Windstar’s Arabian Nights & Egyptian Days cruise is a nine-day adventure on the Red Sea, visiting ports in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. In addition to natural wonders and historical sites along the coast, this itinerary offers guests the opportunity to see several inland attractions, including the pyramids of Giza and the ancient city of Petra.
The coral reefs in the Red Sea are home to an abundance of marine wildlife, and you will have the opportunity to snorkel in Safaga, Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada. From camel rides with Bedouin guides to a 4×4 tour on the edge of the Sahara Desert, there are no shortage of shore excursions for adventurous travelers. Guests will also have two days at the magnificent temples in Luxor, complete with an overnight at a hotel along the Nile.
Here are the highlights:
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Once a small fishing village, Jeddah has become the country’s biggest port city, offering a mix of history and modernity. The old town district of Al Balad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is home to the Matbouli House Museum, among other attractions. Dating back 400 years, this museum is a beautifully preserved traditional Hijazi merchant’s home, offering a unique look at what life was like hundreds of years ago in Al Balad. Looking for coastal scenery? The New Jeddah Corniche is a three-part waterfront walkway that stretches 20 miles, boasting incredible views of the Red Sea. You’ll see King Fahd’s Fountain, which shoots water 850 feet in the air, making it the tallest fountain in the world. The Baab Makkah, or Makkah Gate, is one of the more popular architectural sites in Jeddah, along with the Al Rahma Mosque, also known as the Floating Mosque.
Yanbu, Saudi Arabia
Yanbu is one of the oldest ports on the Red Sea, dating back nearly 2,500 years. Yanbu’s economy has long been associated with the spice trade and the export of dates, and it is also recognized for being a major hub for pilgrims. The Yanbu Waterfront runs for nearly eight miles, and this corniche offers access to gardens, marinas, hotels, parks and aquariums. In addition to fabulous views of the Red Sea, venture beyond the city for a glimpse at Radwa Mount, the towering string of red-rock peaks, which are part of the Yanbu Al Nakhil Mountains. Yanbu is also known for its exceptional SCUBA diving, thanks to its large, unspoiled coral reefs teeming with wildlife. Another popular spot is the recently restored Souq Al-Lail night market, which is open until midnight. You may also want to make time to visit the home once occupied by T.E. Lawrence, the famous British officer who was instrumental in the Great Revolt of 1916-1918.
Safaga (Luxor), Egypt
The charming port city of Safaga serves as a gateway to Luxor, which has one of the most impressive collections of tombs and temples in the world. Windstar offers a two-day excursion to Luxor that explores attractions on the east and west banks of the Nile River, and guests stay at the Hilton Luxor Hotel, which is situated right on the water. You’ll marvel at the twin statues of King Ramses II at the Luxor Temple, and the countless pillars, sphinxes and pylons at the even more impressive Karnak Temple complex. Construction began on the temple around 1950 BC and continued for nearly 2,000 years. The Karnak Temple also has a spectacular sound and light show every evening, offering visitors a unique opportunity to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site after dark. Along the West Bank is the Valley of the Kings, which is home to the tomb of the famed child king, Tutankhamun, as well as the Hatsheput Temple. Beyond the jaw-dropping temples, you’ll have the chance to ride on a felucca, a traditional boat that has been used to sail the Nile since ancient times.
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
From snorkeling in the Red Sea to riding camels in the desert, Sharm El Sheikh offers access to places in Egypt that are off the beaten path. Located on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Ras Mahammad National Park is one of Egypt’s most popular diving and snorkeling sites, home to more than 220 species of coral and over 1,000 species of fish. If you’re more interested in staying on land, you’ll have the opportunity to go on a camel ride in the desert with Bedouin guides. You’ll have time to chat over tea with your guides and learn about their semi-nomadic lifestyle and connection to the land. History buffs will want to make the journey up the winding roads of Mount Sinai to St. Catherine’s Monastery, which is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery in the world. The monastery’s king post truss is the oldest known surviving roof truss in the world, and the site is sacred to both Christians and Muslims. Back in the city, you’ll want to check out the Al Mustafa Mosque, along with the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
Ain Sokhna, Egypt
Named after the nearby hot springs in the Ataka Mountains, Ain Sokhna is the perfect place to kick back and relax. While the city is famous for deep sea fishing and kite surfing (not to mention its uncrowded beaches), it’s also close to a number of bucket-list attractions. Cairo and the pyramids of Giza are a two-hour drive to the west, and the St. Paul Monastery is two hours to the south. The monastery, which was established in the 4th century AD, has a series of wall paintings of holy knights and the hermits who founded the monastery, plus a library with over 1,700 manuscripts.
Hurghada is yet another modern beach resort city, and it is home to several spectacular diving and snorkeling sports. If you’re not a seasoned diver, consider checking out the marine life via a semi submarine, where you can enjoy views from the bottom or top decks, with the option to swim and snorkel. Another popular activity for adventurous folks is a 4×4 safari tour, which brings you right to the edge of the sprawling Sahara Desert. As part of this tour, you will also visit a Bedouin camp and share tea with your hosts. The city itself holds plenty of charm, and from coffee shops to the local fish market, be sure to allow time to stroll through the streets and vendor stalls before you board your Windstar yacht.
Aqaba (Petra), Jordan
Aqaba is Jordan’s only port, and this stunning city has unspoiled beaches and lux resorts, making it an appealing place to stay for a few days. Aqaba is just a one-hour drive from the otherworldly Wadi Rum Desert, which has stunning rock formations and sand dunes — plus a range of unique lodging options. Aqaba is a two-hour drive from the ancient city of Petra, home to the Treasury, or Al-Khazneh. After wandering through a beautiful slot canyon, you’ll catch your first look at the temple, which is carved right into the red sandstone cliffs. You may also have the chance to take a night tour of Petra, which is an incredible way to experience this archaeological wonder.