Ancient Treasures of the Middle East – Egypt, Jordan and Istanbul in 20 days

Ancient Treasures of the Middle East – Egypt, Jordan and Istanbul in 20 days

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
at the Great Pyramid and Sphinx complex

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 Southern Egypt, 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

We reached Cairo early morning around 6.15 am and were welcomed to the “Land of Pharaohs” by our guide from Egypt Tours Portal. The airport formalities were very swiftly completed as we had our e-visas. A representative from our private tour company was waiting to assist us with the passport control formalities.

2 points to remember –

  • The currency exchange rate at the airport is not good, so change your CAD in the city.
  • The phone plans at the airport are expensive but it may still be worth buying a SIM card there to save time.

 It took us about 15 minutes to come out as we didn’t have any check-in baggage, where we met our Egyptologist guide. At first I was skeptical about the ‘egyptologist’ part, but as the day progressed I realised that our guide was extremely knowledgeable about every place we visited and deserving of the title. We had some great discussions on history from 3500 BC to present delving into long discussions on how things had / must have happened, the rise and fall of  empires, the culture, religion and politics. I am happy to give his contact information below and recommend that you contact him for your tour of Cairo.

Mohamed Heider, 00201003353405;

From the airport we drove straight to the remarkable Memphis City which was the first capital for ancient Egypt that was founded by the great King Menes and occupied a strategic position between Upper & Lower Egypt. The city was believed to be under the protection of God Ptah. Here you will see the beautiful statue of King Ramses II which is partially broken but has maintained its beautiful sculpting. There are other statues which date back 3000 years. 

We had one of our most enjoyable breakfasts here, from a roadside shop selling felafels and fried eggplant. Our guide Mohamed did his best to dissuade us as he felt we may not like it, but we insisted and it was a good decision.

From Memphis we drove to visit the magnificent Saqqara Step Pyramid that is considered the earliest large-scale cut stone construction that was built during the 27th century B.C during under the reign of King Djoser. It was mainly built to be a tomb for the pharaoh but the builders wanted to give it a unique shape rather than just a “mastaba” (the square base) so they kept building a mastaba above another until it reached 6 mastabas atop one another with a height of 62 m. This a complex of tombs, ceremonial structures and decorations and takes about an hour to tour.

In the afternoon, we visited the famed Giza Pyramids Complex, which is synonymous with Egypt!! This Complex has some of the most incredible treasures that were left by the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs starting from the 4th dynasty who ruled Egypt in 2400 B.C.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu : It is the most interesting, the oldest, and the largest pyramid in Giza Plateau that was built by the great King Khufu, the son of Snefru who wanted to start a building project in Egypt and his son came to finish it after his death. The most impressive thing is that the height of the Pyramid is 147 m and the number of stones which were used in its construction is more than 2,300,000. 

Must do : Buy a ticket of 400 Egyptian pounds per person to enter the Great Pyramid and walk all the way up to the burial chamber. The walk up to the burial chamber is a steep, narrow and almost airless passageway which can be very daunting, especially if you are claustrophobic. After a long climb you have to crawl a bit to ent the tomb area which is empty, except for the lower half of the sarcophagus. Despite all this, it is quite exhilarating and it is equally exhilarating to be out of the pyramid (LOL)

The Amazing Giza Sphinx : Built during the reign of King Khafre, the son of King Khufu,the Sphinx takes the face of the king and a body of a lion as a sign of power and stands at 73 m long, 19 m wide, and 20 m in height. Sphinx is a name from the Greek time, almost 2000 years later and there is not much information on what it was called earlier or its purpose.

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