One of the hottest, driest, and sunniest cities in the world, Aswan with its 350,000 population made a nice change after the 20 million people in Cairo. It is the gateway to the Nile, home to the Aswan and High Dams, which after thousands of years changed the nature of the Nile, for good and bad.

One of the most popular sights is the incredible Philae Temple, the last to be built by the ancient Egyptians, with carvings continuing until nearly 400 AD when Christianity became dominant. It would have been submerged by the creation of Lake Nasser with the building of the High Dam, so was cut into pieces and relocated to a higher spot on another island.

A row of columns leads to the impressive First Pylon, marking a grand entrance into the temple.

Inside are partially completed carvings, many of which were defaced by the early Christians.

In the centre is the inner sanctuary, an atmospheric place, even with the crowds.

Back in Aswan the Nubian Museum is one of the best in the country. It is smaller and more intimate than Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, making it easier to appreciate the items on display. There are three million Nubians living in Egypt, and another twelve million in Sudan.

There are some evocative recreations of aspects of Nubian life.

There are many great models, including of Philae Temple and Abu Simbel (before and after the flooding) which help understand the places better.

The nearby Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of the Archangel Michael probably looks better from the outside than inside, but it is a landmark building in Aswan.

I took a scenic boat trip around Elephantine Island.

On Kitchener Island are the Aswan Botanical Gardens, which I had hoped to visit but ran out of time.

After sailing around Elephantine Island, I landed on it for dinner in one of the two Nubian villages on the island. There are six thousand Nubians living on the island, 90% reliant on tourism, and 10% on fishing and agriculture. Tourists now out number the locals, but they find it easier work than their traditional occupations.

Aswan Bazaar is a rather pleasant place to explore, other than the usual locals approaching you every few metres to try and sell something which becomes wearing after a while.

I enjoyed dinner at High Dam restaurant, at the northern end of the bazaar, a proper locals place.

Back on the mainland with Feryal Garden, a lovely spot at the southern end of the corniche with great views of the Nile and across to Elephantine Island.

There were good views of the remains of the Temple of Khnum at the southern end, next to the Aswan Museum housed in the former home of Sir William Willcocks, architect of the original Aswan Dam.

Author: jontycrane

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