Aswan Info

Aswan (Arabic: أسوان‎ Aswān) is a city in the south of Egypt some 680km (425 miles) south of Cairo just below the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser with a population of 275 000. Aswan is far more relaxed and smaller than Cairo and Luxor.

Aswan is the smallest of the three major tourist cities on the Nile. Being the furthest south of the three it has a large population of Nubian people mostly resettled from their homeland in the area flooded by Lake Nasser. Aswan is the home of many granite quarries from which most of the Obelisks seen in Luxor were sourced. Aswan was the ancient Egyptians' gateway to Africa.

Aswan Town and the East Bank

  • Nubian Museum (opposite the Basma Hotel south of the Old Cataract Hotel at the southern edge of Aswan town on Sharia Abtal al-Tahrir - approximately a half hour walk from the city centre.) daily 9AM-1PM 4PM-9PM. Very well organized features Nubian treasures recovered before the flooding of Nubia.

 

  • Unfinished Obelisk (South of Aswan). The largest known ancient obelisk carved directly out of bedrock. If finished it would have measured around 42m (120 feet) and would have weighed nearly 1 200 tons.
  • Fatimid Cemetery (Southern end of Aswan). The faded former glory of the Fatimid empire can be seen on the crumbling graveyard. Across the street from unfinished Obelisk and across the street from Nubian Museum on the other side. There may be some aggressive children on the cemetery.
  • Ferial Garden (Southern end of Corniche). When you're in Aswan you'll have to walk along the Kornish Al Nile (Corniche) at least once. It is a pleasant stroll made even more pleasant by the fact that you can walk right into the Ferial Gardens at its Southern End. They are a park that is as relaxing as it is beautiful.
  • Saint Michael Cathedral Aswan (Southern end of Corniche in front of Ferial Garden). When you're in Aswan you'll have to walk to see the Coptic Cathedral with a breathtaking painting Coptic art .

The River and Islands

  • Elephantine Island: Nubian Villages & Aswan Museum. Nubian villages of Siou and Koti occupy this island. Also home to the famous Nilometer and the Temples of Sati Khnum (ancient rams-head god) and Pepinakht-Heqaib.

 

  • Aswan Botanical Gardens (On the entirety of Kitcheners Island to the west of Elephantine Island). Lord Kitchener who owned the 6.8 hectare island in the 1890's converted it to a botanical garden. Filled with birds and hundreds of plant species and palm trees. Accessible via a Felucca tour.
  • Seheyl Island (Just north of the old Aswan Dam). 7AM to 4:00PM. Friendly Nubian villages. Well known for its excellent beaded jewelry. Also the location of the Famine Stela. Cliff with more than 200 inscriptions from the 18th dynasty

West Bank

Desert view of the St Simeon Monastry

  • Tombs of the Nobles. 8AM to 4:00PM. The northern hills of the west bank are filled with the rock-hewn tombs of princes from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. The 6th Dynasty tombs some of which form linked family complexes contain important biographical texts. Inside the tombs are decorated with vivid wall paintings showing scenes of everyday life hieroglyphic biographies and inscriptions telling of the noblemen's journeys into Africa. Most of the tombs are locked or blocked off probably by staff looking for tips. **Note that some locals will hang around the entrance as you climb the hill and tell you that it's closed and you need a key. They will show you a key implying that they can help you gain access...for a small fee. Just tell them "no thanks....just looking" and they should leave you alone. Adult: 30LE Student: 10LE
    • Tombs of Mekhu & Sabni - Reliefs show invasion of Nubia
    • Tomb of Sarenput II - One of the most beautiful and preserved tombs
    • Tomb of Harkhuf - Hieroglyphics
    • Tomb of Hekaib - Reliefs show fighting and hunting scenes
    • Tomb of Sarenput II - Six pillars decorated with reliefs
    • Kubbet al Hawa - Located on the hilltop above the other tombs. Stunning views of the Nile
  • Kubbet el-Hawa (on top of the hill above the Tombs of the Nobles). Small shrine / tomb of a local sheikh and holy man. The climb is rewarded with amazing views of Aswan the Nile river and the surrounding landscape richly evoked in the translation from the Arabic of the place name "the dome of the wind'.
  • Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan (High up in the west bank). Tomb of the 48th iman of the Ismaili sect and his wife. Visible from the outside although closed to the public.
  • Monastery of St Simeon. Oct to May: 8AM-4:00PM; Jun-Sep:7:00AM-5:00PM. The history of the monastery of St. Simeon dates back to the 7th century and survived long as a Christian stronghold of southern Egypt until destroyed by Saladin in 1173. While still in use it housed 300 monks and could in addition receive up to 100 pilgrims at a time. The monastery was surrounded by a 10 metre high wall and doubled as a fortress. Apparently the monastery did not return to its original use after Saladin's destruction. To get here ride a camel or walk from the Tombs of the Nobles.

Around Aswan

  • The High Dam. Despite being a highly important piece of infrastructure the Aswan High Dam may be a bit of a letdown. This is a typical stop among a 4-hr tour that goes to Philae and the Obelisk
  • Philae Temple (Agilkia Island). Built to honor Isis this was the last ancient temple built in the the classical Egyptian architectural style. Construction began in approx 690 BC. It was moved from its original location on Philae Island to its new location on Agilkia Island because of the flooding to create Lake Nasser. A major multinational UNESCO team relocated Philae and a number of other temples that now dot the shores of Lake Nasser. You can see the submerged original island a short distance away punctuated by the steel columns used in the moving process. Note the re-use of the temple as a Christian church with crosses carved into the older hieroglyph reliefs and images of the Egyptian gods carefully defaced. There are grafitti dating from the 1800s. There is a cheesy Sound and Light show at night with English actor voices.
  • Kalabsha Temple. Like Philae this temple and its surrounding ruins were moved by UNESCO to save them from the floodwaters of Lake Nasser. The main temple was built to the Nubian fertility and sun god Marul during the rule of Emperor Augustus. Don't miss the Kiosk of Qirtasi and the amazing Temple of Beit al-Wali built by Ramesses II.  
  • Abu Simbel. Most people use Aswan as a base to see this temple. There is a convoy that departs at 4AM and is usually arranged by your tour agent. See Abu Simbel article for more detail. Most hotels will arrange group transport for 60 to 70 LE per person  
  • Aswan International Sculpture Park. Sculptors from around the world exhibit their pieces here every spring for the International Sculpture Symposium. The works are all created in Aswan (on the terrace of the Basma Hotel) and when finished brought to this site and exhibited next to each other within view of the ancient quarry

 


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