"The night sky in Egypt is a swirling mass of stars so bright and numerous the sky seems to tremble with the ice-blue weight of them.”
– Rosemary Mahoney
Mt. Moses – St. Catherine’s Monastery
Even the most avid of sun lovers will relish a day trip from Sharm El Sheik, into the desert to one of the world’s most important religious sites. Pilgrims around the world have long made their way to Mount Sinai, where, according to Judeo-Christian belief, Moses received the Ten Commandments. Also known as Mt. Moses, its summit can be achieved via the path of Moses – choose to ascend via the Steps of Penitence (about 4,000 in all) or up Camel Path, which lies to the east of St. Catherine’s Monastery. We’ll arrange for a Bedouin guide – Egyptian guides are not allowed to escort travelers to the top of Mount Sinai – and if you wish, plan for your summiting to coincide with the day’s sunrise. From the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, the views of the Sinai Desert are simply magnificent.
We’ll also take you to St. Catherine’s Monastery, with a history that can be traced back more than 17 centuries and built around the spot where Moses is purported to have encountered the burning bush. Within the high walls of this – the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – an incense-infused Greek orthodox church, a library second only to the Vatican in sheer number of ancient manuscripts, kitchens and living quarters evoke scenes of another age. Moses’ Well supplies water to the monastery and legend has it that this is where Moses met his wife for the first time. The gardens hold an ossuary, wherein lie the bones of all of the monks who have resided here.
Make your way to the Chapel of the Holy Bush, the monastery’s most ancient shrine – we will enter without shoes in keeping with God’s command to Moses. Inside the chapel, pilgrims kneel and venerate at the holy table amidst Iznik blue and white tiles and a mosaic of rich materials.
Allow us to introduce you to this heady and historic religious site in our signature off-the-beaten-path style, with local expert guidance.
Red Sea Diving – Hurghada
With its year-round sunshine and myriad activities for sea lovers and families, the Red Sea Riviera, as it’s affectionally known, is the perfect diving, snorkeling and swimming destination – and a lovely respite from days in the dry desert. This picturesque section of coastline boasts ample water sports as well as the world’s large aqua-culture museum. World-class hotels and resorts vie for your business – rest assured, we have our finger on the pulse of the best accommodations and activities for your tastes.
Desert adventurers are just as smitten with the Red Sea coast as they are with the ancient ruins and rock art of the wild Eastern Desert. Should you be drawn to both the important religious sites of the barren sands as well as the kaleidoscopic underwater life of the sea, we’ve got you covered – combine both for the ultimate Egyptian escape.
Explore Hurghada City, considered the capital of the Red Sea Riviera and presiding over 40 kilometers of pristine coastline. Our guides have the inside scoop on this, one of the world’s top three diving destinations, and can find diversion for non-divers as well: lazy beach days, extreme water sports, golfing, spa treatments and more. Shop at the bountiful bazaar in charming El-Dahar, the older section of the city. Swim with dolphins and dugongs (a relative of the manatee). Go fishing at Marsa Alam and Dahab, getting to know the locals and their way of life.
There’s a rarefied air at nearby Soma Bay, the luxury epicenter of the region. This resort paradise is surrounded by endless sandy beaches and colorful coral reefs. Take time for a thalassotherapy treatment, so popular in the area, and known for its effective approach to cure minor aches and pains using nutrient-rich elements from the Red Sea.
El Fayoum Oasis
An Egyptian oasis in the midst of the barren, sun-drenched desert? What may seem like the stuff of Hollywood films becomes a remarkable reality when we deliver you to El Fayoum Oasis, one of Egypt’s seven oases and the closest to Cairo. It is our distinct privilege to offer an exclusive two-day oasis experience at the oasis’ ultra-luxurious eight-suite resort, with opportunity to take pottery classes, go horseback riding, venture out on desert safari, go bird watching and so much more. Venture out to explore Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic sites, trek in sand dunes and through palm trees, lakes and valleys, and watch for wild animals and exotic birds.
Those interested may visit nearby Wadi El Hitan, “Valley of the Whales,” an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site of fossilized whales in the desert. We’ll have the chance to explore this protected area, characterized by movable sand dunes, four natural sulfuric springs, 15 species of desert plants and just as many types of wild animals – keep an eye out for the Egyptian deer, red fox and fennec, or sand fox. Your local guide will enlighten you on the flora and fauna of the region, as well as its archaeological significance.
We can arrange for a visit to Maidum Pyramid, believed to be the first attempt at building a pyramid, or a trek to Magic Lake, one of Fayoum’s most beautiful bodies of water and boasting striking sand dune views.
Conjure up a desert landscape in your mind’s eye, then dream up a lush oasis, and you have Siwa, a veritable Eden of mineral springs, salt lakes, olive trees and palm groves. At 25 meters below sea level, just miles from the Libyan border, the oasis is dominated by the strange ruins of the Shali Fortress. Your expert guide will take you on a cultural tour of remote and atmospheric Shali, the oasis’ main town, explaining the fortress ruins, and guide you along sandy paths to the Temple of the Oracle. Take a dip in Cleopatra’s Pool, where it is believed the legendary queen once refreshed herself. Stop into the charming Siwa House Museum, pick up local handicrafts, head out on desert safari in the Great Sand Sea or try quad biking in the sands. Return for a dip in a crystal-clear spring that bubbles up from the Nubian aquifer, drink in the seductive sounds of Siwi, the local Berber language, snack on local date-filled dishes and admit that you’re spellbound with Siwa.
We recommend bringing along your shades for a trip into the bizarre White Desert – the huge, wind-eroded white rock formations here are staggeringly bright when the sun shines. Archaeology buffs covet a trip to Baharyia to see The Valley of the Golden Mummies, a collection of approximately 250 mummies. Then it’s on to the Black Desert, with its basalt black desert floor and volcanoes – we can arrange for a stop in the local Bedouin village of Farafra, with its mud brick houses, olive groves and lush plantations of dates, figs and apricots.