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Aswan Egypt Travel Guide

Is Aswan worth visiting?

Aswan city overviewOne 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.

What is Aswan known for?

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 afterward 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.

Geographical Location of Aswan

elephantien island in aswanThe 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.

Aswan Weather Over Year

Being at the Southernmost point in Egypt near the Sudanese borders, Aswan enjoys marvelous weather in the winter and the spring seasons. However, it would be very hot and humid during the summer season and it is not recommended to visit the city at this period.

How many days do you need in Aswan?

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. To cover all  Aswan attractions you need from 3 to 5 days for an unforgettable trip. 

With the large popularity of the Nile Cruise ships sailing between Luxor and Aswan, and Aswan and Abu Simbel, the city has even attracted more tourists who travel to Egypt.

Aswan Attractions

Unfinished Obelisk

the unfinished obelisk Aswan EgyptThis obelisk is about 138 feet (42m) long which is partly completed as only three sides were finished. This piece of art is considered the heaviest stone ever made by Egyptians. However, the damage appears in this rock and it is still attached to the main stone which makes us wonder how this sculpture was made.

The Philae Temple

Philae temple of isis Aswan EgyptThe Philae island considered a holy island because Egyptians built the Philae temple for the goddess Isis. the Philae temple was threatened by the overflow of the Nile especially after the projects of the Aswan Dam and the Aswan High Dam, but  UNESCO Institut took this mission to rescue Philae Temple from this Island and moved it in a higher place near to Agilka Island. this story made the temple a must-visit place to witness the result of this incident.

Elephantine Island

elephantien island in aswanElephantine Island was Named based on the ivory trade on this Island a long time ago. A fortress was built in the Elephantine Island in the 1st century to create Egypt’s southern boundaries, then Elephantine island became one of the most important trading centers in Egypt since the pharaoh’s time. 

The High Dam

high dam Aswanin 1960 there was an engineering marvel built in Aswan which is the High Dam, This Aswan Dam made a huge difference in Egypt as the cultivable land and electricity supply had increased a lot, it also helped to create Lake Nasser. The High Dam is a huge architecture building that used 18 times the materials that the Pyramid of Cheops at Giza used. This Aswan Dam is 11,811 feet long 3,215 feet thick, and 364 feet tall, which will provide the visitors a wonderful view. 

Nubian Villages and the Nubian museum

The Nubian Villages is a must-visit place in Aswan as you will experience another different culture than the Egyptian one. The Nubian people have their own language and traditions which is totally interesting to discover. In Nuba, you will also enjoy the beauty of nature plus the colored view of their houses. Related to the Nubian culture you must visit the Nubian museum to know more about this wonderful culture. 

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel TemplesThis Temple was built in the 13 century by Ramses II and it consists of 2 temples. These temples are one of the famous monuments in Egypt and it is a must-visit place in the tourists’ trip plan. Abu Simbel Temple moved to a higher place in the incidence of the flood that happened during building the High Dam to rescue this historical place. In this temple, there is an impressive light and sound show happening every day you shouldn’t miss. 

Lake Nasser

lake Nasser AswanThis Lake is created after the construction of the high dam in Aswan, which was the largest artificial lake in the world at that time. Lake Nasser was named after president Gamal Abd El-Nasser who started the project. This artificial lake is about 340 miles long, and 22 miles for its widest point.

 

Aga Khan Mausoleum

the Mausoleum of Aga Khan, the Shah of Iran city where 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 afterward. However, the mausoleum is closed to the public

Other important touristic places in Aswan would include the tombs of the Nobles, the Temple of Beit El Wally, Kom Ombo city near Aswan, and the Monastery of Saint Simone. 

Activities you can do in Aswan

Aswan FeluccaOther 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 Simbel Temple in the 1970s, a wonderful Nile Cruise journey began operating from Aswan to Abu Simbel 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 route has become very popular among tourists spending their holidays in Egypt.

Aswan Ancient Egypt

The importance of Aswan emerged as early as the ruling period of the Old Kingdom of 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 Egyptian 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, Philae Island became of very important significance 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 QueenHatshepsut 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 part 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 afterward. Furthermore, many Islamic schools were established in Aswan during the 15th and 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. Afterward, 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.