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Aswan is a city in the south of Egypt, some 680 km (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.
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Points of Interest in Aswan
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-9:00PM. Very well organized, features Nubian treasures recovered before the flooding of Nubia. Adult: 50LE; Student: 25 0LE.
- 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. 30LE 15 LE student.
- Fatimid Cemetery (Southern end of Aswan). The faded former glory of the Fatimid empire can be seen on the crumbling graveyard. free.
- Ferial Gardens (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. free.
The River and Islands
- Elephantine Island: Nubian Villages & Aswan Museum. Nubian villages of Siou and Koti occupy this island. Also home to the famous Nilometers and the Temples of Sati, Khnum (ancient rams-head god) and Pepinakht-Heqaib. Movenpick resort is on the island. The Aswan Museum (Adult: 25LE, Student 15LE) at the southern end of the island houses items found during excavations on Elephantine Island.
Also, be careful of unsolicited tours from locals, which will result in a request for baksheesh. There is regular boat taxi to Elephantine Island run by the locals for only 2LE for one crossing but they will charge more for tourists.
- 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.The entrance fee is 10LE.
- 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,
- 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.
- 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: 20LE, 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 Islami sect and his wife. Visible from the outside, although closed to the public.
- Monastery of St Simeon. October to May: 8AM-4:00PM; June-September: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. Adult: 25LE, Student: 15LE.
- The High Dam. Despite being a highly important piece of infrastructure, the Aswan High Dam is (to put it delicately) a bit of a letdown even for dam lovers. 20LE.
- 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, after the flooding of 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. Don't miss the Sound and Light show at night, see picture to the right, the least cheesy of the Sound and Light "extravaganzas". On your feet, look out for the extremely creative guards who will do all in their power to get in your photos, or to point out the hieroglpyhs that you can quite clearly see yourself, all for some baksheesh(tip)! Note also 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 graffiti dating from the 1800s.
- 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 fantastic temple. There is a convoy that departs at 4AM, and is usually arranged by your tour agent. See Abu Simbel article for more details.
- 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.
Popular events in Aswan in the near future
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.
- Rent a bike. Bikes available at many hotels. Cross the modern bridge to the east bank and bring back your bicycle afterwards by ferry boat.
- Camel rides. Grab a felucca captain and they will shuttle you across to the camel marshalling area. Ride the camel to the Monastery of St Simeon.
- Tea with the local shopkeepers. You will get a fascinating insight into their daily lives, and they love to practise their English on you.
- Al-Masry Restaurant, Sharia Al Matar. Popular with locals. Great kafta and kebabs, pigeon, and chicken, all served with bread, salad and tahini Dishes: 8LE to 30 LE.
- Aswan Moon, Corniche an Nil (Situated on pontoons along the Nile), ☎ 231 6108. Decent food with cheery service. The local fish joints near the city market can be excellent -- their fish is fresh, and you can watch it cook. Don't miss the crab soup! Mezze: 4LE to 9LE; Pizza: 19Le to 25LE; Kebob: 25LE; Daoud Basha (meatballs and tomato sauce): 13LE.
- Biti Pizza, Midan al Mahatta (Near the train station). Serves fiteer, a flaky Egyptian pizza, as well as western varieties. Pizza: 20LE.
- Chef Khalil, Sharia al Souq (Near the train station). Fresh fish restaurant, priced by weight. Small place but worth the wait. From 25LE to 60LE.
- Emy, Corniche an Nil (On a double deckered boat moored in the Nile, next to Aswan Moon), ☎ 230 4349. Popular amound Nubian felucca captains. Beer available. Beer: 9LE; Salads: 3LE; Egyption and international dishes: 13LE to 18LE; Fresh juices: 5LE.
- Madena Restaurant, Sharia al souq (Close to Cleopatra Hotel). Small place. Kofta meal: 22LE; Vegetarian meal: 15LE.
- Nubian House, off Sharia al Tahrir, 1km past Nubian Museum, ☎ 232 6226. Spectacular sunset views over the first cataract. Sheesha and tea. From 15LE to 22LE.
- Panorama, Corniche an Nil, ☎ 231 6169. Serves simple Egyptian stews served in clay pots, with salad, mezze, rice. All day breakfast Dishes; 8LE to 20LE.
Aswan is much less strict on drinking alcohol than Cairo or Luxor, and many of the restaurants sell Stella (Egyptian brand not the Belgian brand) and Saqqara, both of which are lagers and comparable to European beers.
The souqs (markets) in Aswan are refreshingly exotic without the same level of high-pressure selling found in some tourist towns further north. You will generally find that Nubian handicrafts are of higher quality and better value in Aswan. All other goods will be more expensive than in Cairo due to shipping costs to Aswan and the lower tourist demand. Having said that, the Aswan souk is
- Sharia as-Souq. The most charming souq in Egypt, There is far less pressure to buy than in other cities. Buy Nubian talisman, baskets, Sudanese swords, African masks, live produce, food, fruit, vegetables, henna powder, t-shirts, perfume, spices, robes, statues.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Aswan on Wikivoyage.