Aswan’s stranglehold on a kofta-like chunk of the Egyptian tourist trade comes courtesy of a fortuitous spot on the Nile close to national icons like Abu Simbel, Philae and Luxor. It takes more than that to evolve into an anchor city of close to 300,000 people, however. A Pharaonic past helps. To wit, as far back as the halcyon days of Ancient Egypt, Aswan, or Swenet, was a prominent frontier city and mercantile gateway.
The city rose to prominence for other reasons after the revolution of 1952, a period of high ambition and fantastical infrastructure projects. The Aswan Dam was one that came to fruition, albeit after years of political controversy, dissent and sedition. One principal source of quarrel was the fact that the megaproject made collateral damage out of singular heritage treasures like the temples of Abu Simbel. The subsequent resettlement of the 13th century BC monuments is the most famous rescue operation in the history of UNESCO.
A staple Nile Valley cruise terminus, Aswan unveils a solid cluster of landmarks to enjoy. The Aswan Museum is a perfect primer on the history region and ultimately gives way to other points of interest like the Abu Ruins, Monastery of Saint Simeon and vibrant Sharia as-Suq.
Aswan's Top 10
10. Fatimid Cemetery contains mud tombs that date all the way back to the 9th century.
5. Nubia Museum is a wonderful collaborative effort by UNESCO and the Governate of Aswan.
9. Sharia as-Suq is a feverish hive of commerce and the bellwether bazaar in the city.
4. Monastery of Saint Simeon is on the west bank of the Nile behind a small Coptic village.
8. Aswan Botanical Gardens unfurl a vast ensemble of endemic flora.
3. Abu Ruins is a foremost archaeological area of study behind the Aswan Museum.
7. Fekra Cultural Centre promotes the preservation of Nubian and Upper Egyptian art.
2. Tombs of the Nobles, or Qubbet al-Hawa, is a cluster of handsome stone cut tombs.
6. Elephantine Island is a showcase part of the city and hub of tourist activity.
1. Aswan Museum unfurls a priceless collection of Nubian artefacts.
- Nubian Museum – Depicts history of Aswan from earliest settlements to present times.
- Temple of Philae – Features the magnificent temple of Isis built in early Roman period.
- Monastery of St Simeon – The ferry ride to the monastery takes to the spectacular ruins.
- Mausoleum of Aga Khan – The love story behind it is no less enchanting than the excellent views from the river Nile.
- Unfinished Obelisk – A historical marvel left unfinished as the single-piece, 1,000-ton stone was found flawed.
Aswan Art & Culture
- Sound and Light Show Philae – Egyptian gods and goddesses appear live to narrate their stories.
- Edfu Sound and Light Show – The latest technology in sound and light is used to narrate the story of God Horus.
- Elephantine Island – Two colourful Nubian villages Koti and Siou are additional attractions to the rich archaeology.
- Aswan Museum – This museum showcases old-world charms, as the museum has not changed since the 1920s.
- Kom Ombo Temple – This small temple in Aswan is more than 3,000 years old and located in the village of Kom Ombo.
- Aswan Market – You will never get tired of looking through heaps of cloth, jewellery, foods, books, bags, shoes and souvenirs in Aswan.
- Sharia el Souk – This market with a wide range of traditional and modern items is also culturally vibrant.
- Om Elnor Jewellery – The place to buy silver and gold cartouches.
- The Soux – Haggle, bargain and buy jewellery, leather goods, perfumes and clothes.
- Tea Shops – They are ubiquitous in Aswan, offering natural and medicinal teas.
Gay & Lesbian Aswan
- Felluca – A group of people or couple can make a deal with sail boat owners to use their boats at night.
- Nubian Music and Dance – Enjoy and participate in Nubian dance and music performance at night.
- Old Cataract Hotel Terrace – A lovely spot for a cocktail in an old colonial ambience.
- Venture Out – This gay-friendly tour operator can manage your tourism needs.
- The Tower Bar – Head to this bar located on the 12th floor of the Aswan Oberoi Hotel.
- Aswan Botanical Garden – Lush and exotic, this botanical garden is home to a large variety of tropical plants from around the world.
- Nubian Village – A Nubian village tour will show you the local life and culture.
- Philae Island – The island was submerged when a high dam was constructed.
- High Dam – Located near Aswan, this high dam was an engineering marvel when built in 1960s.
- Abu Simbel – The two temples, Ramses II and Nefertiti, discovered in 1813 are a major tourist attraction of Abu Simbel.
- Take a leisurely stroll along the Nile Street or Cornische Road.
- Enjoy a camel ride up the mountain to St Simeon.
- Take a felucca sail and watch the beautiful sunset along Nile.
- Rush to the Aswan Sporting club, with an endless choice of sports.
- Take a four- or eight-day Nile River Cruise tour in Aswan.
Abu Simbel Sun Festival draws massive crowds to the western bank of Lake Nasser in February.
Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae is a collective UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans a wide area in the Governate of Aswan. The ensemble of temples and monuments ranks only behind the Pyramids in tourist popularity.
When To Go
Egypt is Egypt and, as such, visitors averse to extreme temperatures must confront a certain, unassailable meteorological reality: it will be hot.
In Aswan the arid climate unleashes conditions in the 75°F (24°C) to 111°F (44°C) range from June to September and, in truth, severe midday temperatures in spring and autumn as well. Be sure to hydrate well and often.
The one slight hiccup occurs between late December and February, when the weather improves to a balmy and comfortable 50°F (10°C) to 79°F (26°C). All in all, much more amenable for desert treks.
Small Aswan International Airport serves Cairo, Luxor, London-Gatwick and operates shuttles to tiny Abu Simbel Airport. The latter, though sans international designation, serves more international flights (for now) than the former; namely Copenhagen, Dubai, Doha and Jakarta.
For the vast majority of visitors, the way to Aswan is via car, bus or train from Cairo or cruise ship from Luxor.
Aswan is compact and very easy to navigate on foot. However, the desert climate may necessitate some visitors to do so either very early or very late in the day.
Aswan General Information
Aswan’s firm grip as a foremost hub of tourism in south Egypt comes courtesy of the city’s position on the River Nile and proximity to peerless points of interest like Abu Simbel, Philae and Luxor. As far back as the pharaonic era of Ancient Egypt, Aswan, or Swenet, was a vital frontier city and important nexus of commerce and trade. Aswan’s place in modern-day Egypt is no less significant today.
A popular Nile Valley cruise gateway and cultural curiosity, Aswan cobbles together a diverse set of landmarks and monuments to enjoy. The Aswan Museum is a perfect introduction to the history and heritage of the region and rolls out a truly remarkable collection of ancient objects. A garden path behind the museum points visitors to the momentous Abu Ruins. The in-progress archaeological site is a brilliant bonus for unwary tourists and comprises a wonderful open-air exhibit of relics from as far back as 3000 B.C. Other points of interest to keep in mind in Aswan include the Monastery of Saint Simeon and dynamic Sharia as-Souq.
Attractions & Activities
- Abu Ruins
- Aswan Museum
- Monastery of Saint Simeon
- Tombs of the Nobles
- Nubia Museum
- Sculpture Park
- Sharia as-Souq
- Aswan Botanical Gardens
- Elephantine Island
- Abu Simbel Sun Festival
Restaurant & Nightlife
- Chef Khalil
- Aswan Moon Restaurant
- Haramein Foul & Ta’amiyya
- Koshary Aly Baba Restaurant
- Al Masry Restaurant
The best bet for nightlife in Aswan is to cruise the resorts that line the River Nile. The Kornish Al Nile, or Corniche, unfurls a vast ensemble of fine hotels which by and large, cater to tourists who want to enjoy a cocktail, glass of wine or beer or two.
Aswan’s climate is, quite predictably, arid, with warm to hot temperatures throughout the year and little to no rainfall.
- Winter (December to February) 10-26°C
- Spring (March to May) 14-39°C
- Summer (June to September) 24-42°C
- Fall (October to November) 17-37°C
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