Cleopatra, animal-headed gods and pharaohs, sarcophagi and mummies: there’s no need to be an expert Egyptologist to enjoy a trip to Egypt. Explore Alexandria, Cairo, and the Nile Valley, where you can discover the most beautiful archaeological sites in Egypt during a cruise on the Steam Ship Sudan. She is the last steamboat on the river, and on your voyage the majesty of the agricultural landscape might even rival the splendour of the sites en route to Nubia from Luxor (or vice versa). From north to south, and from temples to ancient cities, we can arrange for you to visit all the things you don't want to miss during your trip to Egypt.
- The Pyramids of Cheops
- The Sphinx
- The Necropolis of Saqqara
- Luxor Temple
- The Temples of Karnak
- The Necropolis of Thebes
- The Valley of the Kings
- The Temple of Sety I
- The Temple of Horus
- The Kom Ombo Temple
- The Temple of Khnum
- The Temple of Philae
- The Temples of Abu Simbel
- The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Founded in the 3rd century B.C., the port of Alexandria quickly became a major metropolis, with a library of legendary wealth, whose influence extended far beyond the Mediterranean world. Its key sites are the old town, the Diocletian column, the Roman theatre, the citadel and the catacombs.
In Giza, the pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinus dominate the site. Cheops, the gigantic tomb of an obscure pharaoh, is the only one of the seven wonders of the world to have been preserved. Just a few steps away, the Sphinx - with a man’s head and lion’s body, has been the guardian of the necropolis for nearly five thousand years, and is the eternal symbol of the country. Then visit the stunning Khufu Ship, designed to transport pharaohs across from the world of the living to that of the dead, and which sits in a room flooded with light at the foot of one of the pyramids: it is one of the finest examples of naval architecture ever created. And of course, you mustn't miss out on the many treasures of the Egyptian museum in Cairo (or soon the Grand Egyptian Museum) which is entirely devoted to ancient times, including the treasure of Tutankhamun, and the beautiful portraits of Fayum.
An hour from Cairo, the Necropolis of Saqqara is one of the largest sites in the country. Its history is intertwined with that of Pharaonic Egypt: created during the first dynasty, the necropolis is home to many tombs from the reign of Tutankhamen to that of Ramses II. The diversity of the types of pyramids gives an insight into the experiments that were ongoing across generations to achieve a perfectly smooth pyramid.
A former capital of the ancient world, Luxor’s countless wonders unfurl on the banks of the Nile. On the east bank, the Temples of Karnak, stone mazes of colossal proportions, form a city within the city dedicated to the trinity of Theban deities: Amun, Mut, his wife, and Khonsu, their son. Luxor Temple, built in the New Kingdom era, is one of the most majestic sanctuaries of Pharaonic Egypt, its elegant columns lining the riverbank.
Planted with orchards and sugar cane, the western bank is home to the necropolis of Thebes and its funerary temples: in ancient Egypt, crossing the river meant entering the world of the dead, where Osiris welcomed the dead on judgment day. The Valley of the Kings is home to the tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramses III and the greatest pharaohs of the New Kingdom. The Valley of the Queens contains the tombs of the royal wives. The Valley of the Nobles gathers the tombs of the governors of Thebes, the Valley of the Craftsmen allows you to discover the popular funerary art of the craftsmen of the royal necropolis. On the west bank, you can also admire the Colossi of Memnon, the only remains of the vast temple devoted to the pharaoh Amenhotep III, the temple of Hatshepsut, and at Medinet Habu, the temple of Ramses III.
From Luxor, head to Abydos in a 4x4 vehicle, a two-hour drive under escort (sadly one should never venture off the beaten track alone in Egypt). There, the temple of Seti I is home to extraordinary bas-reliefs. In Edfu, at the end of ancient caravan trails, the temple of Horu, son of Ra, is the best preserved in Egypt. Between Luxor and Aswan, on the banks of the Nile, the Kom Ombo Temple dates back to the Greco-Roman period and stands on top of older ruins. It owes its particular structure - two entrances and two galleries around a double sanctuary - to the fact that it was dedicated to two deities: Horus and Sobek, the crocodile god - after visiting the temple, we recommend visiting the marvellous little museum devoted to Sobek.
With its azure blue skies, breeze coming off the Nile, feluccas sailing with their sails unfurled and midstream islands, Aswan is a pleasant city and the gateway to Lower Nubia. It is a world away from the frenzy of Cairo. Elephantine Island is one such island, a palm grove rising from the waters and sheltering a large number of ruins dominated by the Temple of Khnum, which dates from the Greco-Roman period. The Nilometer is a large staircase descending into the river, which was used to measure the floods. A short boat ride away is the island of Agilkia where, among burgeoning bougainvillea, the Temple of Philae appears like a mirage. Its aquatic environment and monumental façade make this late building, which was built in Roman times, the most elegant of all the temples in Egypt.
200 miles from Aswan, in the heart of Nubia, the Temples of Abu Simbel, devoted to the glory of the great pharaoh Ramses II, were dug in two sandstone hills facing the Nile. The monumental sentinels guarding the entrance are located on one of the most spectacular sites in the Nile Valley.
You can also discover the result of the most important archaeological salvage operation ever carried out: when President Nasser decided to build the Aswan High Dam to regulate the Nile's floods for irrigation and electricity production, he was not concerned about the archaeological treasures which were doomed to be submerged by the Nile's waters. Foreign (especially French) politicians and Egyptologists campaigned alongside UNESCO to save the two Abu Simbel temples, built respectively in 1290 and 1244 BC, which were cut into 1049 blocks, each weighing thirty tonnes, and moved 200 yards from their original location.
All of these sites can be visited during a cruise on board our boats, The Steam Ship Sudan or The Flâneuse du Nil.
Cover photograph : OLIVIER METZGER