What global trek features exclusive curated experiences such as sunsets and river cruises right out of the movies, a parade of magical moments at iconic locations and “fast pass” style close-up access to some of the most treasured places in the collective imagination? It’s the Adventures by Disney packaged vacation to Egypt; and even in the blazing hot off-season for the part African, part Asian nation, the Disney-enhanced destination was a peak experience.
Egypt has not only been a worldwide travel destination because of its rich history and wonderful people, but its mystique has been a constant subject through the lens of cinema in classics such as The Ten Commandments, Cleopatra and Death on the Nile and in modern adventures such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jumper and The Mummy. Now, a company equally famous for its movies and television – including the recent streaming hit series Moon Knight – and for its renowned brand of hospitality is rolling out the red carpet for Egyptian adventures curated by Disney.
On a nearly 10-day journey, my fellow tour guests and I bore witness to the cradle of civilization via hieroglyphics ranging from watermarked textures in the formerly submerged Temple of Isis to full vibrant color in the unearthed Valley of the Kings, all with the gracious and reflective accompaniment of Egyptologist Amal Elfar.
The first days in Cairo alone constituted a trip of a lifetime as our intrepid Adventures by Disney guides sweet and sentimental Kareem Elsaid from Cairo and crafty and cunning Kevin Collinge from Arizona took our group of 37 travelers (mostly adults and a few thoughtful teens) to the Egyptian Museum, the Giza Complex – home of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, the Citadel of Salah ad-Din and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali (incidentally one of the sites in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X).
I thought the trip might reach its high point too early when we were granted access to climb on both the outside of and inside the tombs within a mighty Pyramid and to mingle at the paws of the Sphinx, both zones not available for access to the general touring public. But the treasured memories of the desert certainly didn’t stop there, and Kareem and Kev kept spirits high with a combination of wisdom and wit rivaling Disney’s Blue Genie in the “friend like me” department.
This trip was all about awakening the senses, including accommodations in the well-appointed Ritz-Carlton Nile adjacent to a museum of the nation’s most exquisite antiquities. Our trio of curators helped our group get comfortable bartering with local merchants at the colorful Khan El Khalili market, where we bought authentic garb as well as “white elephant” gifts for an end-of-voyage exchange. Fanciful candies, camel plushes and regal mementos from the labyrinthine bazaars filled our totes as our guides helped us separate gift from grift. We alternately feasted on exotic pigeon dishes and pistachio pastries along with more traditional meat kabobs and rice, and we even got to try our hand at frying up our own falafel during a cooking demonstration.
Next up for our group was a plane flight to the beautiful city of Aswan for a luxury cruise excursion aboard the M/S Tulip and satellite felucca boats (think Disney’s Jungle Cruise!) which led us to destinations such as splendid sunset dining at the imperial Old Cataract Hotel where Agatha Christie penned exotic mysteries such as Death on the Nile (now made into a movie twice) and the city of Luxor, home to the temple complexes at Karnak where pharaohs once reigned at the height of their power. Guests instantly see why this area is characterized as the world’s largest open-air museum, and VIP nighttime access to illuminated temples was among the trip’s most dazzling experiences.
The twin temples of Ramesses II and Nefertari at Abu Simbel were a highlight, with grand sculptures carved into mountains. Another spectacular site was the Valley of the Kings, with its choose-your-own-adventure of resplendent illustrated vaults, included a chance to view King Tut in his resting place among additional exhumed history. The Disney guides helped us beat the heat and crowds by arriving just a smidge early and providing us with multicolored parasols.
The final days of the trip included a restful wind-down at the all-inclusive Coral Sea Imperial Sensatori Resort in Sharm El-Sheik, located between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. There we enjoyed buffet meals, swimming, soccer and water polo, spa treatments, beach time, a coral reef snorkeling excursion and a Bedouin style beach party to recap and reflect on the trip.
In addition to the academic learnings throughout our journey, there was a true sense of camaraderie, with adventure guides staging fun pictures and snapping photos and footage on our phones any time we wished. There were frequent restroom breaks, with Disney picking up all the tabs for local tips in Egyptian pounds; and government officials ensured we were perpetually safe with an armed guard protecting our party throughout our stay.
If you opt to go on this marvelous trip, pack hats and sunscreen, long pants for one mosque visit and generally comfortable shirts and shorts for all other times. The Disney crew kept us constantly refreshed with bottled water and electrolytes.
Tie-ins to Disney iconography were subtle on the trip, with the live-action middle east-set Aladdin played in the background during an orientation session and low-key instrumental tunes from the studio’s film catalogue piped in on the charter bus in Cairo. There were also collectible pins (like in the theme parks!) marking each day of the journey. Mostly, though, the curators of the itinerary allowed the wonders of the Egyptian world to simply speak for themselves.
There you have it: the country made famous in motion pictures now brought to life in vibrant Technicolor by the company known for making magical and memorable moments come to life. The complexity and specificity of the trip made Adventures by Disney the best option to see this majestic country.
To book Adventures by Disney to Egypt or other exotic locales, contact my spectacular neighbor in the Town at Trilith, Alston Causey, who has inside access to adventures on the horizon. You can reach Alston via his website here: