Tomb Reading

A unique tour allows clients to read ancient hieroglyphics

By: Riana Lagarde

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Guestrooms Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics
are still a common sight.
In Egypt, your client can live like an archeologist and unravel unsolved mysteries by reading the writing on the walls, literally, in the form of enigmatic hieroglyphics. It’s an innovative idea for clients who are members of museums, aficionados of artifacts or Egypt enthusiasts and is offered through GAT Tours. The trip is essentially a guided journey through Egypt’s most ancient treasures by a University of Chicago archeologist with a doctorate in hieroglyphics, known as a “glyphdoctor.”

The picturesque tour starts in Cairo, the mecca of mysterious holy carvings. Clients stay at the Om Kolsoum Hotel on the Nile in the refined cultural center of the island of Zamalek, where cafes and bookstores abound, tucked into one of the most elegant architectural areas.

After a panoramic city view from the rooftop of the Cairo Tower, the group attends a public lecture on Egyptology by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute to get up to speed on what is new in Egyptology. On a first-class daytime train to Luxor, clients get an intimate glimpse of the Egyptian countryside and a view that rivals most cruise ships. For six days, they will stay on the West Bank at the Amenophis in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle and next to a field of sugarcane, overlooking a temple.

In Luxor, clients can take their time visiting Egypt’s legendary sites Valley of the Kings, Queens and Nobles, the Temple of Merneptah and Queen Hatshepsut, as well as a half-dozen, well-hidden secrets with their glyphdoctor, who will explain what to look for and how to read the ancient carved symbols. Clients will also tour Medinet Habu Temple to learn about site-management activities and a behind-the-scenes look at what archeologists are discovering today.

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Clients will see parts of Karnak
not normally seen by the masses.
The tour spends an entire day in Karnak, one of the world’s largest religious complexes. There are 133 giant rotund sky-high columns here, intricately carved with ancient texts, myths, spells and history that will make clients swoon with all the information at their fingertips. This was early Egypt’s library, a place for the learned priests and scholars, who would spend years discovering and interpreting the texts. Clients can leisurely spend time translating these important works. Lunch is delivered on site, so that time can be used to reflect, learn and see parts of Karnak not normally seen by the masses.

In fact, most of the tour is filled with unique site visits (without the astronomical price tag that some tour companies demand) and local insights that you would not normally see on a standard Egypt tour. Besides insider visits, the glyphdoctor will give participants homework the night before like a hieroglyphics “Cliffs Notes” of what to look for the following days while out in the field.

Clients will also see the village of the tomb builders, visit the mummification museum and attend a lecture given by an archeologist on location for a dig.

Optional hot-air balloon rides and gift shopping can be arranged, but there are no commissions-driven stops at papyrus museums or rug factories. Clients will also get a rare look at village life where they can see everything being sold, from sheep to sandals and lunch at a locals’ house, where clients learn to make solar bread.

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Temple of Hathor
There is an entire free day to explore or guests can take an optional trip to Abydos to visit the Temple of Hathor at Denera. Also available is a flight to Abu Simbel to see the temples of Ramesses II and Nefertari.

On the last day, clients travel south of Luxor by private convoy to visit three rarely visited archaeological sites: el-Tod, Mo’alla and El-Kab and have lunch on a farm.

Advanced students have been able to put their learning into practice, standing in front of a stele actually reading the carvings out loud. Though some travelers might be at the university level of Egyptology for these tours, everyone is welcome, even first-timers to Egypt, as the must-see sites are on the itinerary.


After exploring the tombs in Upper Egypt, clients can head back to Cairo and explore the Pyramids of Giza and spend time at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

Living Luxor Tour
GAT Tours
Commission: 10-20 percent

Not necessary, but certainly helpful, would be for clients to take an online course in hieroglyphics called “Middle Egyptian” for three months prior to travel. Learning a pictography language like this is difficult, but you will never look at an obelisk the same way again whether you are in Luxor, Istanbul or Paris.