French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his model-turned-singer girlfriend, Carla Bruni, arrived holding hands in Luxor Tuesday, kicking off a private visit to Egypt.
Heavy security prevented media from approaching Sarkozy's entourage at the airport and the couple was whisked off in a convoy of Egyptian presidential security cars to Luxor's famed Old Winter Palace hotel on the east bank of the Nile.
Wearing sun glasses and dark casual clothes in balmy Egyptian winter weather, they turned to wave to a crowd of onlookers and media as they walked up to the hotel, appearing relaxed and at ease with the media attention.
Security was stepped up around the hotel and at the three archaeological sites Sarkozy and Bruni were to visit — the Luxor Temple, the city's museum and the Karnak Temple.
In Paris, France-2 television reported Bruni and Sarkozy would spend three days at the Winter Palace. French media also reported that the couple would travel to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on Thursday.
Sarkozy is scheduled to start an official visit to Egypt on Monday, when he meets President Hosni Mubarak, the French Embassy in Cairo said.
Sarkozy, 52, and Bruni, 39, first surfaced as a couple earlier this month on a visit to Disneyland Paris. Their appearance, captured by the French media, came two months after the French president's divorce from his wife of 11 years, Cecilia.
Bruni, 39, and an Italian-born French citizen, is a longtime model who won critical and public acclaim for her first folk album in 2003, singing in a raspy, whispery voice. She has dated a range of famous men, including Mick Jagger and Donald Trump, and has also reportedly been linked to singer Eric Clapton and actor Vincent Perez.