Aswan may not boast of magnificent temples and pyramids like the ones found in Cairo and Luxor but it offers visitors a more relaxed atmosphere to enjoy many fascinating sights. Aswan also serves as an ideal base to experience the marvellous felucca cruise along the Nile and see the splendour of several Nubian villages, the Temple of Kom Ombo and the attractions of Edfu, to name a few.
There are several ways to get to Aswan. You can catch a plane from the other major Egyptian cities such as Cairo and Luxor or fly direct from London or Madrid. Although a plane ride is the fastest way of getting to the city, it can definitely cause quite dent in your budget. A better alternative is by railway, which will allow you to get a glimpse of the fascinating Egyptian landscape along the way. Train travel usually takes about 14 hours from Cairo or about 3 hours from Luxor. You can also take one of the many cruise ships departing from Luxor daily for a more romantic and scenic trip.
Transportation is also not a problem when you get to Aswan because the city is compact enough to be explored on foot. For day trips to nearby towns and their major attractions, there are plenty of taxis or private tour companies who are more than willing to take you sightseeing.
Don’t be in a hurry to get to your out of town excursions. Spend at least a day or two in the city and get to know its many sights that are likewise worth discovering. To gain a deeper insight into the historical and cultural heritage of this spectacular region, a visit to the Nubian Museum should not be missed. It is located at Sharia Abtal al-Tahir, south of Aswan Town. Nearby you will discover what is known as the Unfinished Obelisk which would have been the world’s biggest had it been completed. Of course, taking lazy strolls around the Kornish Al Nile, simply known as the Corniche, is called for when you are in the area. Make sure to visit the beautiful Ferial Gardens which are close by.
At the opposite side of the Nile River can be found the Tombs of the Nobles which are ancient burial places carved out of the hills. You will explore vibrant wall paintings, reliefs and hieroglyphics inside these 6th Dynasty tombs. A warning though – you will pass by some touts as you walk uphill to the site. It is best not to listen to them especially when they claim that the place is closed for the day. For breathtaking views of the Nile and the city of Aswan, climb further uphill to Kubbet el-Hawa and you will surely thank yourself for exerting extra effort to get there once you marvel in the scenery.
Finally, a visit to the surrounding islands is also worth your time. Elephantine Island is the place to go if you wish to check out traditional Nubian villages such as Siou and Koti located here. There is also the Aswan Botanical Gardens located west of the island. This is a perfect place to relax with swaying palm trees and delightful birds singing. Perhaps most famous Elephantine Island attraction is the Nilometer, an incredible measuring system the ancient Egyptians used to assess the height of the Nile.
Seheyl Island also deserves a visit if you want to shop for exquisitely crafted traditional Nubian beaded jewelry. Of course, don’t miss Aswan’s very own souq because it is one of Egypt’s best traditional markets outside of Cairo. You’ll find plenty of Nubian handicrafts that make for a perfect Aswan souvenir as well as many more exotic trinkets that are on display in the countless stalls that can be found in the area.
Most people use Aswan as a base to see Abu Simbel temple. There is a convoy that departs at 4 AM, and is usually arranged by tour agent. Most hotels will arrange group transport for 60 to 70 LE per person. Built by Ramses II, this awe-inspiring construction is actually a 3 hour drive each way from Aswan, but it is WELL WORTH IT! During trip, you’ll get to see 2 of Egypt’s most famous temples which overlook Lake Nasser.
The ornate facade and lush gardens surrounding Old Cataract Hotel and this old hotel is one of Aswan’s major river bank landmarks and impossible to miss if you’re taking a sightseeing sailing trip around Aswan aboard a felucca. Feluccas are the traditional wooden sailboats of Egypt Nile. You’ll have a chance to sleep in the same rooms as Winston Churchill, Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, and Queen Noor.
Agatha Christie who’s novel ‘Death on the Nile’ is taking place in the hotel also stayed here. Famous screen adaptation of the same book was also shot here.