DYLAN BICKERSTAFFE – STUDY/ADVENTURE TOURS
A short tour of Rome (September 2013) will pay special attention to the Egyptian monuments and collections, with a visit to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli.
I am pleased to announce that I shall be leading the Daughters of Isis tour for Ancient World Tours (AWT), departing 7th February 2014.
The tour focusses on powerful female figures in Egyptian history, but is also a wonderful chance to see rarely visited sites in Middle Egypt – including Amarna and other sites associated with this period and its aftermath – and a fantastic introduction to Ancient Egypt, from the Pyramids of Giza to the Valley of the Kings (and Queens!) at Luxor; from the Old Kingdom era to Cleopatra, Egypt’s last queen.
We start with a visit to the Pyramids at Giza and then travel across the desert to the shores of Lake Qarun in the lush Faiyum region. Local trips here take us to the tower-like pyramid of Meidum with the optional experience of wriggling into nearby Mastaba 17. We then continue to Hawara where, beside the pyramid of Pharaoh Amenemhet III of the Middle Kingdom, are remnants of the famous Labyrinth described by Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny and others. As many will know, I have made a special study of this, and will be able to give some insights into what it may have looked like. Nearby we visit the impressive pyramid at Lahun, near which was the workers’ town explored by Petrie.
Heading south we stay in the Middle Kingdom era as we view the fabulous tombs at Beni Hassan, followed by those at Meir. A very full day at Amarna follows – with a tour by Barry Kemp around the Central City, the Northern Palace etc., visits to the Tomb of Akhenaten (I have written a long piece on the subject of the burials here), the northern and southern groups of Nobles’ tombs.
A highlight for many will be the colossal statue of Meritamun - daughter/wife of Ramesses II at Akhmim. As you will see, this staue was almost certainly usurped from a queen of the Amarna era. We will discuss exactly who! Sacred Abydos follows with the superb reliefs in the temple of Seti I, and the brilliant colours surviving in the nearby temple of Ramesses II. We will also view the enigmatic Oseiron. On to the temple of Hathor at Dendera with the relief of Cleopatra before continuing, to arrive at the Winter Palace, Garden Pavilion, Luxor, for five nights.
In the Valley of the Kings there will be the opportunity to explore the history not only of kings, but also of queens, for instance Queen Regnant, Twosret, the wives and daughters shown in the tomb of Thutmose III, and the location of Hatshepsut’s tomb. A highlight is the spectacular walk out of the Kings Valley to the check-point in the pass, and then down to the workers’ village at Deir el Medina. Here we seen the beautiful tombs (including a newly opened one!) and the Ptolemaic temple of Hathor. More beautiful images will be encountered as we visit the Amarna-era tomb of Vizier Ramose, and those of Userhet, and Khaemat (where we will meet Queen Tiye). We shall see Tiye again at our last stop of the day at the Colossi of Memnon, where she and the royal mother, Mutemwia, stand by the legs of king Amenhotep III.
Next day takes us to the Valley of the Queens where the highlight is special entry to the brilliantly decorated Tomb of Queen Nefertari (which has been closed to visitors for over 10 years now). Also in the Valley we will aim to see the Tomb of Tyti, recently confirmed as a wife of Ramesses III, and some of the exquisitely decorated tombs of sons of Ramesses III. We conclude with the fantastically well-preserved site of Medinet Habu, including Ramesses III’s mortuary temple, palace and Harem Gate, with many fascinating scenes upon the walls. A highlight will be the Chapels of Amenerdis and Shepenwepet the powerful ‘God’s Wives’ of the 25th Dynasty.
A comprehensive visit to the vast complex of temples at Karnak will take in all the usual highlights, and pay special attention to the White Chapel of Senusret I, the Red Chapel, and the newly-opened White Chapel, of Hatshepsut in the Open Air Museum, and hopefully the figure of Sekhmet in the Ptah Temple, and chapels of the God’s Wives of Amun nearby. Later in the day we shall explore the many secrets of Luxor temple – including the wives of Ramesses II, the chapel of Hatshepsut, the Amarna talatat, King Ay, and the scenes of Mutemwia giving divinely stimulated birth to Amenhotep III.
The last day provides the opportunity to take an excursion to El Kab - with wonderful 18th dynasty tombs, ancient inscriptions at Vulture Rock, and the little temple of Amenhotep III. A visit to the tomb of Ankhtifi dating to the disturbed First Intermediate Period, at Moalla, and the Temple of Montu at Tod are also included.
Price: £2880. Single Supplement: £214.
This is a great tour with a lot of highlights. It promises to sell-out quite quickly so please contact Ancient World Tours to register interest and receive first notification when bookings start to be taken: Tel 0844 357 9494 (+44 844 357 9494 INT).
Web site: www.ancient.co.uk
CRETE of the MINOANS Sept/Oct 2012
This two-week tour proved to be a most enjoyable experience. Located in pleasant hotels in four centres (Heraklion, Matala, Siteia, and Olous/Elounda) to ensure we had plenty of time to locate and explore a very large range of Minoan sites (and other attractions), we found time for relaxed lunches, as well as a number of adventures. These included the ascent of Minoan Peak Sanctuaries at Petsofas, Karfi, and Mount Zuktas; the Zakros Gorge (with Minoan Fort), as well as the spectacular Kritsa gorge. We also explored the famous Idean and Diktean caves, as well as other historic caves at Skotino, Eleithyia, Trapeza, and Milatos. The only real disappointment was the closure of the excellent Agios Nikolaus Museum for refurbishment. The Minoan sites were, of course, the focus, and we had a beautiful visit to a peaceful and uncrowded Knossos, and long relaxed explorations of Phaestos, Hagia Triada, Zakros, Petras, and Malia palaces; but it was the remote villas, tholos tombs, and later cities and churches that provided some of the most interesting moments. There will definitely be return visits!
EGYPT: Land of the RED CROWN. November 2012
I was excited to be leading this tour for Ancient World Tours because of the interesting itinerary which included rarely visited sites in the Faiyum and Delta regions of Egypt. However, none of us was prepared for all the additional things we were to see owing to the kindness of the regional inspector, Sayed Awlad, who showed us a great deal extra within the Faiyum. At Hawara we were shown recently uncovered flooring of the Middle Kingdom Labyrinth structure; at Lahun we saw a cemetery and Valley Temple currently under excavation, as well as further discoveries close to the pyramid, and the workers’ town excavated by Petrie. At Karanis we saw the exhibition in the restored dig house as well as excavations in the town site, near the temples; and at Dimei the dig director introduced us to the site. We also travelled to the quarries at Gebel Katrani and the petrified forest on our way to the Qasr el Sagha. After leaving the impressive temple at Qasr Qarun we travelled via Wadi Rayan to Medinet Madi where we saw the exhibition in the new visitor centre and the newly revealed processional way – with altars, shrines, subsiduary buildings and temples – leading to the Middle Kingdom temple. This is apart from the statue bases at Biahmu, the stela and waterwheels in Medinet el Faiyum.
We saw no trouble in Cairo, but the traffic was terribly congested. This did not prevent us from visiting the Museum, and seeing a range of Islamic monuments including the Ibn Tulun Mosque and the Gayer Anderson House, and of course exploring the pyramids and other attractions on the Giza plateau. In the Delta the sites of Bubastis and Tanis had much to reveal including new excavations. We had the pyramids at Meidum and Dahshur virtually to ourselves, and the Serapeum and tombs of Horemheb and Maya at Saqqara were a special delight, on top of the mastabas of Ti, Kagemni, and the newly reopened mastaba of Mereruka.
I must thank our knowledgeable and affable guide, Ehab Refaat, for ensuring that we enjoyed as much as possible throughout. A tremendous tour.
I have been leading tours of my own design to Egypt since 2000. The first of these were organised through Ancient World Tours (AWT) and, as a result of their success, I was asked to lead a number of ‘standard’ tours from their brochure. This arrangement worked especially well over three seasons with the Luxor-based Temples and Tombs tour (and the similar The Valley of the Kings in March 2010), where my intimate knowledge of specific sites of the New Kingdom particularly enhanced the experience. In November 2009 I led the very successful Shadow of Ramesses tour, based in Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan with a Lake Nasser cruise.
Tours of my own design have also been included in the AWT brochure, the most popular being Pharaohs of the Sun which recently appeared there for the fourth year running.
Latterly I have begun to run my own tours independently, working with trusted local guides and ground agents, and organising cheap flights from the UK. You will soon be able to read about the first of these, Desert Signs and River Shrines - which ran early in 2007 and was a great success - in an extended account on this site. If anything even more successful and enjoyable was my second independent tour Oases and Middle Egypt which ran in November 2008, exploring the oases and travelling off-road in the Western Desert in 4x4s, and visiting many rarely visited sites in Middle Egypt, as well as the better known ones such as Amarna, Beni Hassan and Deir el Bersha. An account of this extremely good humoured tour will be provided as soon as time allows, but a small selection of images from it can now be viewed here (see Gallery).
My tours are generally designed around a specific theme and combine exploration of more unusual and inaccessible sites with fresh insights into the better known monuments. With Pyramids and Faiyum (2000) the emphasis was on rarely seen monuments of the Middle Kingdom, together with pyramids from both Middle and Old Kingdoms. Amarna via Oases (2003) was designed to gain access to Amarna and other interesting monuments of Middle Egypt, travelling from Luxor through the spectacular western desert and seeing little visited sites in the oases. Aswan and the Upper Nile Valley (2004) flew to and from Luxor from the UK, calling at interesting and unusual sites on the journey to and from Aswan. The local monuments were all explored whilst based in Aswan, and day trips taken to Silisila, Kanais etc. Pharaohs of the Sun (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) examines the Sun Cult of Ancient Egypt with monuments of the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom with special emphasis on the Amarna period. For this reason the tour is based in first Cairo, then Minya (the sites of Amarna/Akhetaten extend over three days), and finally Luxor.
Future Tours will not be restricted to Egypt and will include Mycenaens and Minoans; Syria; Turkey; Libya.
Contact me if you would like me to organise a trip for you.