One of the most distinguished destinations in Egypt, Aswan is a city with its own type of magic. With its marvelous geographical location that offers its guests spending their holidays in Egypt with marvelous views of the Nile and its many magnificent historical monuments, a large number of travelers who visit Egypt prefer to spend some days in Aswan especially in the winter.
With important monuments like the Unfinished Obelisk, the Philae Temple, and the High Dam, Aswan is one of the most popular destinations for tourists who travel to Egypt nowadays. The Nile Cruises sailing down the Nile between Luxor and Aswan has even contributed to the increase in the number of tourists who visit Aswan lately.
Geographical Location of Aswan
The city of Aswan is the capital of a governorate that holds the same name. Aswan is the Southernmost city in Egypt and it is located at the far end of the Nile Valley.
The governorate of Qena is located to the North of Aswan, Governorate of the Red Sea to its East, the Sudanese- Egyptian borders to its south, and the Governorate of the New Valley to its West.
Aswan is located on the East Bank of the River Nile and it is situated 85 meters above the sea level with a surface area of around 35000 square kilometers.
Aswan is located 900 kilometers to the South of Cairo, the Egyptian capital, 513 kilometers to the South West of Hurghada, 230 kilometers to the South of Luxor, and 1105 kilometers to the South West of Sharm El Sheikh.
The Names of Aswan
The city of Aswan was called “Sono” in the ancient Egyptian language; a word that meant the big market as the city has served for quite a long period of time as a transit point for the commercial car vans coming from Africa and Nubia to Egypt.
The word Sono was then modified to become “Sein” in the Ptolemaic period and then afterwards it became “Swan” in the Coptic language. When the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th century AD, they added an “A” to “Swan”, so the name became Aswan. The city was also nicknamed as the city of the shining sun and the lands of the gold.
The History and establishment of Aswan
The importance of Aswan emerged as early as the ruling period of the Old Kingdom of the ancient Egyptian history around the 30th century BC. Aswan was the Southern gate of the kingdom and the Pharaohs of Egypt paid special attention to this important fact.
During the reign of the Middle Kingdom, Aswan became a meeting point and a stronghold of the Egyptian army as the kings of the Middle Kingdom wanted to extend their authority towards the South to Nubia and Sudan. Aswan has also played a vital role in the battles that took place between the ancient Egyptians and the Hyksos.
Moreover, the ancient Egyptians have always recognized the importance of the granite quarries of Aswan. They used to import large quantities of granite to be used in their various constructions especially obelisks and gates from Aswan for a very long period of time.
During the reign of the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Philae Island became of very important significance for the ancient Egyptians as it became the center of the worship of the goddess Isis who became even an important god for many people around the Ptolemaic kingdom and not only in Egypt. With the construction of the Philae Temple in the 4th century BC, Aswan became even more important as the temple became an important pilgrimage site.
Later on when Christianity became the official religion of Egypt during the 5th century AD, many of the Pharaonic temples of Aswan were transferred into churches, the same as Luxor when the marvelous temple of Queen Hatshepsut was converted into a church that was called El Deir El Bahary or the monastery of the North. The Philae Island became the center of one of the most important Bishoprics. This helped in the spread of Christianity in Sudan and Nubia
During the Islamic period in Egypt which started in the 7th century when the Arab Moslems concurred Egypt, Aswan flourished to a great extent as it became an important transit point of the caravans reaching Aydhab, an important port in the West Coast of the Red Sea at the time. These caravans would go on with their ways to reach Hejaz, Yemen, and India afterwards. Furthermore, many Islamic schools were established in Aswan during the 15th and the 16th centuries.
Even in the contemporary history of Egypt, Aswan had a significant role to play. It was where Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, established the first military academy in the country. Afterwards, Aswan was where one of the most important achievements of modern Egypt was established. The High Dam, which was constructed in the 1960s, played a major role in the production of electricity and in the storage of the water of the flood of the River Nile to be used in agriculture and in many other means.
The Climate and the Surface area of Aswan
Being at the Southernmost point in Egypt near the Sudanese borders, Aswan enjoys a marvelous weather in the winter and the spring seasons. However, it would be very hot and humid during the summer season that is not recommended to visit the city at this period.
Aswan has started attracting tourists as early as the 20th century. People from all over the world who spend their vacation in Egypt would travel to Aswan in order to enjoy its warm weather in the winter and explore many of its remarkable sites.
With the large popularity of the Nile Cruise ships sailing between Luxor and Aswan, and Aswan and Abu Simble, the city has even attracted more tourists who travel to Egypt.
The most important sites of Aswan would surly include the Unfinished Obelisk, the Temple of Philae, and the High Dam. There are also even more wonderful sites to explore in Aswan like the Mausoleum of Aga Khan, the Shah of Iran who was fond of the city to the extent that he wished to be buried in Aswan. His mausoleum was constructed in 1957 in the Fatimid style of architecture and became a landmark of Aswan afterwards. However, the mausoleum is closed to public
Other important touristic places in Aswan would include the tombs of the Nobles, the Nubian Museum, the Temple of Beit El Wally, and the Monastery of Saint Simone. Other marvelous activities to be done in Aswan include riding a Felucca in the Nile and watch the magnificent Aswan from the river.
Furthermore after the relocation of the Abu Simble Temple in the 1970s, a wonderful Nile Cruise journey began operating from Aswan to Abu Simble which gives the tourists visiting Egypt the chance to also explore other Pharaonic temples along the way like the Temple of Kalabsha and the Temple of Amada. This Nile Cruise rout has become very popular among tourists spending their holidays in Egypt.