This part of the middle east, the region of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Turkey, is steeped with rich history dating back 4600 years, has witnessed evolution of civilization, been the centre point of many religions, has immense natural beauty and of course has many wonders of the world which bear testimony to the immense creativity and capabilities of man! No wonder that this was in my bucket list of places to visit and experience and I would highly recommend this itinerary to everyone!
Itinerary and must see places
- Day 01 : Dec 16 : Toronto to Cairo flight
- Day 02 : Dec 17 : Cairo – Memphis, Saqarra pyramid; the Great Pyramid complex of Giza
- Day 03 : Dec 18 : Cairo to Aswan flight; Morning Aswan Dam, board Nile Cruise
- Day 04 : Dec 19 : Nile Cruise; Morning Aswan – Felluca cruise to Tomb of Royals, Elephantine island; Evening Kom Ombo
- Day 05 : Dec 20 : Nile Cruise; Edfu; Sail
- Day 06 : Dec 21 : Luxor; Check out of Nile cruise; Valley of Kings, Temple of Hatshepsut, Colossi of Memnon; Karnak temples; Drive to Hurghada
- Day 07 : Dec 22 : Hurghada, Quad safari – full day activity
- Day 08 : Dec 23 : Hurghada to Cairo flight; Hanging church, Synagogue; Cairo Islamic tour; Sound and Light show at the Great Pyramid and Sphinx complex
- Day 09 : Dec 24 : Cairo – Saladin citadel; Islamic architecture tour
- Day 10 : Dec 25 : Cairo to Amman, Jordan flight
- Day 11 : Dec 26 : Petra
- Day 12 : Dec 27 : Petra
- Day 13 : Dec 28 : Petra to Wadi Rum; Night in Wadi Rum
- Day 14 : Dec 29 : Drive to Aqaba, Dead Sea, Amman
- Day 15 : Dec 30 : Amman to Istanbul
- Day 16 : Dec 31 : Istanbul – Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque
- Day 17 : Jan 01 : Istanbul – Suleman mosque, Galata tower, Spice market
- Day 18 : Jan 02 : Istanbul – Dolmabahçe Palace, Topkapi palace
- Day 19 : Jan 03 : Istanbul to Toronto
Season and things to carry
Dec – Jan is pretty cold in all 3 countries. Except for Hurghada and Aqaba which are on the Red sea coast and South Jordan, we had to wear a jacket in all other places. Istanbul and Petra were wet and cold. Pack warm clothes, a light jacket, ideally waterproof with hood, warm hats, good walking shoes as there is walking and climbing involved. Despite the slight cold and wet conditions, I would still recommend visiting in this season for 3 reasons : –
- Less tourists, no rush, no line ups (or shorter line ups), good space to take pictures; spend time at the sites
- Lower prices
- good temperature to walk / climb
Egypt has the largest spectrum of things to see and experience from the Pyramids, Sphinx, Temples of the Pharaohs and tombs of ancient Egypt to the Towers, Citadels, Palaces and Mosques built over the years; from the exciting 3-4 day Nile cruises, exotic Red sea beach resorts, desert Quad safaris to the walks in the spice markets and the crowded local food and sweet shops.
If you are a history buff, you will love Egypt as there is 5000 years of recorded history. So many landmark events have happened on this land that you would require an egyptologist to properly guide you through it. I would classify the history in the following eras based on their distinct influences as I understood it :
- Time of the Pharaohs ~ 3000 BCE
- Assyrian and Persian rule ~ 660 BCE
- Alexander the Great’s invasion ~ 330 BCE
- Roman conquest ~ 30 BCE
- Arrival of Arabs ~ 640 AD
- The Mameluke period ~ 1250 AD
- Ottoman rule ~ 1500 AD
- British protectorate ~ 1880 AD
- Time after Independence ~ 1922
I chose to visit Jordan to explore Petra. Petra, made popular by Indiana Jones movie, The last crusade, is truly a unique wonder of the world. Here you can see tombs carved in the mountains. Here you are introduced to a new civilization, the Nabateans, who built Petra around 300 BC. Known for its amazing rock cut architecture and water management system, the city was a big trading centre and was later taken over by Romans.
Wadi Rum was our next destination in Jordan. This is another natural wonder with red sand strewn with small mountains which look as if they have been intricately carved. Another claim to fame for Wadi Rum is its popularity in Hollywood. Star Wars, Transformers, The Martian, Prometheus, Lawrence of Arabia, Krishh 3 and many other movies have been filmed here. A day tour and night stay here is absolutely recommended.
Aqaba on the red sea coast, the Dead sea and sites around Amman are other noteworthy places to see in Jordan.
Istanbul was on my list as I have been a big fan of both the Byzantine (eastern Roman) and the Ottoman empires. Istanbul or Constantinople as it was called till its fall to the Ottomans in the 15th century, was once the largest and wealthiest city in Europe and the seat of Roman power. Hagia Sophia, Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Topkapi palace and the Hippodrome are some of the most significant historical sites where you can spend a few days admiring the architechture and the panoramic views.