Aswan: A Gem Along the Nile

Aswan, a picturesque city located in southern Egypt, is a unique destination along the Nile River. It's often either the starting or ending point of a Nile Cruise and serves as a gateway for day trips to iconic sites like Abu Simbel. 

With its palm-fringed shorelines, traditional felucca boats, and magnificent temples, Aswan offers a distinct atmosphere compared to other Egyptian cities. In this guide, we will explore the fascinating aspects of Aswan, including its interesting facts, top attractions, and recommended day trips.

Aswan a Gem Along the Nile

Interesting Facts About Aswan

  • Nubian Heritage: Aswan is home to a sizable population of Nubian people, who resettled here after their homeland was submerged by Lake Nasser due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
  • Source of Ancient Stone: Many of the statues, obelisks, and building materials used in Egyptian temples and shrines were quarried in Aswan. A visit to the Unfinished Obelisk provides insight into this process.
  • Sunniest Place on Earth: Aswan boasts an exceptionally sunny climate, with rainfall being extremely rare (less than 1 mm per year) and nearly 4,000 hours of annual sunshine.
  • Extreme Temperatures: Summers in Aswan can be scorching, with average temperatures exceeding 40°C (over 100°F). Winters offer more pleasant weather, with highs ranging from 24 to 29°C (75 to 85°F).

Best Things to Do in Aswan

Aswan offers a relaxed pace of exploration, allowing you to savor its attractions without rushing from place to place. Here are the must-visit places and activities in Aswan:

1. Philae Temple

The Philae Temple is a well-preserved Ptolemaic temple complex dedicated primarily to the goddess Isis. It showcases stunning architecture and carvings, with elements of Osiris and Hathor also present. The temple was submerged when the Aswan Old Dam was built but was relocated to Agilkia Island under UNESCO's guidance.

2. Unfinished Obelisk

The Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan provides a unique perspective on ancient Egyptian stone-cutting techniques. This massive obelisk, ordered by Queen Hatshepsut, would have been the world's largest obelisk if completed. Witnessing it in its incomplete state offers insight into the challenges of ancient stone carving.

3. Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel

The Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel is a historic, 5-star resort with a rich heritage. Notable guests, including Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, have stayed here. The hotel offers a glimpse into the glamour of a bygone era and served as the setting for parts of Agatha Christie's novel, "Death on the Nile."

4. Nubian Museum

The Nubian Museum provides a comprehensive look into Nubian culture and history. Its well-organized exhibits offer an excellent opportunity to learn about this unique heritage. Don't forget to get a camera ticket to capture memories of your visit.

5. Felucca Ride on the Nile River

A felucca ride on the Nile River is a quintessential Aswan experience. Negotiate a price for a relaxing sail, especially during the captivating sunset. These traditional wooden boats provide a tranquil way to enjoy the river's beauty.

6. Nubian Village

While opinions about the Nubian Village vary, the journey to reach it, sailing through the Nile's small islands, is an enchanting experience. Explore the village, interact with locals, and gain insights into their way of life. Some homes in the village even have pet crocodiles, though their living conditions may raise ethical concerns.

7. Qubbet el-Hawa

For a unique perspective of Aswan, venture to the Qubbet el-Hawa on the west bank of the Nile River. The steep climb offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Take a public ferry from the east bank to reach this site.

Day Trips from Aswan

Aswan serves as an excellent base for exploring nearby attractions:

1. Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is a remarkable monument built by Ramesses II over 3,000 years ago. These twin temples were relocated to higher ground due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. You can reach Abu Simbel by land or by plane, and it's one of Egypt's most awe-inspiring sites.

2. Kom Ombo and Edfu

Kom Ombo features a double temple dedicated to Sobek and Horus, while the Temple of Edfu is the largest dedicated to Horus. Both temples are accessible from Aswan and can be explored in a day trip, making for a memorable archaeological adventure.

With More Time

If you have additional time to explore Aswan, consider these lesser-known attractions:

1. Aswan High Dam

While the Aswan High Dam itself might not be visually striking, understanding its history and the creation of Lake Nasser is informative. It's a 30-minute drive from Aswan and provides context for the region's transformation.

2. New Kalabsha

New Kalabsha is a small island housing temples relocated from Old Kalabsha to protect them from rising waters due to the Aswan High Dam's construction. This tranquil site is near the dam and sees fewer visitors than some of the more famous temples.

3. Aga Khan Mausoleum & Monastery of St. Simeon

On the west bank of the Nile, you can spot the Aga Khan Mausoleum, which holds the tomb of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah. Additionally, the nearby Monastery of St. Simeon offers a glimpse into ancient monastic life.

Aswan, with its rich history, cultural diversity, and stunning landscapes, promises an unforgettable journey through ancient and modern Egypt. Whether you're exploring its renowned temples, taking in the serene Nile views, or embarking on day trips to iconic landmarks, Aswan's charm will captivate you from start to finish.

Hiring a Guide and Driver

For a seamless experience in Aswan and throughout Egypt, consider hiring a reputable tour operator like Egypt Tailor Made. We enlisted their services not only for our Aswan tour but also for the remainder of our Egyptian adventure. Having a knowledgeable guide and a reliable driver can greatly enhance your travel experience, providing valuable insights and hassle-free transportation to various attractions.

Where to Eat in Aswan

Aswan offers diverse dining options, including local Nubian cuisine and international fare. Here are some recommended places to dine:

  • Al Dokka Restaurant: For an authentic taste of Nubian food and captivating views of Elephantine Island, head to Al Dokka. You can reach it by taking their motorboat from the east bank of the Nile River.
  • Panorama Restaurant (Movenpick Resort): While the food quality may vary, the Panorama Restaurant at the Movenpick Resort offers panoramic views of Aswan that are simply breathtaking. It's an ideal spot for a memorable dinner.
  • 1902 Restaurant (Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel): This restaurant within the historic Sofitel Old Cataract Hotel receives rave reviews. While dinner here can be pricey and there's a dress code (jacket required, tie optional for men), it's an exquisite culinary experience.
  • El-Masry: If you're craving Egyptian cuisine, El-Masry is a good choice. It has earned positive reviews for its food.

Where to Stay in Aswan

Choosing the right accommodation is essential for a comfortable stay in Aswan. Here are some top recommendations:

  • Sofitel Legend Old Cataract: This historic hotel is the ultimate luxury choice in Aswan. It offers spectacular views of the Nile River, impeccable service, and a selection of excellent onsite restaurants and bars.
  • Movenpick Resort: While opinions about this resort may vary, our experience was excellent. We were unexpectedly upgraded to a Royal Villa, which offered stunning views and ample space. However, it's important to note that room quality can vary, so ensure you know what to expect when booking. The hotel is situated on Elephantine Island, and they provide a shuttle boat for easy access to the east bank of the Nile River.
  • Nuba Dool Guest House: For budget-conscious travelers seeking Nile River views, the highly-rated Nuba Dool Guest House is an excellent choice. Located on Elephantine Island, it offers a comfortable stay and stunning vistas from the upper terrace.

With these recommendations for guides, dining, and accommodations, your visit to Aswan is sure to be a memorable and enjoyable experience. Aswan's rich history and natural beauty await your exploration, and these practical tips will help you make the most of your journey.



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