Egypt with Archaeological Paths

By Ron Merlo
This item appears on page 24 of the February 2018 issue.

I saw Laila Robinson’s request for information (Oct. ’17, pg. 64) on “The Royal Tour to Egypt” from Archaeological Paths (Plac Kaszubski 17/49, 81-350 Gdynia, Poland; phone, in the US, 917/719-1974,

The Sphinx. Photo by Ron Merlo

I took the March 18-31, 2017, tour and would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Egyptian history from ancient times to the present.

The basic tour cost $5,985 per person, with a single supplement of $1,270. (I paid by bank transfer to save the 3.9% fee that would have been charged if I had used a credit card.)

Included were seven nights at the 5-star Mena House Hotel (with views of the pyramids from the grounds); a 7-day Nile cruise; two internal flights, all meals, and transfers to and from airports. 

Actually, I left home on March 16, having paid $190 for another night at the Mena House. 

I also purchased seven of the 13 optional tours for an additional $1,200. These included specialized tours inside several famous tombs, an early-morning hot-air balloon trip over the Valley of the Kings, a camel ride along the Nile and a visit to the Old Cairo bazaar.

I made all my land arrangements through Archaeological Paths’ New York City office. The person assigned to my trip account always quickly responded to my questions.

Archaeological Paths offered to provide flight-booking assistance, but I made my own reservations online with Lufthansa at rates similar to those quoted by the tour operator. 

Flying Premium Economy from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, Germany, and economy to Cairo, and returning in economy from Cairo to Munich and in Premium Economy on home, I paid $2,182 in airfare, including trip-cancellation insurance. (For the land trip, I “rolled the dice” and only procured an inexpensive policy related to medical evacuation.)

On the tour, our group of about 70 was divided into two parts, but I never felt overwhelmed by the size. 

The Nile River cruise included a visit to Abu Simbel temple — Egypt. Photo by Ron Merlo

Before the trip, I had told my friends I was going on an “in-depth” tour of Egypt, which turned out to be literally true when we descended 200 steps into the Subterranean Chamber of Giza’s Great Pyramid of Khufu. 

Ascending the steps in the narrow corridor was a little more difficult! (I counted the number of steps, plus or minus one or two, on my way out from the start of the rising passage — about 4 feet high and 3½ feet wide — to the intersection with the exit passage to the “modern entrance.” The wooden “stairs” are on a 26-degree sloping wood platform, and I counted each of the raised wood crosspieces as a step.)

A visit to the home of Anwar Sadat’s widow was interesting in that we got to hear how tourism to Egypt had been severely curtailed because of, among other things, actions of the previous government.

Another highlight was getting several hours to tour the Giza Plateau before the general public was admitted.

The best thing about this part of the tour was our interaction with Dr. Zahi Hawass in front of the Sphinx. Unfortunately, his foot was in a cast, as he had slipped on a wet floor running to a lecture, so he was not able to travel to Luxor for his sunrise presentation. However, I was lucky enough to sit next to him during dinner one evening and we had some interesting conversations.

Glendale, CA

The Mena House Hotel is near the pyramids. Photo by Ron Merlo
A tour of Luxor Temple began just before sunrise — Egypt. Photo by Ron Merlo