Few civilisations evoke mystery, wonder and intrigue like ancient Egypt. Inspiring countless stories and silver screen portrayals, this intercontinental Mediterranean nation is blessed with the largest concentration of ancient wonders in the world – from the colourful hieroglyphics of the Valley of the Kings to the humbling Great Pyramids of Giza.
Join Scenic for a luxury escorted tour through Egypt, and follow in the footsteps of fearless explorers and immortal pharaohs as you pass through the pages of antiquity. Our Journey Designers have handcrafted each itinerary to highlight Egypt’s enriching timeline, tracing proud dynasties through the ages, from the Old Kingdom to the New.
To give you a taste for the historic riches awaiting you on the banks of the Nile and beyond, here we explore the three ancient kingdoms of Egypt – the Old, Middle and New – and showcase the rousing wonders you can expect across this beautiful, inspiring country.
The Old Kingdom
Emerging from the hunter-gatherer tribes of the River Nile, the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt saw the roots of dynasties, rulers and civilisation flourish. Historians agree that the period began with the Third Dynasty in 2686 BC, ending with the arrival of the Sixth in 2181 BC. Known as the ‘Age of Pyramids’, the Old Kingdom heralded the construction of some of Egypt’s most renowned ancient landmarks, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid of Dasher, as well as the Sphinx, built by Pharaoh Djedefre in the Fourth Dynasty.
The dawn of Egypt’s Old Kingdom came at the hands of King Menes, a Third Dynasty pharaoh viewed as an unreachable god-king by the Egyptian people. From his royal seat in the capital city of Memphis, Menes ruled the newly-formed nomes (different territorial divisions) of the empire, and was worshipped by commoners who believed him responsible for the Nile’s annual flood, which brought life to their harvests.
Egypt’s Age of Pyramids began during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser, whose advisor and architect, Imhotep, conceived the new architectural form of the Step Pyramid. The pyramid became a powerful symbol of the ancient Egyptian world, and many were built as tombs for the country’s kings, royal family, and noblemen.
The zenith of the Old Kingdom came under the Fourth Dynasty, beginning with Pharaoh Sneferu in 2,613 BC. Sneferu took ancient Egyptian architecture to unprecedented new levels, introducing intricate new designs and using a greater number of stones to build his pyramids, temples, and palaces. He also expanded the empire, introducing trade routes with Lebanon and other Red Sea nations, and seizing the Nubian tribe lands of the Upper Nile.
Throughout the fifth and sixth dynasties, the pharaohs’ influence and power waned, with regional ‘nomarchs’ (governors) assuming independent control. This led to the First Intermediate Period, and the start of the ‘Golden Age’ of the Middle Kingdom.
Highlights of the Old Kingdom with Scenic
Appease your inner explorer during a luxury escorted tour with Scenic, and marvel at the ancient treasures of Egypt’s Old Kingdom. During our enriching The Treasures of Egypt tour, you’ll spend the day amid the enthralling pyramids and statues of Giza, many of which were commissioned during the reign of Djoser, and designed by Imhotep himself. Witness the scale and magnitude of the Great Pyramid of Giza, as well as the 20-metre-tall limestone monolith of the Sphinx, built by King Djedefre as a monument to his father, Khufu. Then, as evening falls, enjoy drinks and canapés as the sun sets over the exquisite ancient monuments of the Old Kingdom – a Scenic Sundowners event which promises to linger long in the memory.
Traces of the Old Kingdom are found elsewhere too, including Hathor’s temple in the Dendera Temple Complex, one of the best-preserved of Egypt’s ancient temples. Marvel at the vibrant hieroglyphics which adorn the roof of this mighty temple, as you enjoy a relaxing Nile river cruise on board the boutique Sanctuary Sun Boat II.
The Middle Kingdom
Following the collapse of the Old Kingdom, Egypt entered a period of weak pharaonic rule, the culmination of which led to two rival dynasties rising to fight for power and control of the empire. These two rival factions included the 11th Theban Dynasty, whose rule encompassed parts of the southern Egypt and the Upper Nile, and the 10th Dynasty of Herakleopolis, who controlled the north.
In 2055 BC, Mentuhotep II ascended the Theban throne and launched a successful attack on Herakleopolis, toppling the resistance of the 10th Dynasty and consolidating his power across the country. Mentuhotep II restored the cult of the ruler, depicting himself as a god-king in the headdresses of Min and Amun. Due to his influence in reunifying Egypt, Mentuhotep is often heralded as the founder of the Middle Kingdom.
After Mentuhotep II’s 51-year reign, Egypt entered a time of cultural and political unrest, with successive kings murdered by conspiring nomarchs. Towards the end of the 12th Dynasty, Sensuret III ascended the throne, marking the start of the Golden Age of the Middle Kingdom. Sensuret III was a warrior-king who led successful military campaigns throughout Nubia and the Middle East, expanding the empire and constructing vast fortifications which helped to protect Egypt’s lands from invaders over the coming centuries.
During the reign of Amenenhat III, Nile flood waters dropped, leading to a string of droughts which would serve to once again weaken pharaonic rule. This led to the Second Intermediate Period, the decline of the Middle Kingdom, and the rise of a new-era on ancient Egypt’s illustrious timeline.
Highlights of the Middle Kingdom with Scenic
The Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt is revealed in all its epic splendour during The Treasures of Egypt tour. Discover the ancient antiquities of the Luxor Museum, where thousands of artefacts are displayed in a range of carefully-considered exhibits. Here, learn about the sun god Ra, and the deity’s rise to prominence during the Middle Kingdom period and beyond.
After setting sail on your luxury Nile river cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the World Heritage Site of Karnak, whose construction began during the reign of Sensuret I shortly before the height of the Middle Kingdom. After Angkor Wat, Karnak is the second largest religious site in the world, and was described as Ipet-Isut, ‘the place of places’ by the ancient Egyptians. You’ll have time to explore this fascinating open-air site, from the Great Hall with its extensive stonework pillars, to the Precinct of Amun-Ra, which contains architectural flourishes and buildings commissioned by over 30 ancient pharaohs.
On the day 8of this momentous tour of Egypt, you’ll visit a traditional Nubian village on the upper reaches of the Nile. In the Middle Kingdom, successive kings launched campaigns across Nubia, bringing the region under the control of the Egyptian empire. During this special Scenic Freechoice excursion, you’ll be given the opportunity to explore a historic Nubian settlement, and witness first-hand the lasting influence the powerful ancient Egyptians had on neighbouring regions.
The New Kingdom
Marking the peak of Egypt’s power in the ancient world, the New Kingdom stretched from the 16th to the 11th century BC, covering the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. The New Kingdom followed the Second Intermediate Period, and saw Egypt rise to become a powerful, multi-continental empire, with great lands to the east, south, and west across modern-day Libya, Sudan, and the Levant.
The 18th Dynasty of Egypt brought with it some of the country’s most recognisable and influential pharaohs, including Queen Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun, Ahmose I and Akhenaten. Perhaps the most influential of them all was Thutmose III, ‘the Napoleon of Egypt’, who expanded the country’s armies and consolidated imperial power across the country. Art and culture thrived under Thutmose III, as well as his successor, Akhenaten, who is widely considered the grandfather of Egypt’s ancient realist art movement.
After the demise of the 18th Dynasty, the crown fell to Ramesses II, who began to rebuild and recover Egyptian territories lost in the Levant. Ramesses II became a prolific warrior pharaoh, renowned for leading his troops into the Battle of Kadesh, one of the great military campaigns of the ancient world. He was also famous for the number of children he fathered with his wives and concubines, for which he established the Valley of the Kings – a funerary complex where many of his children and members of his family were entombed.
The last ‘great’ pharaoh of the New Kingdom was Ramesses III, who spent much of his reign funding wars on the borders of the empire. The heavy cost of successive wars and invasions, coupled with continued droughts and poor flooding from the Nile, served to weaken pharaonic rule in Egypt, and led to the expiration of the ancient Egyptian Empire as a major civilisation in Asia and the Mediterranean.
Highlights of the New Kingdom with Scenic
The New Kingdom was the most evocative, prosperous and storied period in the history of ancient Egypt, a time of imperialist might and religious foretelling, where the pharaohs were worshipped as god-kings by the people. Traces of the New Kingdom can be seen throughout Egypt, beautifully preserved and restored in the form of monuments, temples, tombs, and statues.
Cruising from Luxor on the fabled River Nile, enter the Valley of the Kings, where rock-cut tombs once enshrined Egyptian nobility and the pharaohs of the New Kingdom. This stunning natural river valley became a royal burial ground for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, including Seti I, Ramses II, and Tutankhamun, as well as a host of queens, nobles, and politicians. Mummification was used to preserve the body so the soul could reanimate in the afterlife, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, dozens of mummified bodies were excavated from the valley, which has since been nicknamed ‘the gateway to the afterlife’.
Explore the haunting tomb developments and sacred burial chambers that once held the god-kings of the New Kingdom, before enjoying an unforgettable hike to the summit of el-Qurn, the hallowed peak of the Theban Hills which offers an outstanding view across the Theban Necropolis and the Wadi valleys, to the Nile River beyond.
From tombs and temples to pyramids, monuments, and spectacular sacred beauty spots; Egypt’s glorious past is yours to discover during a luxury escorted tour from Scenic. Click here to browse our collection of handcrafted Egyptian tours, or call our team today on 0808 231 3537.