Aswan, Egypt’s sunniest southern city and ancient frontier town located about 125 kilometres south of Luxor. It is the hottest, and driest inhabited city in Egypt. For us, on our trip, it was the end of the Train ride from Giza to Aswan via Luxor. Its ancient Egyptian name was Syene. Population is around 290,000 people.
Aswan is small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Days can be spent strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the feluccas etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish.
In Aswan the Nile is at its most beautiful, flowing through amber desert and granite rocks, round emerald islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants. Explore the souk, full of the scent and color of spices, perfumes, scarves and baskets. View the spectacular sunsets while having tea on the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel (Named due to the location of the Nile’s first cataract located here). Aswan has been a favorite winter resort since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and it’s still a perfect place to get away from it all.
Every night Nubian dancers and musicians perform in the Cultural Center, just off the Corniche. Folklore troupes recreate scenes from village life and perform the famous Nubian mock stick-fight dances.
The city proper lies on the east bank of the Nile. Just east of the cemetery in the famous area quarries is the gigantic Unfinished Obelisk.
The most obvious is Elephantine Island, which is timeless with artefacts dating from pre-Dynastic times onward. It is the largest island in the area. Just beyond Elephantine is Kitchener’s Island (Geziret el-Nabatat). The island is known for its garden and the exotic plants the Kitchener planted there, and which continue to flourish today.
On the opposite shore (west bank), the cliffs are surmounted by the tomb of a marabut, Qubbet el-Hawwa, who was a local saint. Below are tombs of the local (pharaonic) nobles and dignitaries. Click here for more information on the tombs
Just up river a bit, there is also the old Aswan dam, built by the British, which was enlarged, expanded, but unable to control the Nile for irrigation.
Aswan is also a base to visit the High Dam which has created Lake Nasser, the Aswan Dam and Philae Temple. Many of the Nile River cruises start in Aswan and go down stream to Luxor.
For those interested, this is also a base to head to Abu Simbel, a Temple that was relocated prior to the filling of Lake Nasser.
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