrilling new finds – from alabaster Sphinxes and Sekhmet statues to shattered stele – and even massive colossal statues of the king and queen that have recently emerged from the sands again.
For more than 10 years, we have curated our tours so travelers don’t just go to Giza and see the Great pyramid – they see a number of breathtaking pyramids – the whole plateau with the Sphinx – and the fascinating untraveled site of Dashur to see older pyramids.
The bold among us (usually 80-90% of the group) venture inside a number of them, a veritable pyramid bootcamp, penetrating to the secrets of the burial chambers! For others, the walk around these monstrous edifices to see the stone work, the ruins of other age-old structures and the stunning desert vistas is the highlight.
Entering Sacred Spaces: Bringing the Exquisite Temples Alive.
Many are being restored – millennia of black soot being removed so that ancient colours can burst through again. Some previously off limit shrines and temples have totally reopened after decades (or centuries) of no access.
Without the right guide, a trip to an Egyptian temple can be overwhelming – and less meaningful. For us, the experience is a transcendent one. We bring the history of these structures, their great carved pillars, and mysterious reliefs alive – and make it all fascinating and resonant. Whether or not you can palpably feel the power of these sacred spaces (some do) – our intellectually curious travelers learn what these great places signify, why they were built, who these gods and kings were – and what these ancient writings say. It is an enriching, exhilarating experience where suddenly millennia melt away, and you are in the time of the ancients!
I could go on and on and on about all the wonders we see each tour, the fabulous meals we ate – and the fun we have. But if you really want to know why so many call our special journeys the best travel experience of their lifetime, consider coming with us. Soon! Egypt is waiting – and the time could not be better!
- All photos by Laura Ranieri Roy Except those credited to others. Special thanks to Harold Durnford, amazing traveler and photographer.
Travel with us to Egypt in 2022, 2023 or 2024!
What makes our tours different?
- Small Groups: no more than 20 people per trip
- Special Site Experiences: Get rare access to seldom seen tombs, temples, museums—and special sites
- Egypt Experts: Your tour will be guided by at least two and often three experts to bring the history alive. Plus, the tours are organized by Anna MacKay of Your Journey, one of the best Egypt travel experts in Canada.
- Lectures and Learning: For those with a thirst for learning, we include lectures and insights along the way, to enrich the experience
- Special Guests: Many of our tours include special experiences with world authorities. You might get a first-hand look at an archaeology dig, or a special insider tour of an historic site.
- Solo Traveler Friendly: On average, 20-40% of our intrepid travelers are solo journeyers. We can help match you with a roommate those wishing to share.
Grab your seat on our 14-day Pyramids & Temples Alive tour
February 2023, November 2023, February 2024 – and November 2024 coming soon!
Contact us right away if you would like to book, or have a private consultation on one of these unique and enriching Egypt tours.