Depths of the Desert – Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival and Travel Day
On arrival you will be met at the airport by your driver and transported to your accommodation – this is a boutique hotel within walking distance of the horses. The hotel is located on the back streets of Giza, just a few 100 metres from the Pyramids. The roof terrace offers stunning views towards the Sphinx and Pyramids. There is a restaurant on the roof, where breakfast and over dinner you can watch the light and sound show at the Pyramids.
Day 2: Giza Ride and Abu Sir to Sakkara
After a late breakfast, you’ll head to the stables to meet the horses who will accompany you on an awe-inspiring ride to the 7th Wonder the World – The Giza Pyramids. Once the team have dressed the horses to impress in traditional protection necklaces and bridalwear, we’ll set off across the golden sands towards the Pyramids and Sphynx. With plenty of opportunities to gather a bit of speed, you’ll soon become acquainted with your ride.
Built to endure an eternity, the Pyramids are relics of Egypt’s Old Kingdom era and were constructed some 4,500 years ago. Expecting to become gods in the afterlife, the Pharaohs prepared themselves for the next world by erecting temples for the gods and massive pyramid tombs for themselves, filled with all the things each ruler would need to guide and sustain himself in the next world. Pharaoh Khufu began the first Giza pyramid project, circa 2550 B.C. His Great Pyramid is the largest in Giza and towers some 481 feet (147 meters) above the plateau. Its estimated 2.3 million stone blocks each weigh an average of 2.5 to 15 tons.
As you cross the desert, you’ll feel the sense of excitement flow through not only you, but your four-legged companion too as you catch your first glimpse of these monumental tombs. On arrival, you will dismount and while the guides tend to the horses you will have time to explore these breath-taking structures and the chambers where the Pharaohs were buried.
Lunch today will be in the local country club before you are driven to Abusir. From Abusir, we’ll get back in the saddle to ride the 3-hour trail to Sakkara, taking in the vast openness of the terrain as we take it in turns to race across the desert.
On arrival at Sakkara, you’ll have the chance to ride around the complex to take in the views of the many different Pyramids. Best known for the ‘Step Pyramid’, the oldest of Egypt’s 97 pyramids built in the Third Dynasty for King Djose, Sakkara served as a cemetery for the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis so it’s bursting with ancient Egyptian history and the perfect spot for a photoshoot with your trusty steed!
In the evening, you’ll be treated to an authentic Egyptian feast and some aromatic shisha from the rooftop restaurant of the hotel while watching the light and sound show at the Pyramids.
Day 3: Wadi El Rayan and Wadi El HItan Non-Riding Day
Today, you’ll get to see something truly magical and a real piece of history. You have so much to do today so you’ll have breakfast on the hop from one of the local street food restaurants.
To start the day, you will travel about 2.5 hours by 4×4 from Sakkara to Wadi El Rayan, one of Egypt’s most famous nature reserves. The Wadi El Rayan reserve consists of seven parts; the upper and lower Lakes, El Rayan springs, El Rayan Falls, El Modawara Mountain, El Rayan Mountain and Wadi El Hitan (The Valley of the Whales). All these areas are full of amazing landscapes such as oases, mountains, rock formations and waterfalls. Egyptian wildlife can also be seen in the area including white gazelles, Egyptian gazelles, sand foxes and fennec foxes, as well as rare species of resident birds, migrant birds and various kinds of eagles and falcons.
Next you’ll visit Wadi El Hitan or Whale Valley, home to invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution; the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal, about 37 million years ago. This is the most important UNESCO site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution.
If the weather is warm enough, you can even take a dip in the magic lake before heading back to Cairo for dinner and to get your head down in readiness for tomorrow’s epic trail ride!
Day 4: Giza to Abusir Ride (approx. 6 hours)
It’s another early start today as you gear up for a 6-hour trail ride with lunch in the desert. You’ll have plenty of time to pick up some pace across the sand, ‘GoPro’ your adventure and get further acquainted with the speed and dexterity of the horses.
This epic trail ride will see you venture past the four most famous sights in Giza; the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Sphinx. The whole area has an indescribable feeling to it and it’s easy to feel the horses’ excitement too as they prick their ears forward and prance across the sand surrounded these incredible structures.
The journey takes you out into the desert as Giza city falls behind you and the barren land opens out ahead towards Abusir. You’ll pick up the pace on the flatter stretches of land, going head to head with your riding companions and enjoying the breeze on your face as you race through the warm air.
The Pyramids at Abusir are rarely visited by tourists and remain ‘un-walled’ which means that when you arrive, you’ll be able to ride inside, dismount and really explore.
There are 14 pyramids located here that rarely get the recognition they deserve, and in fact, many guidebooks and tour brochures don’t even mention Abusir. Be prepared to be dazzled on horseback as you visit the final resting ground for many pharaohs, nobles and other important officials, and particularly for those who lived during the time of the 5th Dynasty in Egypt’s Old Kingdom era. After an exhausting, but truly memorable day in the saddle, we’ll pack up in readiness for our late flight from Cairo to Luxor (not included).
If you’re feeling even more adventurous, instead of flying to Luxor, why not follow in Joanna Lumley’s footsteps and take the sleeper train? A relaxing but authentic way to travel the length of the Nile from Giza to Luxor.
On arrival, you will be met upon arrival and transferred to your accommodation at Ride Egypt’s seven-bedroom Dome House on the West Bank of the River Nile, also known as the Valley of the Dead. The West Bank of Luxor is a residential area and home to many farmers and families stemming back generations.
Day 5: Luxor Introductory Ride
You’ll have the morning at ‘home’ to relax and unwind after your late night travelling whilst your hosts prepare a traditional home-cooked Egyptian lunch for you. Early afternoon, you will travel a short distance by Tuk to the stables to meet the beautiful horses and team. Once you’ve been introduced to everyone, they’ll show you a little about how they look after horses there, about the food they grow and local medicines. They use all-natural produce in Luxor, which is harvested from the local area.
After a tour of the stable it’s time to saddle up for your first introductory ride with Ride Egypt in Luxor and your first taste of Luxor life. This trail is a chance for you to get to know your guides and your horse as they take you on a trip back in time as you ride through sugarcane fields and the local Bedouin villages before arriving at Banana Island. As you ride past banana plantations and wave to the local villagers and children, you’ll get a closer insight into the tranquil way of real Egyptian life and the fantastic people that the team here get to call their friends and neighbours.
Later on, you’ll ride back along the Nile, taking in the magical scenery and tranquil surroundings. Dinner will be prepared and served at home while you enjoy a cold glass of wine on the roof terrace with views of the Valley of the Kings.
Day 6: Workers Ride and Nobles Trail
Today is dedicated to the Workers; the families behind the Pharaohs and their rarely visited tombs. You’ll set off bright and early on this half-day ride to Roy Dra’ Abu al-We and it’s breakfast ‘in the saddle’ this morning as you grab freshly made falafel and sugarcane juice from one of Ride Egypt’s favourite street food cafés. Today is a huge adventure so you’ll need a powerful breakfast like this to keep up with the workers of ancient times.
You are riding to Naja at the northern end of the Theban necropolis, home to the tombs of the workers. It’s a scenic ride so be sure to have your cameras at the ready to get that ‘through the ears’ shot of some of the historical sites and unforgettable landscape. Upon arrival, you’ll tether the horses and head off on foot to explore.
Your first stop is Workers Village, Deir el-Medina, an ancient Egyptian village, which was home to the artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the 18th to 20th dynasties of the New Kingdom of Egypt (ca. 1550–1080 BCE). You’ll visit a small but charming Ptolemaic temple dedicated to the goddesses Hathor and Maat.
Next, it’s time to get fit as you hike up the side of the mountain to reach the Tombs of the Workers – the walk takes perhaps ten minutes and the tombs are staggered on the way down so there is time to catch your breath. At the time of writing this there are currently four tombs available – you’ll visit the Tomb of Roy and the Tomb of Shuroy as well as Pashedu Tomb before climbing the steps to the Deir El Medina tombs of Sennedjem and Inherkha. You’ll continue along the steep path up the hillside where a guardian will unlock another tomb which is rarely visited by tourists, making it even more of an adventure. After a non-stop morning, you’ll ride home for a filling lunch to refuel for the afternoon’s ride.
Once your lunch has settled, you’ll meet up with the team and sure-footed horses again to ride to the southern hillside of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, the resting place of the high-ranking officials for the Pharaohs known as nobles. This trip and these tombs are amongst the team’s favourites but are never really visited by tourists. The Tomb Complex of Sennefer is quite a walk up but 10000% worth the effort – his role was Mayor of the “Southern City”, Thebes. Discovered around 1830, this incredible tomb is also known as “the Tomb of Vines”.
After a short downhill walk, you will arrive at the tomb of Rekhmire. Rekhmire served as “Governor of the Town” (Thebes) and is noted for constructing a lavishly decorated tomb for himself that contains beautiful, lively and well-preserved scenes of daily life during the Egyptian New Kingdom.
In the evening, we’ll kick back with cocktails at sunset and enjoy dinner on board a traditional Egyptian Felucca on the Nile as we recount the day’s equine adventures!
Day 7: Cookery Lesson and Pharoahs Temples Trail
Today is all about real Egypt. After a short tuk-tuk ride (or walk) through the village, you’ll arrive at a local home where you will cook fish in a traditional stone oven. The ladies of the home will also teach you to make bread to accompany your meal This is a relaxed morning with ‘the family’ at their home where you will also learn about the Egyptian way of life, how they grow their own food, why they prefer to build homes from mud instead of concrete and of course the wonderful cooking techniques that stem back thousands of years. You might even pick up a few words of Arabic!
Around 2pm, you’ll get back in the saddle and set off on your afternoon adventure to retrace the steps of two of the most powerful Pharaohs to ever rule; Seti I and his son Ramses II. The ride will take you deep into the Valley of the Kings and with incredible views from horseback, you’re sure to get a feel for the vastness of the Valley. Upon arrival, the team will tether up the horses and wait outside in the shade as you head off to explore the Mortuary Temple of Seti I and Ramesseum.
Both Seti I and Ramses II were incredible builders and have temples which have stood the test of time and still stand today. Seti I was one of Egypt’s greatest rulers and builders, he constructed one of the land’s most magnificent temples at Abydos and the Great Hypostyle Hall in Karnak next to Luxor.
The artwork and architecture commissioned during Seti’s rule is rich and no expense was spared – the attention to detail is evident within his mortuary temple. It also includes a royal palace and a chapel for Ramses I. Ramses II like his father was one of the greatest Pharaohs in ancient Egyptian history. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor”. Dinner that evening will be prepared at home for you by a local chef.
Day 8: Valley of the Kings (Non-Riding), 4×4 Safari Dinner
Without giving too much away, your morning visit today is to the Valley of the Kings; no trip to Luxor would be complete without spending some time here. However, your hosts have chosen tombs that are rarely visited by tourists.
During Egypt’s New Kingdom (1539-1075 B.C.), the valley became a royal burial ground for Pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramses II, as well as queens, high priests, and other elites of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. The tombs are evidence of elaborate preparations for the next world in which humans were promised continuing life and pharaohs were expected to become one with the gods. Mummification was used to preserve the body so that the deceased’s eternal soul would be able to reanimate it in the afterlife.
Throughout the morning, you’ll visit Thutmose II Tomb, which is the earliest tomb constructed in the Valley. You’ll head on to Seti I, whose tomb remains eye-popping and elaborately decorated with rich colours. Next you’ll see KV14 – Tausert – Setnakht, known as the tomb of Tawosret and Setnakht. It’s one of the most unusual tombs in the Valley of the Kings and encompasses two complete burial chambers. It is rumoured Nefatari may be buried here but has not been discovered to date.
Your next stop is the tomb of Ramses VI (KV 9). With some of the broadest corridors, longest shafts (117m) and the greatest variety of decoration, KV 9 is one of the most spectacular tombs in the valley. Started by Ramses V and finished by Ramses VI, it is a feast for the eyes, much of its surface covered with intact hieroglyphs and paintings. The burial chamber has an unfinished pit in the floor and a magnificent figure of Nut and scenes from the Book of the Day and Book of the Night.
The final tomb is in the Valley of the Monkeys – The Tomb of Ay. Ay is the rumoured uncle of Tutankhamun and is the most popular choice when it comes to who murdered young King Tut (booo! Hisss). His tomb is located approx. 2km inside the valley. You will leave the main part of the valley and by car pick up the Guardian of the Tomb along the way. The tomb was rumoured to be built for Tutankhamen originally but instead he was buried in a much smaller tomb due to his early and unplanned death. Ay was a high ranking General during this time. It’s a fairly simple tomb but a very exciting one to visit as it’s so surrounded by mystery.
You will stop for lunch at a local restaurant during the tour and once you have finished, you will return home for a few hours to relax. At 4pm you will be picked up by 4 x 4 and head into the desert. Your guides will show you hidden caves in the desert and fossils in the stones. We advise you wear good hiking shoes so you can watch the sunset from the top of the mountains!
After sunset you will drive a little further into the heart of the desert where local Bedouin friends have been preparing dinner over a fire. The camp is lit up by candlelight and the twinkle of the stars in the night sky. After a wonderful dinner you will leave the desert around 10pm to allow for a good night’s sleep ahead of the following day’s big adventures.
Day 9: Ultimate Trail Ride to the Land of the Pharaohs
Prepare to fall in love with both Arabian and Baladi (local breed) horses who are famed for their beauty and endurance. These wonderful mounts are chosen for their ability to form cooperative relationships with humans and they are good-natured, quick to learn and willing to please. Longer trails allow you to experience the horses and country life here in more depth. From horseback you will see the farmers working the fields just as their ancestors did.
Mid-morning prepare to be amazed as these sure-footed horses will take you behind the Valley of the Kings and guide you to the top of Mount Thebes so that you can see panoramic views of Luxor.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant before your trail home takes you past the Colossi of Memnon, two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III who reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII. They have stood in the Theban Necropolis for nearly 3400 years (since 1350 BC)! This is a wonderful opportunity for photos together with your horses. This ride is approximately 6 hours from end to end.
Day 10: Optional Balloon Tour and Departure
No trip to Luxor would be complete without a sunrise balloon tour. If you’re interested in this optional extra (not included), Ride Egypt will arrange and time it perfectly for you to hover above the Valley of the Kings and the West Bank farms as the sun rises and casts spectacular shadows over this exquisite piece of history in Egypt; the perfect grand finale for your stay in Egypt.
Then, it’s time to pack and say ma’salama to Egypt…until next time!