Aswan, Egypt’s southern frontier town, in its delightful river setting, is a highlight of any Nile cruise. It is stunningly beautiful, charmingly romantic, and the sunniest city in Egypt, hence its popularity. However, the city’s undoubted attractions are helping to send it the same way as Luxor and the ever-growing tourist scene has all the accompanying downsides of increased hassle, clean-ups of the souk, felucca-captains waiting on every corner and hideous buildings springing up. But though the sense of ancient enchantment that used to pervade the very air of Aswan is hard to find now, it is still here – you just might have to look on the west bank or in one of the villages to find it. The city itself is not too large to walk around in the cooler part of the day and pace of life is slow and relaxing. From the cool and inviting Corniche you can watch tall-masted feluccas handled masterfully by a tiny crew and listen to Nubian musicians. Across the river, dramatic desert cliffs merge with palm-lined Nile waters, and huge apricot-coloured sand banks appear startling against the cloudless blue sky. In the late evening you can watch the flocks of egrets skimming the surface of the Nile as they go to roost before you feast on freshly caught Nile fish. In the early morning you can watch the sun rise behind the city and hear the call of the muezzin. With the outstanding Nubian museum, colourful west bank villages and islands to explore, as well as proximity to several notable temples and the nearby High Dam, the city is much more than a stopover en route to Abu Simbel.
The major attractions of the city includes:
History of Aswan
As rich the land is in its commercial affairs, the history of Aswan is more affluent and mysterious. The ancient Aswan was known as the Swen. People believed it to be not only the end of the world but also the consecrated genesis of the Blue Nile. The city full of granite temples, for over a few centuries acted as the doorway to Africa and Nubian lands.
The present day name of the city is derived from ‘Souan’, which means ‘trade’. The nearby Elephantine Islands which is a part of Aswan was previously called the Yeb islands. The Yeb was one of the foremost commercial centers of Egypt. Ivory, gold, camels and caravans had made the island famous throughout Egypt. Yeb in Nubian means elephant and thus the Greeks began to call it as the Elephantine islands.
The location of Aswan is very strategic for which it was chosen as the capital of Upper Egypt in the ancient era. The Ptolemies made the city act as their base in order to stretch out to Central, Sudan and Nubia. The series of exquisite granite temples are still in the city as memoirs of the Ptolemic rule. The Temple of Philae is the most prominent instance of the immaculate architectural expertise of the Ptolemies.
The ancient Swan or Aswan was also famous for its granite quarries. Thousands of Egyptian statutues , obelisks, shrines and even pyramids are constructed out of the Syenite granite mined in Aswan. The city of Aswan was also a crucial military base of the ancient Egypt.
Whenever the reign of the land passed on to a new dynasty security of the city was tightened the more. Aswan was always a garrison town. Mention of Aswan can be found in the writings of Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy.
Aswan Tourist Attractions
Millions of tourists visit Egypt each year, attracted by the rich history, mystery shrouded past and romantic heritage. Aswan City receives it fair share of visitors who come here in the allure of its tourist attractions.
The structures of archeological and historic significance such as the temples at Abu Simbel and the Temple of Philae, the Unfinished Obelisk and the Monastery of St. Simeon talk of the golden and glorious past of the city. A trip to one of these monuments is a step into a time warp that takes the visitor back more than 3000 years back into the era of royal dynasties, intrigue and mystery and religion. The Nubian Village, Elephantine Island and Kitchener’s Island are favorite haunts of the tourists who wish to catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of the ancient Egyptian civilization and wish to learn simplicity and endurance from their society. A rich culture preserved intact, religion practiced solemnly and life lived in wisdom is the major tourist attraction in these parts of Aswan. Mausoleum of Aga Khan, Monastery of St. Simeon, Nubian Museum and Sehel Village stand testimony to the impact that history bears on the present day lives of Aswan society. The High Dam is another Aswan tourist attraction. The colorful festivals and events of Aswan are another major tourist attraction. The Sun Festival at Abu Simbel and International Symposium of Sculpture attract many tourists to Aswan.
The younger generation of tourists looks forward to entertainment. Aswan holds out colorful options in the form of traditional, folk and contemporary entertainment and performances. The river cruising and felucca ride are fodder for the adventure hungry. A number of excellent tourist facilities have opened up in Aswan and are major tourist attractions. A wide variety of restaurants, luxury hotels and such charming recreational facility attract a high number of visitors to this city every year.
Aswan like the rest of Egypt experiences extreme temperatures. while the coolest month is January with a pleasant weather and an average temperature of about 60 °F or 15.5 °C, July temperatures sear up to 93 °F or almost 34 °C. April with an average temperature of 82 °F i.e. 27.7 °C sees the highest precipitation, 0.4 inches. Thus we see that Aswan enjoys a relatively dry and arid climate. The city’s proximity to the Tropic of Cancer also contributes to the high temperatures and a dry weather.
Winter is the peak tourist season in the city with the average temperature ranging from 23-30°C and rainfall almost non-existent. The weather during winter is extremely conducive to sightseeing and tourist activity. The days are warm and light cottons will serve best while the nights get slightly chilly but never unbearably cold. The lowest temperature recorded in Aswan in January is about 10.5 °C.
Summers in Aswan grow unbearably hot with the average temperature ranging from 31.6 °C to 33 °C. The sweltering days are best spent indoors enjoying a cool rejuvenating shower or the pleasures of an air-conditioned environment. Summer quickly fades into winter and vice versa leaving very little scope for spring or autumn. Tourists, however, claim spring and autumn are good seasons to visit Aswan as most of the tourist facilities offer off season discounts and the weather is rather pleasant compared to the summer months.
March and April usher in the dry winds, Khamsin that blows inland from the Western Desert. It is not surprising for wind speeds to reach about 150 kilometers per hour or 93 meters per hour. Aswan weather, reflect the rest of Egypt, as in it is dry and predominantly hot. Winters are mild and pleasant. However Aswan lacks the extreme day and night temperature swings as in the heart of the desert region, not is winter as bone chilling in the midst of the desert.
Entertainment in Aswan
Aswan, lying at a distance of 61 kms from Luxor, has a relaxed ambience and is less crowded than Luxor and Cairo. Aswan has a typical Nubian atmosphere and the nightlife scene is not that pulsating. This calm place nestled on the banks of the Nile River offers more options for sightseeing, shopping curios in the vibrant markets, and river cruises, felucca rides, cultural performances and et cetera.
During the day you can go for felucca rides to visit the nearby islands of Aswan and you may also cruise across the Nile River, go swimming, or take a boat and go in search of the alligators.
In the evenings round the region of the Corniche and bazaar, you will find Nubian performances taking place. Listen to this local music and watch live performances in many restaurants or hotels in Aswan. You will also enjoy the Sound and Light Show at Philae in Aswan. Sometimes Nubian stars like Hassan Jazuli and Khitr al-Atar also visit the place and if you are lucky enough then you can also watch their performances. In Aswan there is always music in the air and you can hear sounds of music from the cafes and backstreets or at the Ferial Gardens.
There is very little Night clubs outside the hotels and resorts of Aswan. If you want to have a drink then head towards the Tower Bar which is situated on the the12th floor of the Aswan Oberoi Hotel in Aswan. From this bar you can get a bird's eye view of the Nile River and the Aswan. There is also a nightclub at the New Cataract hotels, which offer Nubian and Western music. The Isis Hotel also has a night disco.
There are no cinemas or theatres in Aswan, but the superb performances by a folk-dance troupe of Aswan at the Palace of Culture on the Corniche, provides a major source of entertainment. The dance troupe performs the illustrious Nubian tahtib (stick dancing), songs depicting village life and events like wedding and harvest festivals. These performances takes place everyday from October to May from 9.30-11pm, excepting Fridays.
Sightseeing in Aswan
You have come to Aswan in Egypt, the ancient town eighty-one miles south of Luxor. The sunny city of Aswan has the Egyptian name of Syene. Small places, which you can cover at a leisurely pace, enjoy a beautiful setting with the Nile flowing at one side. Life is slow out here as the city is reticent and calm with picturesque surrounding. You can spend your days strolling at leisure along the broad cornice watching the sailboats make their way onto the sea. The ambience is distinctly African with a lovely Egyptian name to boost, Syene with Nubian music on the background. The boats are replete with flame like light that radiate iridescent color over the waters as the boats graze the surface of the Nile. Life is a beautiful poetry where each moment out stands the other, so go-slow enjoy each step you take and simply live for the moment. Come Chill in Aswan with your beloved and sip champagne as you watch the sun go down the mesmerizing horizon.
While you come to the fantastic Liquid brown desert and the azure blue Nile beckons you with the most heart warming smile the roundness of the green islands amaze you by their lushness and gaiety, so come to the heart of Egypt and stay connected to Sightseeing in Aswan for more on the attractions of Aswan.
Festivals and Events in Aswan
Aswan's vibrancy and effervescence is reflected in the various festivals and events that takes place every year in the city's heart. Festivals in Aswan are not just a vent leading to fun. If you want to savour the choicest amalgamation of entertainment, religiosity and intellectualism, then Aswan is your destination to be.
The sulky waves of azure Nile, with series of palm groves on either side, the merry loving inhabitants and above all the mysticism of the place all has made Aswan a right place to host several festivals and events.
The two most rocking festivals of the city are the
The Miracle of Sun Festival is basically a native sacramental event where the people of city come together and celebrates the existence of King Ramses and the miracle of sun. Festivities are at its best and this is perhaps the most popular festival of Aswan.
The festival continues for two nights and people gather around the temple and plunge in the melodious song and native dances performed outside it. The celebrations continue till the next morning when the sun rises and flood the statuette of the sanctuary with its golden beams.
Previously the festival was not much popular but with the days passing by, Aswan began to evolve as one of the most happening tourist destination of Egypt. Consequently, the festival attracts thousands of outsiders every year.
The International Symposium of Sculpture is the second most important attracting thousands of admirers and sculptors across the world. This festival is going on in Aswan for more than a decade, and the creations which are formed here are put on a display at the open -air museum of the city.
Things to do in Aswan
Aswan, the small region of Egypt that has a distinct African atmosphere is a nice place set in the beautiful backdrop of the Nile River. Relax in the peaceful atmosphere of the Aswan that is famous for its markets. Pas the lazy days leisurely in the restaurants or travel across the rive Nile. Aswan with its plethora of activities unravels the host of things that you can do while you are on a trip to Aswan.
Shopping in Aswan
The moment you arrive at the shopping district of Aswan, you world immediately realize that it almost a shopper's paradise. As you walk through the busy narrow lanes of the Aswan, you are bound to be interrupted by the shopkeepers who would try hard to sell their things. But do not be swayed by their emotions and pay off the prices they demand from you as the prices re often high than the normal. As the prices asked by them are generally higher by 20 to 30 % the best policy is haggling. If you somehow manage to do this, then Aswan has in store for you something more than you can imagine. In addition to the designer shawls, beautifully hand-woven carpet, try out the local spices that would reminding of Aswan every time you cook some of the handy delicacies out of these spices.
Activities in Aswan
Two things famous in Egypt are the pyramids and the River Nile. Take one of the lovely cruises that enables you have a spectacular ride through the beautiful river Nile that flows through Egypt. Aswan the place for its markets mainly has some of the best tour packages that take you to the Abu Simbel. Enjoy the sunset and the sunrise from the awesome desert landscapes. Tour across Lake Nasser and visit the temples that are worth seeing. Experience the pleasure of the felucca ride. It is traditional river sailing vessels that take you to a tour across the upper Nile.
Dining options in Aswan
No visit to any place or site is complete if you fail to taste the local cuisines of that region. Aswan though small is of the renowned places famous for its spicy dishes prepare from the aromatic spices sold in the Aswan market. The restaurants of which some are decorated in the style of a tomb give you a feel of the place. In addition to the local cuisines you can taste the diversified cuisines that you can get in the various restaurants of Aswan.
Restaurants in Aswan
The Nile is not only a picturesque river but it is the life-giver of Egypt. The fertile bank of Nile River has nurture the civilization of Egypt. Aswan the sun-baked southern city of Egypt is a quaint African region with the setting of the Nile River. The small city has a slow and relaxed lifestyle. You can visit the places of interest and other cultural places, stroll by the river front, shop in the local markets and taste the Nubian in the local restaurants located in the strips along the river bank, the colorful bazaars and markets or within some renowned hotels.
Egypt, since yore has been the potpourri of various cultures and Egyptian food reflects the synthesis of these varied cultures. Egyptian food is especially famed for its flavors and its use of different fresh vegetables, ingredients and spices. Most of the restaurants in Aswan serve oriental food such as kebab and kofta, chicken and pigeon, vegetables and rice. You can also taste the freshly caught fish in one of the many fish restaurants that are located in Corniche by the Nile. There are also floating restaurants that are located at floating barges or platforms at the heart of the river.
The Moon Restaurant, Aswan is a restaurant located within a floating flatboat at the middle of the Nile River. You have to take a boat to reach this restaurant and once you reach you will love the ambience. They serve traditional Egyptian cuisine plus local fish delicacies and you will have a wonderful dining experience with the view of the sparkling waters of Nile, the crimson sunset, the cool breeze and obviously the Nubian music or cultural performances! And don't forget to smoke the shisha!
For expensive and exceptionally chic dining options, there’s nothing outside the resort hotels. There are, however, a number of mid-range and cheap restaurants that serve good food. There are also a couple of notable fatir pizza joints, and of course the sit-down cafeterias, some floating on the Nile where the setting can be better than the food. Tourists often get charged double local prices in smaller places, so it might be worth brushing up on Arabic numerals so you can read the menu and get a better price.
The beautiful town of Aswan that is gradually becoming a popular tourist destination in Egypt is a less crowded city compared to other cities like the Alexandria and Luxor. Though Aswan has a much less developed transport system compared to that of Cairo, it is in a conscious effort to revamp the transportation of Aswan.
The beautiful streets of Aswan make walking the most popular means of transportation. The small size of the region also permits the easy accessibility of the place that is well within the reach of the common masses. So most of the common lot prefer to walk to reach their desired destination.
But for those places where walking is literally impossible, there are buses and taxis that are present in ample numbers. So when you are trying to get to a far distanced place, stand by the road and simply hire a taxi as they come toward s you. But there is one problem in this. The taxi drivers can ask you more than the normal rates. Especially if they understand that you are a newcomer in the town or Aswan, they shall try every possible trick to extract some more pennies from you. So what you can do is simply ask your hotel authorities to avail a taxi for you. Another most opted way to reduce your expenses is to share a taxi with some other boarders.
The local buses are the most popular means of public transport. Though there a are a handful number of air conditioned buss available, the number of local buses are great. They are easily available and are quiet cheap. But some of you may have problems by the fact that they are a bit crowded. If you manage to withstand a little pressure of the crowd, buses are the opted means of transpiration.
In addition to the public transportation system, there is the Aswan Airport from where you can travel to other parts of the world.
Aswan’s indigenous inhabitants are the ethnically, linguistically and culturally distinct Nubians who are more African than Arab. A robust civilization had flourished on the southern banks of the Nile since the time of the first pharaohs, and despite being frequently invaded and conquered by their northern neighbours who were dependent on their gold mines, the Nubian kings actually controlled all Egypt during the 25th Dynasty (747-656 BC). Many favoured Nubians became noblemen and administrators throughout ancient times, and Cleopatra was from the modern-day Sudanese town of Wadi Halfa. Indeed, the term ‘Nubian’ today is equally applicable to the Sudanese who live along the Nile as far south as Khartoum. The later Nubian kingdom of Kush, whose capital was the Sudanese town of Merowe and which included Aswan, remained largely independent from Egypt. Having been the last region to adopt the Christian faith, Nubia became a stronghold of the faith and a sanctuary for Coptic Christians fleeing the advance of Islam.
For many centuries a sleepy backwater, Aswan assumed national importance when it became the headquarters for the successful 1898 Anglo-Egyptian re-conquest of Sudan. With the 1902 construction of the first Aswan Dam the town became a fashionable winter resort for rich Europeans who relished its dry heat, luxury hotels and stunning views, particularly from the feluccas sailing on the Nile at sunset. But the dam also caused many Nubian villages to the south of Aswan to be submerged by the rising waters. With no decent agricultural land left to farm, menfolk headed to the cities leaving the women in charge, and Cairo’s population of bawabs (doorkeepers) is still predominantly Nubian today. With the building of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, the swamping of Nubia was complete and many of those who were displaced joined in swelling the populations of Aswan and Kom Ombo. Despite the subsequent construction of a number of heavy industries in Aswan, to take advantage of the cheap hydroelectric power generated at the dam, the town has retained its attractive charm and relaxed atmosphere.
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