Aswan - Egypt

Aswan is the third of the major tourist cities on the River Nile. Originally Aswan was a border town that led to the rest of Africa. Now it is used as a base to visit some fascinating attractions that are mostly outside of the city.

What to see and do in and around Aswan

Abu Simbel: The Abu Simbel temples are about 230km (143 miles) south of Aswan (a 6-hour return bus trip). These twin temples of Abu Simbel were originally carved out of the mountainside further down the hill in what is now Lake Nasser. Fortunately it was a part of the UNESCO intervention and saved from the flooding in 1968. The Great Temple has four colossal statues (20m / 65ft each) of Ramesses II seated. The Small Temple (which is still big) has statues of the King and his Queen on both sides of the entrance.

Temple of Philae: This was one of the last temples built in the classic Egyptian architectural style. Originally it was built on Philae Island, which eventually was flooded by the dam, but was saved as a part of the UNESCO intervention and relocated to Agilika Island.

Nubian Museum: Features the history of Nubia and Nubian treasures that were recovered before the flooding of the area due to the dam.

The Unfinished Obelisk: As the name says, a large obelisk which was, well, unfinished. Yes, only three sides of the obelisk where completed due to an undetected flaw in the stone. This would have been one of the largest obelisks ever created measuring in at 42m (137ft) and would have weighed around 1200 tons. What makes it so fascinating is that it gives insights into how obelisks were made so long ago because of marks left by the workers' tools that are still visible today.

Aswan Dam: Built between 1960 and 1970, the Aswan High dam contributes significantly to the power needs of the country and has also brought an end the annual flooding of River Nile. There isn't really much of interest here unless you are an engineer or into dams. You can see an Egypt-Soviet monument at one end of the dam but that's about it.

However the history of the construction of the dam is interesting. It brought about the relocation of thousands of people (entire villages) as well as the destruction of property. Also, thanks to the intervention of UNESCO, 22 monuments, including the Abu Simbel temple, were saved by moving them out of the area that would eventually become flooded.

Sharia as-Souq: If you are a bit more adventurous, try visiting the Sharia as-Souq (market). Apart from being your typical fruit and veggie market (get some of the peanuts, they're amazing), here you will find an assortment of Nubian trinkets, henna powder and of course the odd touristy souvenir.

Abu Simbel Temple Egypt

To and From Aswan

There are two-night cruises along the River Nile between Aswan and Luxor. Another alternative is to take a trip on a traditional Felucca Boat.

Aswan International Airport is about a thirty-minute drive from the city center. Due to Aswan being a tourist city, there are many flights to and from it. Note, for safety reasons public buses don't go to the airport so you need to catch a taxi either way.

Trains to Aswan: There are trains that go between Cairo and Aswan, normally stopping off at Luxor on the way. Most tourists take the overnight deluxe sleeper.

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