Great show on Nat Geo

Tonight I watched the premier of a new two-part Nat Geo docuseries, "The Ultimate Treasure Countdown" about Ancient Egypt. Very interesting!!!

In Episode one, they showed something I had never seen before in print, online or TV. The # 6 treasure was Abu Simbel- what made it special is the host not only visited the exterior but was allowed to enter through a locked out-of-the-way door and visit the inside of what is called the "Ramses Dome." The entire mountain where the two Ramses II (Ramses the Great) temples were relocated in 1968 to save them from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, is an enormous hollow concrete dome!! This rivals Disney!!


  • Fingers still crossed for a December J&E departure.....

  • Set it to record the series. Thanks Alan.

  • edited April 28


    Set it to record the series. Thanks Alan.

    They showed both episodes back to back-to-back. I'm sure it will come back around and you can probably get it On-Demand via some cable systems and pay per view streaming sites or if your cable company has Nat Geo or Disney you can stream for free (It wasn't too good when I watched it again this morning- too many school kids online doing distance learning?

    The locations the host (and producer) selected were all the biggies (but Egypt has so many!), but I didn't necessarily agree with the order she assigned (see below) though she really gave the back story and why she selected them. It was recent (Dec 2019) so included the latest info like the mysterious void in the Great Pyramid- she had truly incredible access- better than any I had seen before- she entered the normally off limits Queen's Chamber where the special muon tomography scanning equipment was stored and she was on her hands and knees crawling in a tunnel 30 meters below the bedrock under the Great Pyramid! You gotta watch it.

    10 The mummy of Ramses III (and the pit where a bunch of the pharoahs were hidden by priests)
    9 The Rosetta Stone
    8 The Temple (Cleopatra's Temple) at Edfu
    7 The Sphinx
    6 Abu Simbel (including inside the artificial mountain)
    5 Sacarra (including the Seraphaeum)
    4 Luxor Temple
    3 Valley of the Kings (including visits to the tombs of Seti I and Thutmoses III
    2 King Tut (including a visit to see his stuff in the GEM* restoration labs)
    1 The Great Pyramid

    • no mention was made of the GEM or progress. I guess I'll do some web surfing for it today.
  • Just finished ep. 1. Pretty amazing about Aby Simbel. I knew nothing about it, other than the name, The moving of it all, creating the artificial hollow mountain is as amazing as the antiquity itself.

  • The same presenter (Bettany Hughes) did a four part series in 2018 called, "Nile: 5,000 years of history." As much of a travelogue as a history program (she cruises the Nile from Cairo to Aswan), it shows most of the major sights and many minor ones you wouldn't normally see. It's available on Amazon Video, free for Prime subscribers. I particularly enjoyed seeing the "Winston Churchill" suite at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan (Episode 4). There is a level of travel luxury above Tauck standards. ;)

  • Ken--Thanks! I just downloaded on Prime

  • I just got an e-mail today about the mummification workshop that has been discovered at Saqqara. There's going to be a 4-part series about it called "Kingdom of the Mummies" premiering Tuesday May 12 on the National Geographic Channel. I think it's on at 10 EDT, so I'll have to catch it on demand.

  • Ken--am I just a prude Southern girl or does anyone else think the presenter (Bettany Hughes) for the four part series in 2018 "Nile: 5,000 years of history" was dressed inappropriately (clothing and shoes). Not sure why she would wear a tight skirt if she knew she would ride a camel and sit Indian style n the ground for a meal with men. Not to mention the low cut top showing way too much cleavage in my opinion. I thought women were expected to dress conservatively in Egypt. I've just watched the first episode and I'm enjoying the journey but her clothing is a big MISS for me....I'm perplexed.

  • PureLuxury-
    As a modern male, I am reluctant to comment on any woman's dress. She clearly made some questionable choices from a practical standpoint. I would point out that she covers her cleavage, most of the time, with a scarf. I think Egypt, especially in tourist areas, is more liberal than most Islamic countries.

    As a presenter, she is eminently qualified. She has done numerous historical documentaries for BBC, Nat Geo, Discovery Channel and the History channel. She is the author of two books on ancient Greece. She is currently a visiting research fellow at King's College London, a tutor for Cambridge University's Institute of Continuing Education, an honorary fellow at Cardiff University, and the holder of an honorary doctorate from the University of York. She was made an OBE by the queen in 2019.

    So, I suggest you look past her clothing. She has a lot to share.

  • Ken-I am absolutely not questioning the content or her qualifications. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode and have no doubt the remaining episodes will be equally enjoyable and informative. Her clothing choices are just questionable to me.Dressing appropriately for any occasion is a personal pet peeve. The brand she is representing obviously has no issue with her clothing choices. Unfortunately, too often, I've seen many well qualified people (especially young women) get sidelined because they were not dressed appropriately. I've mentored a few. Each industry is different and some certainly more conservative than others.

  • edited May 6

    I think if she didn't have a whole crew (sound man, maybe hand boom operator, director, script assistant, etc., etc. plus a bunch of locals, security, translator, drivers, etc behind the camera, she would be in big trouble. Things have changed since I was there many many years ago, but not that much. I think all the recent shows have received fantastic support from the government- they want to get tourism cranked up again. It is too bad about COVID19.

    Has anyone seen any updates on the GEM? The last thing I saw was a couple weeks ago that work has slowed and the opening has been delayed until "sometime in 2021..." The number of the workers and restoration specialists at the site has been reduced and other precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus. The Dept of Antiquities has been using this time to disinfect sites open to the public.

  • Alan-I think we may have read the same article. See link.

    At this point, although I'm hoping beyond hope that the December 2020 tour isn't cancelled, I'm considering rescheduling my December Egypt-Jordan tour to December 2021. Perhaps it will be cancelled by Tauck depending on progress of a vaccination/non-containment of virus spread or blocked borders). I want to visit when conditions have been "normalized"--whatever that looks like. I certainly don't want to travel with restrictions on entering scheduled site visits. Perhaps the GEM will be open by December 2021. Inshallah.


  • edited May 6

    Alan-I think we may have read the same article. See link.

    At this point . . . I want to visit when conditions have been "normalized"--whatever that looks like. I certainly don't want to travel with restrictions on entering scheduled site visits.

    I also found a number of sources that have the same text. Usually the English language Egypt Today has the latest info and a number of related articles about antiquities and excavations (easy to get side-tracked :D ), but they too have basically the same info. Since this is a REALLY BIG DEAL for Egypt and al Sisi, the president, is personally involved, I'm sure all information is cleared by his office or at the very least with al Anany, his Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.

    You talk about conditions. I think Tauck is really sensitive to those, look how many years it took for them to re-start Egypt tours after the Arab Spring. A number of other companies started much earlier. There is a line in the second paragraph of the 1 May Update I quoted in another post that kinda says it all, "Due to continued uncertainty about our ability to deliver the level of experience you expect from Tauck, and consistent with the latest . . . . ."

    We aren't scheduled for our second try at J&E until the end of January 2021 (first one was Mar 2020 :'( ), but I got on the wait lists for two other (sold out) departures later in 2021. Depending on the worldwide status of COVID-19, I may even book a back-up once the 2022 departures are posted (sometime late this year?) I ain't getting any younger and feel I'm running out of time. :/

  • So A
    Alan, how does it work when you book the same tour but then find you don’t need to go, do you get your insurance back? It really annoyed me when I first realized a few years ago that people were booking multiple tours with no intention of going on all of them and blocking them for people who really wanted to go on the tours.

  • AlanS - Another question. Do you have to make a deposit to be on a tour's waitlist?

  • edited May 6


    So Alan, how does it work when you book the same tour but then find you don’t need to go, do you get your insurance back? It really annoyed me when I first realized a few years ago that people were booking multiple tours with no intention of going on all of them and blocking them for people who really wanted to go on the tours.

    It is just like any other booking and cancellation, unless some special policy is in effect. For the additional booking, you pay the deposit and insurance and if you subsequently cancel, you get your deposit back and may have the insurance premium put in a DreamSaver account to be used within the next year. It can potentially tie up a significant amount of money, but I see no alternative in the current situation, when future dates could be sold out by the time Tauck makes a decision to cancel or go ahead with an earlier tour. Again, all this, including the DreamSaver (which I can not find anywhere in the Tauck literature), could change or go away. I'm not taking this action lightly- my Mar 2020 J&E tour (booked in Jan 2019) was cancelled, my Jan 2021 J&E tour is likely at risk of being cancelled as well, so what alternatives do I have since Tauck doesn't give priority when they cancel your trip and you want to re-book? How can they? I am also taking a chance with airfare since I don't book thru Tauck. I can't imagine people doing this on a regular basis, but I guess they do. It would be hard for me to track all this stuff on my spreadsheet and come up with the funds, but I guess there are folks with the resources who can afford it.

    Smiling Sam

    AlanS - Another question. Do you have to make a deposit to be on a tour's waitlist?

    As far as I know you do, but am not certain. I don't know Tauck's policy if, when you call to book, the date you want is sold out, whether they will put you on a waitlist and if you must pay a deposit. I was on a wait list which Tauck called an "interest list" for Jordan and Egypt, but that was before the tour was announced/published and before the deposit amount and tour price established. In that case I didn't have to make a deposit or purchase the insurance. I called a few days after getting on the waitlist to check on another tour. I decided to ask about the waitlist- I saved them from calling me because they were getting ready to call everyone on the list and start taking reservations, so they took mine at that time. I don't remember how much later the tour went live on the website. Tauck sends a formal waitlist confirmation email which lists date(s), deck/cabin category, etc.

  • edited May 6

    The two times I tried to go on a wait list, it did not work, the tour dates went live before I found out from a friend they had called her, who put her name on the so called wait list some time after us. It was in fact the Iceland tour. Many of the cabins had already gone. And I had put my name on the list maybe two years in advance. We mIssed out on getting the old tour where you went to more places, Now you have to choose. So Sam, no deposit was required for the wait list.
    Alan, we are not booking any more tours because I would want to take the three tours I do have booked In that order. We will probably book our flights through Tauck going forward and then if life gets back to normal we will book our own again. But when we book with Tauck, we will choose which airline and airports we want to fly.
    We will certainly not think about booking flights for our April Israel Jordan unless there are significant improvements in the Pandemic. As the tour date gets nearer, I feel that people will start cancelling and dates will open up or get consolidated. So that’s extra work when you book flights yourself. Our Upcoming tour that is likely to be canceled was a consolidated date and we had to change flights for that , it was fortunately before the Pandemic so was fairly easy, but it cost Tauck over $1000 in change fees.

  • AlanI was also on the “interest” list for J&E. Once Tauck finalized dates & pricing they called me & I think it was approximately 2 weeks later the tour was live on the website.

    I would expect an additional deposit would be required to book an alternate date. As much as we travel with Tauck it certainly will not go to waste. Like you, for this trip, I booked my own airfare. Luckily United has extended the timeframe to use tickets. I booked my flight as soon as the window opened—I’ll double check but I should be good if the tour is pushed back a year.

  • edited May 6

    My original J&E Summary of Purchase is dated 3/7/2019. A week or so before that I received a preliminary brochure that listed 15 departures with the season being Jan - Apr and Sep - Dec. 18 departures were eventually available. For 2021 Tauck has added dates and extended the season by adding four departures in May and 1 in Aug- during what are considered hot times in Egypt, for a total of 31 departures. That was done as a presumably normal expansion of a new tour and to accommodate high demand, and maybe because more Oberoi Philea sailings were made available. I don't think COVID played a part at that point. Right now, trying to book, having the trip cancelled, then trying to re-book a trip seems like the old expression- "moving the goal posts!"

    Tauck is only booking about half the spots on Zahra and Philea. I wonder if Oberoi would let Tauck book the entire boat. By adding another TD they could increase the number of tours?

  • Maybe there are new restrictions on the total number of people on a boat post Covid.

  • There could be but I have seen nothing about doing that.

    Each boat is large enough to carry extra people. The Zahra which, starting in 2021, is used for regular size departures only, has 27 cabins so there are 5 extra cabins, but that would be great for two (24 pax) small group departures and a few spares. The Philea which is currently used for the small group departures, has 22 cabins which is perfect for a regular size tour.

  • Re deposits on trips, my understanding is you can put a deposit and pay for insurance which is the only way to hold a spot. Both are refundable up to two weeks after the tour prices are posted. I don't think my Sep 2020 tour is going to happen and the September 2021 dates are filled so we put down a deposit/insurance for the last classic tour date in Aug - already half full. By Jul (when the prices will likely come out) we'll know the answer on 2020 and will either keep on that tour and canx 2021 or 2020 gets canx and we move all the money to 2021. I asked whether we could get any guarantee on 2021 if our 2020 tours were canceled and was told paying a deposit was the only way to hold a reservation for more than 24 hours.

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