Egypt has enchanted visitors throughout history and our gay Egypt tour is no exception. Join our small gay group us as we sail down the Nile on the ss Karim, a traditional paddle steamer built for kings. The riches of antiquity are our destination and our backdrop as we cruise through the land of the pharaohs.
Egypt, the wonder of travelers for thousands of years, calls us for a pilgrimage to the treasures of this historic land. And what a fascinating time this will be to explore that land as the Egyptians of today learn how to work together across society to create a new Egypt.
On our gay Egypt cultural tour we offer an intimate experience for inquisitive travelers who wish to delve deeply into the history of civilization. From the finest accommodations in Cairo to our own luxurious ship on the Nile, every detail is designed to offer our guests the most memorable experience possible.
We invite up to twenty-five guests to join us as we sail down the Nile on the ss Karim, a traditional paddle steamer built for kings. From our comfortable home on the water, the riches of antiquity become our backdrop as we leisurely cruise through the land of the pharaohs and visit the famous sites to explore their treasures.
In Cairo we start with two nights at one of the city's finest hotels, next to the pyramids in Giza. From this elegant base we first visit the pyramids, and for those with enough time, we are offering a one-day pre-tour extension that will include leisurely visits to pyramids that few visitors get to see.
In Cairo we fly to Luxor where we board our ship. For one glorious week, we cruise slowly on the Nile between Luxor and Aswan in our privately chartered, historic paddle steamer, watching village life virtually unchanged for a millennium.
Each day we go ashore to visit major archeological sites including: the Karnak and Luxor Temples, the Valley of the Kings in Western Thebes, and the splendid temples of Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo. Fabulous as these sites are, our journey is made truly meaningful because we refuse to rush you. As our ship cruises along the Nile, we take plenty of time for relaxation and contemplation between our busy days of sightseeing. Previous tour members particularly enjoyed our forays into the countryside where they could establish a friendly rapport with the courteous Egyptian people who have welcomed our groups for over thirty years.
After our week exploring the Upper Nile region, we will return to Cairo to spend the last two nights of our main tour at a luxury hotel which will be our base for seeing the sights of the capital city. During our stay in the city we will tour the lauded Egyptian Museum. Along the way we'll see some of the Pharaonic, Classic, Early Christian, and Arab monuments built in this ancient land over the course of five thousand years of civilization.
• Cruise on the chartered SS Karim
• Stand in awe as you observe the grandeur of the three great pyramids and the Sphinx.
• Gaze at items from King Tut's tomb at the Egyptian Museum.
• Enjoy a week of luxury aboard a chartered yacht built for kings.
• Explore the ancient temples of Upper Egypt including those of Queen Hatshepsut, Karnak and Luxor.
• Cross the Nile from Aswan on an ancient sailboat known as a felucca, then ride a camel to visit an abandoned monastery high up in the golden desert hills.
• Experience an optional half-day excursion to see the 4 great seated figures of Abu Simbel.
• Return to the center of Cairo to see the Egyptian Museum and the heart of modern Egypt.
• Hone your bargaining skills in the bazaars of Cairo, Aswan and Luxor.
• Visit the rarely-seen Bent, Red and Sakkara pyramids on the Giza Plateau on the one-day pre-tour extension.
• Join our 3-night Extension to see the wonders of Petra and Amman in Jordan.
Days 1 - 2 -
We arrive at Cairo Airport and a transfer is provided for the drive across the Nile. We stay two nights at the lovely Mena House Hotel with its attractive gardens, terraces and fine restaurants, overlooking the grand pyramids at Giza. We will enjoy a reception and our Welcome Dinner at our hotel as we begin our journey into Egyptian history and culture.
The next morning after breakfast, we take the short drive to see the plateau dominated by the pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycerius, and by the Sphinx. For those who are not claustrophobic, exploring inside one of the pyramids is an awesome experience. We also inspect the beautifully restored solar boat of King Chephren and enter the Valley Temple in which the mummified body of the king rested before being interred in his pyramid.
In the evening, we will attend the spectacular Sound and Light performance at Giza, unforgettably set against the backdrop of the three great pyramids and the Sphinx.
For those with a little more time, we are also offering a one-day pre-tour extension, including an extra night at the Mena House. We will take a half-day tour to the Red and Bent Pyramids that until recently were on a military reservation and closed to the public, and to the well-preserved Sakkara Pyramid.
Days 3 - 4 -
After checking out from our Cairo hotel, we take a morning flight to Luxor. Our first stop will be the magnificent Temple of Karnak, the largest religious building in the world. Ancient Egyptians came to present petitions at more than twenty sites within the temple complex, the most impressive being the vast Hypostyle Hall of Seti I.
It has been said that the pyramids are more stupendous, the Colosseum in Rome covers more ground, and the Parthenon of Athens is more serene, but for sheer majesty, this hall with its gigantic columns exceeds them all. It is truly one of the wonders of the world.
After exploring Karnak, we drive to the harbor and embark on the ss Karim for our 7-night cruise, with full breakfast, luncheon, afternoon tea and dinner daily.
During our week's cruise we enjoy our ship's amenities and the ever-changing river scenery of palm trees, rolling hills, golden sand dunes and cultivated land. We'll pass several villages where, from the ship's sundecks, we can view the activities on the riverbank. There are also splendid opportunities for bird watching.
The captain will decide on the exact order and timing of our shore visits, but during the week we will go ashore to visit the temples of Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Luxor, as well as exploring the ancient city of Aswan and its Nubian heritage. The following gives an example of what we will see on a typical cruise.
Once aboard our ship we have dinner while sailing upstream to Esna where the SS Karim is raised through a lock some forty feet to the upper level of the river. We spend the night in Esna harbor, then in the morning visit the temple of Khnum, the creator god. Later in the day we visit Edfu, where we drive in horse-drawn carriages to the enormous and best preserved temple in upper Egypt, dedicated to Horus, the sacred falcon god. Upon our return to the ship, we'll continue our southbound, upstream voyage toward Aswan, and tie off for the night at Kom Ombo.
Day 5 -
In the morning we inspect the Roman double temple dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god, and to Haroeris, a form of the sun god. This temple is most picturesquely sited on the riverbank, a short walk from our dock. We reach Aswan in the afternoon and dock for a couple of days in this enchanting town with its near-perfect dry climate and amazing texture of light. You may wish to stroll through the bazaar where Nubian spices, handicrafts and charms are for sale and where gallabiya outfits are custom-made overnight.
Day 6 -
Today we will board a traditional boat called a felucca, then tack across the river under a billowing white sail. Upon reaching the West Bank, we will climb aboard camels (or walk) to see the abandoned 6th Century Coptic monastery of Saint Simeon, set on a hillside overlooking the golden desert. We will also stroll through the fine Aswan Botanic Garden on Kitchener Island, then visit the new Nubian Museum. Around sunset, we will take a small boat across the reservoir created by the Old Aswan Dam to the temple island of Philae, where we will watch the ancient history of the region come alive in a Sound & Light Show. After the show we return to the ss Karim for another night docked at Aswan.
Day 7 -
This morning is free to join our optional excursion to visit Abu Simbel, or to explore Aswan's bazaar on your own. The extension includes a 30-minute flight, then a guided tour to view the rock tombs that were raised from the riverbank so they would not be inundated as Lake Nasser filled up behind the High Dam. They rank among the most stupendous monuments of ancient Egypt and mark the most southern extent of the kingdom of the Pharaoh Rameses II.
After returning from Abu Simbel, those on the excursion will visit the Aswan High Dam, which was so controversial when it was built, but which supplies a large part of Egypt's power. We will also see the unfinished obelisk, whose workers carved out a huge slab of rock, but stopped suddenly, leaving it jutting out from the quarry.
In the afternoon we set sail back toward Luxor, riding fast on the downstream current while we enjoy the amenities of the ship, including afternoon tea on the deck as we watch the ever-changing life along the river. We spend tonight docked at Kom Ombo.
Day 8 -
Today is mostly a sailing day as we pass sugarcane fields and palm groves that provide a livelihood for the residents of the small villages that dot the riverbank. Sugarcane thrives in the rich soil along the river, so during their harvesting seasons, it may be possible to see tiny narrow-gauge steam engines pulling up to 40 cars of tightly packed sugar cane from the fields to the harbors.
At least once during the trip we will try to leave the other tourists and walk through a local Egyptian market. During one recent trip we observed a mother selling freshly baked bread from a blanket in front of her home, young boys on donkeys following us on the path and practicing their very limited English, and a mayor in his distinguished robes shooing away the youngest children to make sure no-one begged from their honorable visitors. Contrary to stereotypes, it was also fascinating to see the variety of clothing on both adults and children in this conservative town. Some girls and women wore modest headscarves (usually in very stylish colors!), but others wore western clothes and did not cover their heads. Likewise, while many of the boys and men wore the traditional gallabiya robes, others wore button-down shirts and blue jeans.
Late in the day we pass back through the Esna lock, and arrive in Luxor, where our ship will anchor for two nights. Luxor is the modern name for ancient Thebes, once the capital of Egypt, which consists of two cities lying on the west and east banks of the Nile.
Day 9 -
We cross to Western Thebes early in the morning for a busy day of sightseeing, starting with the Tombs of the Nobles. There is no electricity in the tombs so their custodians hold up mirrors to throw light onto walls painted with amazingly bright, lively scenes of everyday life in Egypt 3000 years ago. We drive on to the grand Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and then to the Valley of the Kings, where we inspect several of the tombs, including that of Tut-ankh-amon (if it is open to visitors).
A typically Egyptian luncheon is provided on the terrace of an inn near Medinet Habu. In the afternoon we stop to see the Ramesseum, with a massive fallen statue of Ramses, and we make a brief photo stop at the two weather-beaten Colossi of Memnon, before returning to the ss Karim for our last afternoon tea.
In the late afternoon we drive back into Luxor to visit the Luxor Temple, a magical location as twilight turns to evening darkness, and well-placed lights come on, showing the walls and statues of this well-preserved temple in full relief.
Day 10 -
This morning we disembark our ship and transfer to Luxor Airport for our return flight to Cairo. From Cairo Airport we will transfer to our centrally located hotel near the Nile and Tahrir Square, where we will stay for two nights. Lunch and dinner are on your own today.
Day 11 -
Today we tour Cairo, the greatest metropolis of the Middle East, to explore highlights of Islamic Cairo. In the morning we visit the alabaster Mohammed Ali Mosque on the Citadel overlooking the modern downtown, and the rarely-visited Gayer-Anderson House, the former home of Great Britain's last pasha. This unique house served as a location in the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. In the afternoon we tour the Egyptian Museum, including the fabulous jewels of King Tutankhamon. We will also allow some independent time in the Museum for those who want to visit the Mummy Room and other corners of this vast museum.
Tonight we will enjoy our farewell dinner, and share stories about the week we've just experienced together in this unique land.
Day 12 -
Transfers will be provided from our hotel to Cairo Airport for travelers departing today. If you have an evening flight, the day is free to explore more of Cairo, such as the famous Khan-el-Khalili bazaar, or Cairo's ancient churches, synagogues and mosques.
Half-day excursion to Sakkara and nearby pyramids on our official arrival day for the tour. Price includes transportation, Egyptologist-guide and admissions fees. Local conditions permitting, we will observe the Red and Bent Pyramids. We will make a stop for lunch, but lunch is not included in the tour fee.
If you have extra time to see more of the antiquities of the Middle East, we invite you to join our Jordan Extension, which includes a flight from Cairo to Amman, Jordan, two nights near Petra, then one night in Amman. While in Jordan, view the Byzantine mosaics of Madaba and Mount Nebo from which Moses saw the Promised Land. Then spend a day exploring the unique cliff-carved buildings of the Nabatean capital of Petra, selected in a worldwide vote in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Day 12 -
For those joining the extension, we will board a short morning flight from Cairo to Amman. Our driver will meet us and drive us to Madaba, where we will visit the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. It houses many ancient mosaics, the most famous of which is a 6th century map of the Middle East, possibly the oldest surviving map of the region. From here it's a 10-minute drive to Mount Nebo. This is the site from which Moses, the great prophet of all three major religions of the region, was able to look into the Promised Land, although he was not permitted to enter.
The inspiring vista takes in the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the spires of Jerusalem. Next we drive south through the Jordanian desert to our guesthouse in the Bedouin hillside town of Wadi Moussa, the closest modern town to the abandoned city of Petra.
Day 13 -
The next morning, following an early breakfast, an extraordinary day awaits us as we drive a short distance to the entrance of the Nabatean capital of Petra. From the main entrance of the site we'll first ride in a horse-cart, then walk into the chasm (called a siq in Arabic) that ripped through the rock in a prehistoric quake.
Petra's most famous monument, the Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the siq. We will explore the Treasury, the 3000-seat theater from the 1st century, the Monastery and other sites. Marvel at the rose red stone and at how the colors change as the day progresses.
In the afternoon and evening, there will also be time to relax and enjoy the amenities of our lodging, such as an optional visit to the Turkish hammam for a good steambath and/or massage.
Day 14 -
After breakfast, we will drive to the shore of the Dead Sea for a rejuvenating float in the warm mineral-rich water. The Dead Sea has long attracted visitors who soak up the healthy minerals and bask in the gentle sunshine. Once we are fully relaxed, we will continue our return trip to Amman. We'll check into our hotel and get settled before meeting for our farewell dinner together at a special place overlooking the twinkling lights of this ancient capital city that is spread across several hillsides.
Day 15 -
Transfers will be provided to Amman Airport for return flights home, based on flight departure time. Depending on your routing, you may be able to fly on OneWorld Alliance member Royal Jordanian Airlines directly to New York or Chicago (on a new Boeing 787 jet); return to Cairo to connect with a homeward flight; or depart during the night to fly from Amman to a European hub where you can connect with your flight home.
• Accommodations at fine hotels for two nights in Giza, on our chartered ship for seven nights, and for two nights at a riverside hotel in downtown Cairo Airport, in double occupancy;
• All transportation by motorcoaches, cars, horse-drawn carriages, and boats when traveling as a group;
• Arrival and departure airport transfers in Cairo;
• Airfare between Cairo and Luxor;
• Domestic airport departure taxes when traveling with the group;
• All meals during the main tour except three lunches and one dinner;
• Wine or soft drinks at the Welcome and Farewell dinners;
• Services of a knowledgeable HE Travel tour director (subject to minimum participation) and an Egyptologist;
• Admission fees to all locations listed in itinerary;
• Meal and driver gratuities;
• Porterage at hotels.
• HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
• Airfare between home and Cairo;
• Optional half-day Sakkara Pyramid excursion on first official tour day;
• Optional half-day excursion to Abu Simbel including 30-minute flight from Aswan and guided tour;
• Three lunches and one dinner;
• Tips to Egyptologist, local guides, hotel and ship staffs and gratuity for the HE Travel tour director;
• International departure taxes;
• Personal items such as alcoholic beverages, telephone calls and laundry.
• Admissions fees
• Items of a personal nature;
• Gratuities for guide.
• Flight from Cairo to Amman Jordan;
• Two nights near Petra and one night in Amman;
• All meals in Jordan;
• Touring of Petra, Madaba and Mount Nebo, and a half-day visit to a Dead Sea resort.
• Items of a personal nature;
• Gratuities for guide(s).
This tour starts and ends in Cairo, Egypt.
So are most of the people who travel with us. You do not need to pay extra to travel by yourself. Prices are per-person, and the single supplement applies only if you'd like a room by yourself. For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can't match you with someone.
To fully enjoy this tour you need to be able to walk around unevenly paved ancient sites for 1-4 hours each day. During the Nile cruise those who don't feel like going ashore on any given day can remain on the ship. During the season we visit Egypt, days should be warm and dry but not too hot, with occasional chilly evenings.
The weather in Egypt in the early and late winter is generally sunny; and temperatures in Cairo range from a maximum of 80° Fahrenheit during the day to a minimum of 50° at night. Cold waves occasionally blow across the sea from Europe, but they tend to be short-lived.
The daytime temperature in Upper Egypt (Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel) is usually about ten degrees higher, without any humidity, but nights are often quite cold. Rain is most exceptional in Cairo, and virtually none falls in Aswan, Abu Simbel and other areas south of Luxor.
The ss Karim is of a type developed in the 19th Century to accommodate fastidious early travelers to Egypt. Built in Scotland in 1917 for Egypt's King Fuad, and later used by King Farouk and Presidents Nasser and Sadat, it has been stylishly refurbished, and now combines the grandeur of its distinguished past with all the comforts of today, including air-conditioning throughout (but not heat), and compact but modern bathrooms in each cabin.
Our ship is 151 feet long and 33 feet wide, with a draft of 5 feet. All the modern technical installations – radar, water-purifying equipment, etc. – are in accordance with the regulations of the US Bureau of Shipping, and during the ship's restoration all walls and ceilings were fire-proofed and sound-proofed.
We are hesitant to describe anything as being luxurious, but the ss Karim's public rooms and staterooms unquestionably qualify for this accolade as befitting the style of its day. The ship is not merely comfortable; rather, its gracious ambiance enables us truly to cruise the Nile in style.
The lounge resembles that of a traditional British men's club, with its upholstered settees and armchairs, and an elegant bar. The dining room, too, is superbly appointed, with seating at tables for four and six persons.
The ship boasts three spacious, open decks. The shaded deck is furnished with cane chairs and tables where afternoon tea is served. The two sun decks are ideal for enjoying the views of the passing riverbanks and village activities, and feature large lounge chairs, a cool-water Jacuzzi, and even a treadmill.
Please note that we do not allow smoking in any interior space while our groups are on the ss Karim, but there are outside decks where smoking is permitted.
The fifteen staterooms are exceptionally large for a river ship. Average dimensions are 10 feet by 14 feet with 8-foot ceilings. Each features private bath and shower, one or two wide picture windows with heavy wood shutters, double or twin beds, armchairs, a dressing table and a hanging closet designed for an age when travelers took along cabin trunks. Three of the roomiest staterooms lead onto private balconies in the bow and stern of the ship.
The ship's highly professional crew members are all Egyptian, with most being from Luxor, Aswan or the villages in between. Most of them speak some English, and are honored to demonstrate traditional Egyptian hospitality to guests.
Breakfast and luncheon are buffet-style. Afternoon tea with pastries (a relic of the British influence on Egypt) is served on deck by uniformed waiters, to the accompaniment of 1920's music. Dinner has a different theme every evening, from the Captain's Welcome Dinner to the 1920's evening to the Nubian night, when some of our group don their new Egyptian finery.
Day 1 of the itinerary, Saturday, November 20, 2021, is the arrival day in Cairo. The actual dates are:
• November 19, 2021: North American travelers depart from home (or start one day earlier if joining the pre-tour extension to the Bent, Red and Sakkara Pyramids)
• Nov 21-Dec 1: Main Tour, including two nights in Giza, one week on the ss Karim, and two nights in downtown Cairo. Our farewell dinner is the night of Nov. 30 in Cairo, allowing flights anytime on Dec. 1 or later.
• December 1 - 4: Jordan Extension to Petra and Amman
• Depart Amman anytime on December 4 or late night on December 3 (for example 1 am on Dec 4 is fine)