French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew in to the Egyptian city of Luxor on Tuesday aboard a private jet accompanied by his new love, ex-supermodel Carla Bruni, to spend Christmas on the banks of the Nile.
Sarkozy and Bruni held hands as they arrived from Paris to the pharaonic splendor of Luxor, where the recently divorced Sarkozy will relax for a few days ahead of an official visit on December 30.
Sarkozy is spending a few days in Luxor before he makes a formal state trip to Cairo at the end of the month.
Earlier this month, pictures of the 52-year-old president accompanying Bruni, 39, at Disneyland Paris were splashed all over the French press.
Sarkozy and his second wife Cecilia split amicably in October after 11 years of marriage. It was the first time in modern French history that a serving president had separated from his wife.
The Italian-born Bruni has recently become a singer after ending her modeling career. The dark-haired former catwalk queen has previously been linked with rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, as well as U.S. businessman Donald Trump.
Bruni has a son from a previous relationship, while Sarkozy has two elder sons from his first marriage, and a third son from his marriage to Cecilia.
According to French media, Sarkozy borrowed a private plane from French billionaire Vincent Bollore for the trip.
The French president's department has declined to comment on Sarkozy's trip to Luxor, saying it is a personal affair.
The president is due to fly to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday, before traveling to Cairo on his first official Middle Eastern visit for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday.
Sarkozy travels to Cairo on December 30 where he will head a 200-strong French delegation for a 24-hour official visit, before heading back to Paris to see in the New Year.
Sarkozy and Bruni
Sarkozy and Bruni arrived with nine other people and the group traveled from the airport to the majestic Old Winter Palace hotel in a 16-vehicle convoy, with the pair walking hand-in-hand up the stairs to the hotel, the dark-suited Sarkozy waving at some tourists.
They later emerged in casual attire, the long-haired Bruni in jeans and a light sweater and the French president in a casual navy blue jacket and jeans, for a stroll along the Nile.
After a 30-minute walk Sarkozy was seen with an arm draped around Bruni's waist, pecking her on the cheek as she whispered in his ear.
Asked by an AFP correspondent to comment on his vacation, Sarko, as he is known by both supporters and opponents, said: "Happy holidays to you and Merry Christmas."
The couple had boarded the aircraft in a private hangar in Paris to avoid prying lenses, while paparazzi awaited the couple in Luxor seeking intimate shots of the pair.
Egyptian security forces were deployed discreetly around the town, and a French journalist and cameraman were briefly detained overnight by police for filming the couple's hotel.
Sarkozy will be staying in a 1,100 dollar (760 euro) a night suite in the Victorian elegance of the Old Winter Palace on the east bank of the Nile, an Egyptian source said.
Council workers were seen on Monday giving a fresh lick of paint to the riverside opposite the hotel, with the town thronged by foreign tourists spending Christmas in the balmy winter air of southern Egypt.