Itinerary for the
MAA Study Tour to Egypt
May 20 - June 1, 2009
Math and the Ancient Egyptians
The ancient Egyptians were possibly the first civilization to practice the scientific arts. Indeed, the word chemistry is derived from the word Alchemy which is the ancient name for Egypt.
Where the Egyptians really excelled was in medicine and applied mathematics. But although there is a large body of papyrus literature describing their achievements in medicine, there are no records of how they reached their mathematical conclusions. Of course they must have had an advanced understanding of the subject because their exploits in engineering, architecture, astronomy and administration would not have been possible without it.
And this is what we are going to discover through this special trip to Egypt.
Meet Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Director of the Giza Pyramids Excavations, and learn about Egypt’s most precious secrets.
Cruise the Nile River aboard the 5-Star MS Tulip.
Discover the Great Pyramids of Giza, the step pyramid designed by the great Imhotep, the temples of Ramses II and Nefertari transported to Abu Simbel, and the temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor.
Travel to Alexandria and learn the important role this city made in the development of mathematics.
Visit Cairo’s most prestigious Egyptian Antiquities Museum to unlock the secrets of the boy king Tutankhamen and unravel the science of mummification.
Wednesday, May 20
Depart the USA via regularly scheduled flights to Cairo, arriving next day.
Thursday, May 21
Arrive in Cairo -- a booming, colorful and often surprising city. Meet your local escort then transfer to your hotel for time at leisure and rest. This evening, gather for a welcome reception and brief orientation to the city. [R]
Friday, May 22
Experience the splendors of Giza today, including the great pyramids and the ever-mysterious Sphinx. Learn of the mathematics involved in creating such astounding structures, then continue to the Solar Boat Museum where you will see the phenomenal wooden vessel found buried at the based of the Great Pyramid. This vessel is thought to have ferried Cheops from Memphis for his burial some 4,500 years ago. Savor lunch at the historic Mena House Oberoi and this evening, attend a dynamic presentation by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. After his lecture, join for dinner at the hotel. [B,L,D]
Saturday, May 23
Today, gain insight into Cairo’s religious past and present on a tour of the “hanging church” (possibly the oldest Christian church in Egypt dating back to the 4th century), the Ibn Ezra Synagogue, and the Alabaster Mosque built for the 19th century ruler Mohammed Ali Pasha. This Mosque is particularly remarkable as it sits on one of the highest point in Cairo and regales its visitors with an un-equaled bird’s eye view of the sprawling city – from the Pyramids, to the sky scrapers, to Cairo’s largest and most unusual cemetery known as “the city of the dead”. Later this afternoon, explore Cairo’s most famous bazaar, the Khan El Khalili, for a chance to shop and test your bartering skills. [B,L]
Sunday, May 24
After a morning presentation on Mathematics and the Ancient Egyptians, make your way to Cairo’s famed Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. Within its walls rest treasured artifacts from all over Egypt, including the astounding collection of precious stones and gold encrusted jewelry and sarcophagi which held the child-king Tutankhamen. Ancient pottery, papyrus, tools, statues and so much more will be introduced to you as you make your way through this warehouse-like museum. Later, depart Cairo for Luxor. Upon arrival, check into the Sonesta St. George Hotel. [B,D]
Monday, May 25
Set out early this morning, before the crowds, for the West Bank of the Nile. The Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty concealed their burial sites in elaborate catacombs near Thebes (now known as Luxor). Spend the morning amount the painted tombs of the Valley of the Kings, including the three-tiered temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female ruler. Learn how mathematics and computer science are helping archeologists restore the temple to its original splendor. On your way to the ship for lunch, stop by the large Colossi of Memnon. After lunch, discover the stunning Luxor Museum where some of Egypt’s most beautiful artifacts are displayed, including stunning carvings, statues and wooden masterpieces. After sunset but before dinner, explore the elegant temple of Luxor illuminated for the night. [B,L,D]
Tuesday, May 26
At Daybreak, enter the magnificent temple of Karnak and imagine its massive colonnades once painted in garish colors and its walls filled with worshippers at festival time. Special emphasis will be given to the mathematics involved in the design and lay out of the colonnades, as well as the precision with which the rising of the sun and the angle of its beams were established so as to ensure that the first rays of light would penetrate into the holy of holies of the temple. Return to the ship for breakfast and set sail on the mighty Nile towards Esna. Once in Esna, we join numerous other Nile vessels awaiting our turn to cross the Esna lock. [B,L,D]
Wednesday, May 27
Having crossed the lock in the night, we continue to cruise towards Edfu, and the spectacular temple of Horus. Immaculately preserved as it was mostly buried in the sand, the intricate carvings of the temple portray the legend of Horus, god of the sky, and his wife Hathor. This afternoon, continue your cruise to Kom Ombo and visit the twin sanctuaries of Sobeck and Haroeris. Located high on the bank above the Nile, carvings on this temple include what is believed to be one of the first representations of a lunar calendar as well as a whole section dedicated to medicine and remarkable ancient medical instruments. [B,L,D]
Thursday, May 28
After a short morning cruise, we arrive in Aswan, where spices, leather, ivory and crocodiles were traded with the ancient African kingdoms of Kush (Nubia) and Axum. View the unfinished Obelisk and once again gain insight into the mathematical prowess and architectural brilliance of the Ancient Egyptians. Continue to the Aswan dam – a modern-day feat which has helped Egypt regulate the Nile’s flow and created a steady water supply in Lake Nasser. This afternoon, board a felucca, a traditional sail boat, and circle Elephantine Island. Conclude the day at the Philae Temple of Isis, transported to its present location when the Aswan dam was built. [B,L,D]
Friday, May 29
Disembark the ship and transfer to the Aswan airport. Fly to Abu Simbel to visit the colossal Temples of Ramses II and his queen Nefertari. Carved out of a mountainside and carried uphill to save them from flooding from the Aswan dam, the temples are also a marvel of modern engineering and international cooperation. Return to Cairo and check into your hotel. [B,L]
Saturday, May 30
Begin your journey towards Alexandria this morning, with a stop at the necropolis of Sakkara. Tour the tomb of Meriruka, a nobleman buried in the shadow of the Step Pyramid. The colorful carvings and paintings of his tomb are lively depictions of everyday life and provide an interesting contrast to the formal and often religious scenes found in the tombs of the pharaohs. View the remarkable Step pyramid of Djoser, designed by the great architect and physician Imhotep. This edifice is believed to be the oldest stone building in the world. After lunch, we continue to Alexandria where we view some of the city’s preserved Greco-Roman artifacts. [B,L,D]
Sunday, May 31
This morning is dedicated to the visit of Alexandria’s modern library with a special presentation on the many Ancient Egyptian Mathematicians who came from this part of the country. After lunch we return to Cairo for one last evening in Egypt.
Gather for a festive farewell dinner and reception at the hotel. [B,D]
Monday, June 1
Check out of your hotel and transfer to Cairo’s International Airport for your return flight to the United States.
May 21 – 24,
Cairo: Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel. Located 30 minutes from downtown Cairo, Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel in Giza, is a four-star deluxe property located within walking distance of the pyramids. This property offers air conditioning, satellite TV, phones, music, mini-bar, and balcony, and features a gym and attractive swimming pool with outdoor bar service.
May 24 – 25,
Luxor: Sonesta St. George Hotel. In a city of ancient pharaonic treasures, the new 224-room Sonesta St. George Hotel redefines magnificence in contemporary style. Located on the banks of the Nile River, guest rooms offer breathtaking views and comfortable accommodations.
May 25 – 29,
Nile Cruise: M.S. Tulip. The elegantly appointed M.S. Tulip offers 69 outside cabins with large panoramic windows, private bathrooms, hair dryers, televisions, mini-bars, telephones, and music. On-board services include a large dinning room, comfortable lounge, and gift shop. The ship is fully air conditioned and has an upper-deck plunge pool.
May 29 – 30 and May 31 – June 01,
Cairo: Sofitel El Gezirah Hotel. The Sofitel El Gezirah Hotel is located on Gezirah Island, in the middle of the Nile River. This brand-new hotel is elegantly decorated, and offers guests access to its eight restaurants, as well as lounges, gardens, spa, and pool. All rooms feature a private balcony, air-conditioning, satellite television, direct-dial telephone, a mini-bar, safe, and bathrooms with hairdryers.
May 30 – 31,
Alexandria: Helnan Palace. The Helnan Palestine Hotel in Alexandria is a five-star deluxe hotel with a unique location on the Mediterranean Sea. Its bay is surrounded by the vast magnificent gifts of nature, 350 acres of gardens and golden sandy beaches. The hotel faces one of the historical landmarks in Alexandria “Montaza Royal Palace” that was once the site of the late Egyptian Royal Family. All rooms have air-conditioning, mini-bar, cable and satellite TV and telephone.
Itinerary subject to change. Items may be added and particular events may be rescheduled for alternate days. Scheduling of musical performances is tentative; final choices will be made once the July schedules are available.