Tales from the Middle East
Egypt, Jordan & Israel
03-29 October 2024
Join Rhonda Paice in her favourite region on the planet, where you will be flying, sailing, driving and walking all over the Middle East.
See the beauty in the majestic and barren landscapes, and feel intrigued by all of the empires that have tried to conquer it. Shop and eat your way through the medinas and souks and listen to stories from local guides about ancient times and current circumstances.
If you have an adventurous spirit with a willingness to engage and try something different, or an interest in old geezers and crumbling buildings, then this is the trip for you.
Highlights, Inclusions & Pricing
Bethlehem & Jarusalem
Good quality 4 star accommodation throughout
4 star Nile Cruise
Martian Tent upgrade in Wadi Rum
All meals as listed on the itinerary
All land transportation in AC modern vehicle.
Internal airfare Cairo / Luxor // Aswan / Cairo
Private English-speaking guides through out
Touring and entrance fees as per itinerary.
E-Visa Fee (Egypt) and Visa on arrival (Jordan)
(Australian passport holders only)
1 bottle of water per person per day
Porterage at airports, hotel and cruise
Per person twin share $16,188.00
Single price (own room) $22,440.00
Maximum of 20 and minimum of 18 adventure loving guests
04 OCT 24 Day 1 Welcome to Cairo!
“As-Salaam-Alaikum," is the Arabic greeting which means "Peace be unto you”
After clearing immigration and collecting our luggage we will meet our guide and transfer to our city centre hotel with the remainder of the day of leisure. We will have time for a freshen up and a welcome drink with Rhonda in the bar before we all get together for our welcome dinner at the Hotel.
05 OCT 24 Day 2 Pyramids of Giza & The Sphinx
Make sure that your cameras and phones are fully charged because today we visit the most iconic structures in Egypt, yes, the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza. Our guide, a professional Egyptologist will explain all about the pyramids, but we will never really get to the bottom of whether these are the work of man or aliens! After lunch, we head to the atmospheric Egyptian Museum with its collections of statues, mummies and pharaonic treasures. Later, we explore the Khan el Khalili Bazaar, a souk famed for its precious and semiprecious jewellery. If you want to haggle, Rhonda has the best technique on the planet. Prebook for her pre-tour seminar on haggling and how to save face and money.
06 OCT 24 Day 3 Old Cairo – Coptic Quarter & Ancient Sakkara
Today we spend the morning exploring Cairo’s oldest district, the Coptic Quarter. Believe it or not, The Virgin Mary escaped and hid in one of the churches here. We explore its Coptic churches and the impressive Christian artefact collection at the Coptic Museum. Please ensure you dress modestly and that your knees and shoulders are covered. There is no need to be entirely covered except if you are having a bad hair day and feeling particularly unattractive. Later, we continue to Sakkara, an ancient necropolis famed for its painted catacombs and the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser. Built for the Pharaoh by his architect, the high priest Imhotep, this 27th BC structure was Egypt’s first ever pyramid. Inside, you’ll see wonderful carvings on the alabaster stone walls.
07 OCT 24 Day 4 Flight to Luxor & Cruise Embarkation
Make sure you have packed and that you have your passports as we are heading south, deep south to the cataracts of the Nile. No deaths will be tolerated or permitted! Our short flight is from Cairo to the city of Luxor where we board our Nile cruise ship to begin our Nile journey to Aswan. Nile, Nile, Nile, it’s all about the Nile.
This afternoon we visit sites around Luxor’s East Bank, exploring the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. Both are dedicated to the Theban Triad: the sun god Amun the Creator, his consort Mut (mother of the world) and their son Khonsu, God of the moon. Dinner is on board tonight.
08 OCT 24 Day 5 Explore Luxor’s Western Bank
I hope we all had a good night’s sleep because we will start the day with a visit to Luxor’s West Bank, one of the most stunning landscapes in Egypt. Our day begins with a stop at the eerie Colossi of Memnon statues before continuing to the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahari, the mortuary complex of one of Egypt’s earliest female pharaohs. We continue to the Valley of the Kings, burial site of almost all New Kingdom pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. We will visit the tomb of Tutankhamun, along with some other tombs of your choice. The Valley’s many-chambered tombs are richly decorated with vibrant wall paintings depicting the stories of their rule, their gods and legends of the afterlife. This evening, the ship sails to the farming town of Esna.
09 OCT 24 Day 6 Kom Ombo
Sailing further sailing south to Edfu, south of Esna, we visit the Temple of Horus at Edfu and its wealth of inscriptions. Although it was built under the Ptolemaic dynasty, its style appears much older, and it remains impressively intact. During lunch, we sail to the agricultural town of Kom Ombo, famous for its Ptolemaicera twin temples to falcon-headed Horus and crocodile-headed Sobek. This evening we set sail toward Aswan.
10 OCT 24 Day 7 Abu Simbel
So today we are going to marvel at ancient buildings as well as modern day engineering as we leave our ship with our beds unmade, at around 6am to start a road journey southwest to the iconic temples of Abu Simbel, at Egypt’s furthest edge. The Great Temple here is dedicated to Ramesses II, sometimes said to be the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom; four 66-foot-high statues of him flank its entrance, and many more enormous statues and halls filled with wall paintings are to be seen inside. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant around 12pm. Then later we drive back to Aswan city and reboard for an easy evening and dinner on our floating home.
11 OCT 24 Day 8 Aswan High Dam, Temple of Philae – Cairo
This morning we must check out of our cabins and store our luggage because we are on the move to visit the 3600m High Dam and the Unfinished Obelisk. We then go back to the ship for lunch. This afternoon we board a felucca (traditional sail boat) and tour around the area. We view Elephantine Island, Kitchener’s Island, the botanical gardens and then on to glimpse the pink granite mausoleum of the Agha Khan, a 20th century wealthy leader of a Shi’ite sect. Later we visit the majestic Temple of Philae. We catch a breather at a local restaurant and after dinner transfer to the airport for our return flight to Cairo. I hate the traffic of Cairo so our hotel will be at the airport. We check in and then relax before our next adventure. Join me for a drink at the bar if you are still awake.
12 OCT 24 Day 9 Explore Alexandria
Driving north we take the desert road to Alexandria, on Egypt’s northern coast. This afternoon we discover Alexandria’s breathtaking highlights, from the Roman theatre to the beautifully-carved Catacombs of Komel Shoqafa, a 2nd century construction and one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Three tiers of underground tombs are found here, with atmospheric reliefs of gods and serpentine spirits carved into the walls. Pause to admire the renovated 15th-century Qaitbay Citadel, once an important defensive stronghold on Africa’s Mediterranean coastline.
13 OCT 24 Day 10 Alexandria – El Alamein – Cairo
Today after checkout we travel to El Alamein for a guided tour. This is the site of a decisive allied force victory in World War II. We have an extensive tour visiting the military museum and WWII cemeteries then visit one of the historical monasteries, the monastery of St. Makarios, to learn about the Coptic history in the deserts of Egypt.
We travel back to our airport hotel for dinner, a drink and a debrief and hopefully a good night’s sleep
before we fly to our next destination.
14 OCT 24 Day 11 Cairo – Jordan
We have a relaxed start to the day so enjoy your sleep in and breakfast. After checking we have all of our luggage scoured the safe for our passports and money we are transferred to the airport where we bid farewell to Egypt and fly to Amman the capital of Jordan.
15 OCT 24 Day 12 Al Salt, Jerash & Ajloun – North Jordan
So you think you have seen it all? Well keep your hats on because Jordan is a tiny country full of history about the Nabateans, Romans, Greeks, Crusaders and tales from Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub, the greatest Muslim warrior.
Heading 35km out of Amman we explore the small city of As Salt. Founded by Alexander the Great and flourishing under the Ottoman Empire, the city is less modern than Amman, and its traditional yellow buildings and arched windows offer a wonderful insight into ‘old Jordan’. We continue to Jerash, an ancient Roman city known as ‘the Pompeii of the East’; it is one of the best-preserved Roman towns outside Italy. Jerash is one of the Decapolis cities of the north of Jordan. Nestled in a green and well-watered valley in the biblical land of Gilead , the remains of the ancient city have long attracted tourists from all around the world, wander among the Original Temples, Theaters, Plazas, Paths ,Colonnaded Streets & Hippodrome, all enclosed within the remaining city walls.
We then take a short drive on to the town of Ajloun, where we visit the fortress of Qa'lat Al Rabad, overlooking the Jordan Valley. After, head back to Amman for a relax we head out for fancy Lebanese Dinner at Um Khalil Restaurant. We live!
16 OCT 24 Day 13 Explore Amman & the Desert Castles
We are going to enjoy a tour of the old city of Amman this morning, exploring Amman’s Roman amphitheatre and the hilltop Citadel, home to ruins from many periods of Amman’s history. Later, we head out of the city for a visit to some of Jordan's Desert Castles, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qasr Amra, a stunning example of early Islamic art and architecture and boasting impressive, frescoed ceilings. We make a stop at the mysterious site of Al Kharanah, a many-roomed house or palace about which little is known, before visiting the intriguing Azraq Castle. Built in the 13th century, Azraq also served as Lawrence of Arabia’s headquarters in the winter of 1917, during the Great Arab Revolt. This evening we will have a panoramic tour of Amman at night with BBQ or Jordanian Cuisine dinner at Tawaheen Alhawa Restaurant. More food…bring it on!
17 OCT 24 Day 14 Mt Nebo – Madaba Petra – Petra by Night
Today is a “hold onto your hats” kind of day.
After breakfast, we make our way to Mount Nebo, one of the possible burial sites of Moses. It is from here that Moses viewed the promised land in Canaan. We explore the ruins of Nebo’s 4th and 5th-century churches, whose floors are still covered with marvelous and intricate mosaics. Then we continue to the town of Madaba to visit the Orthodox Church of St George and the Madaba Mosaic Map, the oldest surviving depiction of the Holy Land and then journey south to reach Wadi Musa- Petra . We check in at the hotel, have a little rest and early dinner at the hotel before preparing ourselves for a unique and unforgettable experience ‘Petra by candlelight’ with Live Bedouin music on Ouds. Goose bumps are common and so is the feeling of overwhelming peace.
18 OCT 2024 Day 15 Petra
After breakfast we are going to discover Petra, the ‘Lost City of the Nabateans’ which is carved directly into the rugged sandstone cliffs. Surrounded by imposing mountains, the former capital of the Nabatean Empire is approached through a deep cleft in the rocks known as the Siq. Rounding the last corner of the Siq and being confronted with the magnificent façade of the famous Treasury is an emotive experience for many travelers. Your guide will introduce you to Petra’s many secrets, and having Lunch inside the site to give you the power to have a free time after to explore. Back to our hotel we have a little rest & refreshment before heading to Petra Kitchen where we learn how to cook a Jordanian Meal before devouring it.
19 OCT 2024 Day 16 Little Petra – Wadi Rum
We check out after breakfast and take a ten-minute’ drive north of Petra to Siq Al-Barid, which is also referred to as 'Little Petra' due to similarities with the main site. It is thought to have been an important suburb of Petra and is entered through a narrow opening, like Siq but of a much smaller scale. The site includes tombs, temples, water channels and cisterns carved out of the rock as well as the remains of frescoes on plaster. We view the marvelous views from the Beida Mountains & Wadi Arava. Then moving south we head to Wadi Rum known also as the Valley of the Moon. This amazing valley is cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan. With an area of 720 km2 (280 sq mi) it is the largest wadi (river valley) in Jordan. Upon arrival we will have a nice lunch before starting our 4x4 Jeep Tour that will take us through the dunes to see ‘Lawrence’s Road’, visiting the most spectacular sights of Wadi Rum. We hear about its long history and role in the Great Arab Revolt and the story of Lawrence of Arabia. We will feel dwarfed as we drive among sand dunes and canyons. We have opportunity to see the Bedouin petroglyphs, and venture through the dry oasis to see the iconic Seven Pillars of Wisdom. These rough, coarse columns of sandstone and granite were originally called Jabal Al-Mazmar, and renamed after Lawrence’s autobiography. It will be a day of colours: Scarlet, orange, ochre and vermillion set again a sky of Jacaranda blue which will turn violet and then black as the sun sets. At night, the sky will look like velvet strewn with diamonds as we watch the stars rise.
20 OCT 2024 Day 17 Dead Sea
Why not wake up early to watch the sunrise in Wadi Rum?
After a quiet breakfast in the desert, we will start our trip north to the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth. Many travelers come to bathe in these unique waters and the high salt content and mineral-rich mud are said to bring many health benefits. Upon arrival to Dead Sea we check in and have lunch at the hotel. After lunch, we are free to enjoy the delights of the Dead Sea, bathing in its super-buoyant waters, or perhaps simply relaxing before dinner.
21 OCT 2024 Day 18 Jordan – Israel (Dead Sea to Tel Aviv)
We say goodbye to Jordan and make our way east towards our ultimate destination. After breakfast we will transfer by road to Allenby Bridge to cross the border to Israel for our tour of Israel and Palestine. This could take a little bit of time or it could take a longer bit of time but as the locals say “ Inshallah”. When we arrive at the hotel we can relax, have a drink ahead of the welcome dinner and briefing. Our accommodation is in the trendy Mediterranean port of Tel Aviv and is both ancient and cosmopolitan, boasting famous architecture, endless beaches, world-class cuisine and a collection of UNESCO-recognised buildings.
22 OCT 2024 Day 19 Jaffa, Caesarea and Mt Camel
We begin our explorations with a walk through the beautiful and historic district of Jaffa, on the edge of Tel Aviv. This historic and charming old town is famed for its various legendary associations and biblical stories. We then drive to Caesarea Maritima to view the fascinating ancient and medieval ruins of this coastal city. We visit the double aqueduct and the restored Roman theatre with its stunning Mediterranean views before continuing to the Crusader fortifications to admire the imposing thirteenth-century defenses. After driving about 40 minutes to the slopes of Mount Carmel we meet the Druze ethnoreligious community. The unique Druze faith incorporates aspects of many different religions, including but not limited to Christian, Islamic and Buddhist traditions. We have time to explore a local bazaar and enjoy a local lunch before a short drive to the viewpoint at Mukraqa, a viewpoint atop Mt. Carmel, to see the Carmelite Monastery of St. Elijah.
23 OCT 2024 Day 20 Nazareth – Tabha – Capernaum – Mount Beatidues
Today we have a mix of ancient, religious and modern facts.
Today we head to Kibbutz Degania Bet, an expansion of Israel's very first Kibbutz (Degania Alef). We tour the community and learn about the founding of the Kibbutz movement, originally conceptualised as utopian agrarian community in the early 20th century. We the continue to Tabgha on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee, said to be the site of the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. We visit the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, home to some of the finest 5th century mosaics in Israel. A short drive of 10 minutes east along the shore takes us to Capernaum to visit the archaeological remains of the 3rd -4th century synagogue, built on the site where Jesus is believed to have performed many miracles, including the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. We explore the ruins of its white limestone halls and look out for impressive architectural reliefs and decorative Corinthian capitals. A little walk of around 30 metres brings us to the excavations of the House of St Peter, visible through the glass floor of the modern church which has been built over them. From here, a short drive brings us to the Mount of Beatitudes, the site of the Sermon on the Mount, as told in the Gospel according to Matthew. We can admire the view over the Galilee region before lunch.
Later we drive to Acre (Akko) and visit the Crusader Fortress followed by dinner in Acre and then return to Nazareth for a sleep.
24 OCT 2024 Day 21 Christ’s Baptism site – Jericho – Dead Sea
Today we are going to enjoy a scenic two-hour drive through the beautiful Jordan River Valley to Qasr El Yahud. Believed to be the original site of Christ’s baptism by John, this is one of the three most significant Christian pilgrimage sites in the world. The site is located in the West Bank and administered by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. We then continue to the city of Jericho, administered by the Palestinian Authority, for a cable car journey to the Quarantal Monastery. The monastery clings to the cliff face of the Mount of Temptation, considered to be the site of the Devil’s third and final attempt to tempt Jesus during his forty-day fast. We will visit the most beautiful original mosaics of the Tree of Life in the Hisham Palace of Drive to Ein Boqueq for dinner and overnight.
25 OCT 2024 Day 22 Dead Sea – Masada – Qumran – Bethlehem
Today we travel to the impregnable mountain of Masada and ascend to the summit by cable car. We visit the archaeological remains of the fortress built by King Herod the Great c. 37 BC. We will hear all about the story of the Siege of Masada in 73-74 AD – the fateful and controversial last stand of the Jews against Rome in the First Jewish-Roman War, as recorded by Josephus. We then continue to Qumran, the site where the ancient religious texts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by shepherds in the 1940s. From here we drive on to Bethlehem, re-entering Palestinian-administered territory. It will be full day so tonight let’s blow off some steam and enjoy a Palestinian dancing show during dinner this evening.
26 OCT 2024 Day 23 Bethlehem – Jerusalem
This morning we visit the UNESCO-listed Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus and one of the most holy and significant Christian sites in the world. We enter via the tiny Door of Humility (made smaller by Crusaders to prevent their enemies riding in on horseback) and descend the stairs to the Grotto of the Nativity – atmospherically lit by lanterns and marked by a 14- pointed silver star. We then continue to Jerusalem to visit the famous Western Wall, an iconic site in the Holy Land. The wall is the last remnant of the original Temple Mount retaining wall, which supported the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. We head underground to visit Jerusalem's Western Wall Tunnels (also known as the Wailing Wall) to view the original stonework from the period of King Herod the Great. We then walk along the points of the Stations of the Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been crucified and resurrected. We then continue to Temple Mount itself, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where we will find the Dome of the Rock and Al Aksa Mosque.
27 OCT 2024 Day 24 Jerusalem
This is our ultimate day of ancient sites as we head outside the Old City to Mount Zion to visit the Cenacle (the room of the Last Supper), King David's Tomb and the Abbey of the Dormition. After lunch we drive to the Mount of Olives, a site of much significance in both the Old and New Testaments – not least as the site of Christ’s Ascension. We visit the Pater Noster Church and the Church of the Ascension and admire the view over Jerusalem before walking down into Josaphat Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, site of Christ’s arrest, to admire its ancient olive trees. We round off the day with an authentic Shabbat dinner experience, hosted and prepared by a local Rabbi. This fascinating experience will really help us to gain an understanding of Jerusalem's orthodox Jewish community and gain an insight into their lives. Please note that there is a lot of walking today, we shall take it easy but hopefully by now, our steps will be up together with our fitness level.
28 OCT 2024 Day 25 Jerusalem – Tel Aviv
We have a relaxed start to the day before our 1.5hrs transfer back to Tel Aviv at around 10.00am where we have the rest of the day at leisure in Tel Aviv. This would be a good opportunity to go to the beach or do your laundry, the choice is yours!
Tonight we say farewell to our new found friends, sand and old things at our last supper together. Ma'a salama, Shalom, Adieu, until we meet again.