Aswan.. It’s pretty amazing going there and just thinking or trying to imagine how it was back then. A long long long time ago! I have this thing, I love visiting historical places and day dream about how it used to.
Aswan to me is the most beautiful city of Egypt. People are charming, the vibe is positive, the views are amazing. No wonder a lot of famous people made it their home for the longest time.
What to do / visit in Aswan:
Take a felluca!!!
Yes please do, it’s one of the best relaxing experience you can have in Aswan. Seriously the nile is so beautiful and the sights are just so pretty around Elephantine’s island! If you are lucky, kids on a stand up paddle will come to your felluca, hook themselves to it and sing lullabies, they are the cutest! Don’t forget to tip them!
Dedicated to the Goddess Isis, it is a UNESCO site. It was moved in the 70s by the UNESCO after having being flooded by the original Aswan Low Dam in 1902. You can see the old site from there. It is located in the middle of the Nile, so the only access if by boat which will cost you 100 LE for a trip back and forth. What’s impressive about this temple is that it doesn’t only show signs of ancient Egyptians. You can also see that the Coptic Christians in the 4th century passed by it (there are crosses carved in the stone and an altar inside of the temple).
Also when Napoleon invaded Egypt, they left behind a large inscription into the wall in French. And finally you can see that the British were there also. What’s amazing about it, is that anyone who would pass by would carve something unto the wall with a date. When you are there look closely at what’s carved onto the walls, you will be impressed!
High Dam of Aswan & Lake Nasser:
Well, there’s nothing much to see there, I mean I don’t get why it’s a touristic attraction. It’s just made of construction. Though the idea behind it is intelligent. It controls the flow of the River Nile, and its construction formed one of the world’s largest artificial lakes, also known as Lake Nasser. Lake Nasser is beautiful to look at, so peaceful. If you get the chance you should definitely take a boat for a few nights and sail on it. This would be relaxation at its best.
A bit of history ; the Aswan Low Dam had been built in 1902 but wasn’t enough to control the annual flooding of the Nile. Therefore construction of the High Dam began in 1960. It has benefited the economy of Egypt by providing a constant supply of water for irrigation. Which in turn increased the percentage of cultivatable land, but also generating large amounts of power.
Temple of Kalabsha:
This temple was originally located in the village of Bab al-Kalabsha. It was also relocated after the construction of the High Dam of Aswan and the formation of Lake Nasser (a rescue operation also sponsored by the UNESCO). This Temple was dedicated to Mandulis, a Nubian sun god, one of the forms of Horus. What’s nice about this temple is that there are not a lot of tourists who visit it, as it is not really part of their program. So you get to have the temple for yourself without the big crowd.
I totally recommend you go there during day light, the village is so pretty and colorful, you need to see it in the morning / afternoon. It must be the most colorful village I have ever visited.
For lunch or dinner (at dinner they have a live Nubian band which is amazing), try Kato Dool, the food and the ambiance is out of this world. I was sceptic at first, but it turned out A M A Z I N G! Go, go, go and ask for Abdel Aziz (tell him you come from Nermine Kasr Ibrim, he will know and you will get the best service and the best food there is 😉
Chill in a Nubian’s house living room at the Nubian Village. These people are super welcoming, all along your walk you can go in, visit their houses, and even have lunch or tea. All of the houses are open and as colorful from the outside as the inside. Aswan is a very dry place, it rains like once a year so most houses literally do not have roofs or are at least not fully covered by a roof, so you get the sunlight even inside. They also usually have crocodiles that you can look at… felt pretty scary to me!
If you have the time, a full day, go and visit Abu Simbel. I believe it’s one of the most beautiful, and magnificent temples of Egypt. It’s about 3 hours by car rom Aswan, and 35 kms from the border with Sudan. It is impressive. The temple had to be rescued by the UNESCO when the decision was made to build the Aswan dam and create lake Nasser, which flooded the area where the temple was. As I told you, it’s impressive, a mind-blowing sight. It’s a huge two temple complex, consistent of the Great Temple and the Small Temple. You stand there facing 4 huge statues around maybe 20 meters tall of Ramses II.
Twice a year on October 22nd and February 22nd the rays of sun penetrate the temple and illuminate the statue of Ramses. It is believed to occur on Ramses’s birthday and on coronation day.
Where to stay in and around Aswan:
Kato Dool in the Nubian Village, super clean and awesome! The price is around I would say 400 – 600 LE per night.
At Heissa Island, you can stay in a guest house there it’s very down to earth, and super chilled!
At Basma, if you are looking for a cheap room in Aswan itself. It is located right across of the Nubian Museum.
But if you are looking for a bit of luxury you can stay at the Movenpick (still in Aswan), the resort on Elephantine Island, you reach it with their boat.
Finally if you are looking for the ultimate luxurious place in Aswan then don’t think twice the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract is the place to go !!! (You should know… Sofitel Legend is a collection of stately heritage hotels and palaces found in iconic cities around the world. Each landmark property in the collection is historic with an enchanting back-story. These exclusive hotels are legendary places, and they’ve played host to legendary people. There are only 5 in the world and one of them is in Aswan!)
If you want to read more about the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract check out this article I wrote about it.
Written for Community Times February 2018 issue