It may sound crazy to a lot of people, but I get almost just about as much joy from researching and planning each of my trips as I do while actually on them. I mean it’s sort of like a way of extending the length of my trip from only lasting a week or two, to instead being something I can enjoy having in my life for six months to a year (or more sometimes).
That said, with this trip basically being my lifelong bucket list vacation that I’ve been dreaming about since the age of 5 of 6… I may have gone a bit overboard on this one.
We knew going into this trip that if we were going to go all the way to Egypt, we wanted to do it right the first time. So in the end, to give us enough time to see/visit everything we wanted to and still have some downtime to relax and enjoy ourselves along the way, we ended up with a 19-day itinerary. Which at the time seemed like an absurdly long trip, yet even so, we still left having so much we DIDN’T have time to get to see!
Day 1 – Arrive In Cairo
- Check Into Mena House Hotel
- Evening Food Tour In Downtown Cairo With Bellies En-Route
Day 2 – Cairo / Night Train To Aswan
Day 3 – Aswan
- Arrive At The Aswan Train Station In The Morning
- Check Into The Old Cataract Hotel
- Relax And Explore The Hotel
Day 4 – Aswan
- Charter A Felluca And Go Sailing On The Nile
- Explore The Tombs Of The Nobles
- Kitchener’s Botanical Garden Island
- Ride A Camel Up To The Monastery of St. Simeon
Day 5 – Aswan
Day 6 – SSS 1: Aswan
Day 7 – SSS 2: Aswan / Kom Ombo / Edfu
Day 8 – SSS 3: Esna / Luxor
Day 9 – SSS 4: Luxor / Qena / Dendera
Day 10 – SSS 5: Abydos / Luxor
Day 11 – SSS 6: Luxor
- Valley of the Kings
- King Tut’s Tomb
- Set I Tomb
- Valley of the Queens
- Nefertari’s Tomb
- Hatshepsut Mortuary Temple
- Temple of Medinet Habu (Deir el-Bahari)
- Disembark From The Steam Ship Sudan
- Check Into The Winter Palace Hotel
Day 12 – Luxor
- Valley Of The Workers (Deir el-Medina)
- Valley Of The Nobles
- The Ramesseum
- Howard Carter’s House
- Shopping In The Luxor Souk
Day 13 – Luxor
- Luxor Museum
- Mummification Museum
Day 14 – Luxor
Day 15 – Cairo
- Fly From Luxor To Cairo
- Check Into The Windsor Hotel
- Shopping & Exploring
Day 16 – Saqqara / Dashur / Giza
- Funerary Complex of Djoser / Step Pyramid
- Pyramid Of Unas
- Tomb Of Mereruka
- Bent Pyramid
- Red Pyramid
- Giza Pyramid Complex
- Solar Boat Museum
Day 17 – Cairo
- Egyptian Museum
- Islamic Cairo
- Sultan Qalawun Complex
- Beit El Sit El Wasila Historical House
- Mausoleum of al-Salih Najm al-Din Ayyub
- Khan el-Khalili Market
- Hamman Inal Bathhouse
- Whirling Dervish Performance
Day 18 – Cairo
- Return To The Egyptian Museum
- Final Shopping & Exploring
Day 19 – Fly Home
My Reading List
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I LOVE to do a ton of research before every trip I take and that includes a bunch of reading! Below is my list of everything I read leading up to this trip! You can find all of it on a nice amazon list HERE!
Since this trip was highly inspired by my love of Agatha Christie and the time she spent in Egypt, there was of course a very healthy dose of Christie on my fiction reading list before our trip. In fact, much of our trip was planned around locations mentioned in her book Death On The Nile. However, I also HIGHLY recommend checking out the Elizabeth Peters series as well. The books are written by egyptologist Barbara Mertz (Peters is her pen name) and most of the characters are based on real historical figures and contain a wealth of accurate descriptions on life, travel and early archeology in Egypt during the late 1800s.
- Death On The Nile – Agatha Christie
- Death On The Nile – Parker Pyne Investigates – Agatha Christie
- Death Comes At The End – Agatha Christie
- Akhnaton – Agatha Christie
- The Adventure Of The Egyptian Tomb – Poirot Investigates – Agatha Christie
- Crocodile On The Sandbanks – Elizabeth Peters
- The Curse Of The Pharaohs – Elizabeth Peters
- The Mummy Case – Elizabeth Peters
- Lion In The Valley – Elizabeth Peters
Of all the books I read on this list, my favorite by far was Andrew Humphrey’s On The Nile: In The Golden Age Of Travel. The shear amount of research that went into the book is staggering and is overflowing with beautiful photographs, illustrations and stories that really transport you and give you a sense of what it was like to travel around Egypt from those first early days of tourism up until the 1950s. I also highly recommend Prof. Bob Brier’s History Of Ancient Egypt. I was so prepared for it to be dry and boring and was completely shocked and overjoyed when I discovered how engaging and accessible the series was. I don’t think I would have enjoyed our trip half as much without listening to that lecture series in advance which gave us a better overall context for everything we saw while we were there. Lastly I want to give a quick shout out to Toby Wilkinson’s The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present. While most all of these books focus on Egypt’s past, Toby does an amazing job of weaving those stories together with stories of present day Egypt and its people, I hadn’t read this book before our trip and was delighted to find it in the library on board The Steam Ship Sudan!
- On The Nile: In The Golden Age Of Travel – Andrew Humphreys
- The Grand Hotels Of Egypt In The Gold Age Of Travel – Andrew Humphreys
- The Great Courses Series: History Of Ancient Egypt – Professor Bob Brier, Ph.D.
- The Tomb Of Tutankhamun – Howard Carter
- The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present – Toby Wilkinson
- The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt – Helen Strudwick
- Travel Guides
- Lonely Planet: Egypt
- Rough Guide: Egypt
- DK Eyewitness: Egypt
Agatha Christie’s Egypt
As I mentioned above, much of this trip was inspired by my love of Agatha Christie and the time she spent in Egypt during her coming out season and then again while writing her novel Death On The Nile. So in researching this trip I wanted to see how many of the locations from her novels and places she personally visited I could weave into our travels.
From The Books
Christie has two books, one play and two short stories set in Egypt.
Death Comes As The End
Her book Death Comes As The End is set in Thebes around 2000 BC and is based on a series of real letters that were written by a man called Heqanakhte to his family, complaining about their behavior and treatment of his concubine. These letters are now on display at The Met in NYC if you want to check them out.
Her play Akhnaton also takes place in ancient Egypt. Mainly set in Thebes and modern day Amarna, the play tells the of story of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten (modern spelling), his wife Nefertiti and his successor Tutankhaten (who would later change his name to Tutankhamun when he became Pharaoh).
The Adventure Of The Egyptian Tomb
In her short story The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb, found in Poirot Investigates, Poirot travels to Egypt to investigate the mysterious deaths of an imminent Egyptologist and his financier while excavating the tomb of Men-her-Ra. Set mainly in the vicinity of the Giza Pyramid complex other locations mentioned in the story are:
- The Port of Alexandria
- Where Poirot and Hasting’s ship lands in Egypt
- Mena House Hotel
- Where they are driven out to as soon as they arrive in Cairo
- The Sphinx
- About which Hastings is very excited to see and Poirot is more concerned with the sand in and on his patent leather boots
- The Pyraminds
- Which Poirot admits are at least of a shape solid and geometrical.
Death On The Nile (Short Story)
Before the novel, Christie actually wrote a short story with the same name, Death On The Nile, which was published in a collection entitled Parker Pyne Investigates in 1934. The story opens on the deck of a fictional Nile steamer the S.S. Fayoum, and tells the story of Mr. Parker Pyne and his investigation into the mysterious death of one of the other passengers sailing with him. Locations mentioned in this story are:
- Where the passengers board the S.S. Fayoum
- The Steam Ship Fayoum
- The Temples Of Karnak
- Which the ship passes when it sets sail from Luxor to Cairo
- The Temple Of Dendera
- Where Parker Pyne takes a donkey ride to visit
- The Temple Of Abydos
- Where Ariadne Grayle asks Parker Pyne not to visit so she can meet with him while the others are on the excursion
- Where Parker Pyne meets with prominent official to discuss the case
Death On The Nile (Novel)
Finally we have Death On The Nile. First published in 1937 the bulk of the story takes place in southern Egypt near Aswan and the Sudan border and tells the story of jilted lover Jacqueline who follows her ex fiancé Simon and her best friend Linnet, on their honeymoon to torment them. A death soon follows and Poirot is on the spot to solve the crime. Locations mentioned in the book are:
- Mena House Hotel
- Where Jacqueline appears unexpectedly to Linnet’s dismay.
- The Old Cataract Hotel
- Where the Egypt set portion of the narrative begins and the characters meet for the first time.
- The Isle Of Elephantine
- Where Poirot spends a few hours before lunch and chats with Mrs. Allerton.
- Temple Of Philae
- Where Simon & Linnet go on an afternoon outing together
- The Steam Ship Karnak
- Wadi Ez-Sebua
- The first temple the Karnak stops at for its passengers to visit.
- Abu Simbel
- Where Linnet is almost crushed by a falling stone.
- Wadi Halfa
- Where the passengers alight to see the 2nd cataract.
While most of these locations can still be visited, nearly all have seen drastic changes since Christie’s time. Many have been renovated past recognition, and even the temples at Abu Simbel, Philae and Wadi Ez-Sebua have been moved and relocated to preserve them from flood waters due to the new Aswan High dam. In addition, the building of the dam and the creation of Lake Nasser in the 1960s completely submerged the 2nd cataract, and most sadly, no longer makes it possible to sail from Aswan to Abu Simbel as the characters in the book do.
From Her Life
Locations She Visited
Agatha visited Egypt three times in her life, once with her mother during her coming-out season in 1910 and then twice on expeditions in the early 1930s with her husband Max Mallowan. A few of the places we know she visited during her travels in Egypt are:
- Gezira Palace hotel
- Where she stayed during her first trip to Egypt for her coming-out season. Spending her time at parties and dances, she made only the occasional, reluctant visits to the Cairo Museum, and refused to visit the Nile.
- The Winter Palace Hotel
- Christie stayed here with her husband Max Mallowan during their 1933 trip and could often be found playing bridge in the hotel with fellow archeologist Howard Carter.
- Old Cataract Hotel
- While many people, including the Hotel itself, claim that Agatha Christie stayed here while writing her book Death On The Nile, there is no phsyical evidence of this fact. But from the descriptions in her book of the location, it is obvious that she at least did visit the hotel during one of her trips to Aswan.
- The Steam Ship Sudan
- Wether it was actually this exact ship, or another very similar one of Cook’s fleet of ships, we do know for certain that Agatha accompanied her husband, archeologist Max Mallowan on a cruise up the nile in 1933 on an archaeological mission. And it was this trip that inspired her to write Death On The Nile.
Egypt In Her Own Words
“The wonders of antiquity were the last thing I cared to see, and I am very glad she did not take me. Luxor, Karnak, the beauties of Egypt, were to come upon me with wonderful impact about twenty years later. How it would have spoiled them for me if I had seen them when unappreciative eyes.”