October 2009
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Visit Aswan – Egypt’s 3rd largest city and gateway to many treasures

Aswan is one of the largest cities in Egypt, being the 3rd largest city in Egypt, and the biggest in Upper Egypt. Aswan is also well known all over the world, and a much visited spot for tourists visiting Egypt. Aswan is know primarily for the Dam, but is also known for other economic activities, such as being a major mining area for aluminum and iron. However, tourists are not particularly interested in knowing about such industrial activities, they are more interested in knowing about the Nile Cruise that seems to include Aswan (cruise ships on the river Nile typically flow between the cities of Aswan and Luxor). Once in Aswan, the local market is a very good place to do your holiday shopping, with a number of items available over here, especially a number of high quality spices.

Now, Aswan is most famous for the Nile, and this is probably one of the easily accessible places where the Nile is very beautiful, flowing through a variety of different surroundings and contrasting features such as amber desert and granite rocks, round emerald islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants.

What is the origin of the city ? Well, the word Aswan is derived, as would be expected, from an Ancient Egyptian word Swan, which means “the market” (that is how far back Aswan was famous for its markets and souks)! This basis of being an important marketing center was also based on the fact that it was located on the main trading route between Egypt and the southern lands, where gold, slaves and ivory passed into Egypt. The governors of the 6th Dynasty sent many expeditions to explore the many African countries located to the south, and most of these started from Aswan! It was also the major source of granite, sandstone and quartzite used in the construction of the various monuments throughout Egypt! Egypt has a long history of Gods and Goddesses, and in earlier times the God Khoum was the major God of the city, but in later periods the Goddess Isis, Goddess of magic and maternity, became the main patron God, with a temple being built for her at Philae.

What are some of the places to go to if you were to visit Aswan ?

Nubia Museum (wikipedia) – A beautiful museum displaying Geological, Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic ages.

Elephantine island – The island divides the Nile into 2 parts, 2 channels, just opposite the city of Aswan. It has a small museum set beautiful gardens, and also has ruins of temples.

The Aga Khan Mausoleum: A beautiful Mausoleum, built on the top of a Hill, containing the remains of Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III (November 2, 1877 – July 11, 1957)

The monastery of St. Simeon: This was a monastery that is of ancient origin, built in the 10th century AD, and then destroyed soon after in 1173 by Salah-al-Din. A great place to see.

The unfinished Obelisk: This is supposed to be a replica of the Obelisk now in place in Rome (Lateran Obelisk at Karnak), it was abandoned due to a crack as it was being carved out of a rock. Seems to be very popular with visitors.

The tombs of the Nobles: These belong to the princes of the Old Kingdom, and have been carved out of rock. They are located on the West Side of the Nile, opposite Aswan. The same hill is also the location of a Coptic monastery.

The High Dam: World famous, it is known as an engineering marvel. The Dam was built in the 1960’s, together with the Aswan dam (located 6 km away), it produces electricity for the whole of Egypt. The Dam is part of the tourist circuit, and a must see for all visitors.

Kalabsha temple: Read more at Wikipedia. The temple was shifted the present location in 1970, and were build of sandstone by the Roman emperor Octavius Augustus.

Philae temple: The Philae temple has a sound and light show at night which should not be missed. The temple was moved at the same time as Abu Simbel, shifted to Agilika lsland about 500 m from its original place on Philae Island due to the construction of the High Dam.

Weather: Because of the location of Aswan, just north of the Tropic Of Cancer, the city enjoys a very hot climate throughout the year! It is advised to cover your head when walking about and drink water constantly.

How To Get To Aswan:

By flight:
EgyptAir runs daily flights to Aswan and the flight duration is about 70 minutes from Cairo. Flights land at Aswan International Airport, located 15Km to the south west of the city.

By train:
You can reach Aswan by train from Cairo or Luxor; the train station is located in the city centre.

Hotels in Aswan

Aswan has many hotels, comfortable and luxurious.

Amongst Aswan’s most famous hotels, is the Old Cataract Hotel, which was built in 1925 (it is the most expensive hotel in Aswan today!). The hotel has witnessed many of the important guests and dignitaries who have come to visit Aswan; it was where Agatha Christie stayed when she wrote her book “Death On The Nile”.

External sites / Blogs:

1. Nubia Museum in Aswan (link)

The Nubia Museum harbors the history of the “Land of Gold” as the word Nubia in the Hieroglyphic, language of ancient Egypt in which pictorial symbols are used to represent meaning and sounds, means the “Land of Gold”…Hence, this land, over times, was abounding in monumental treasures. The Nubia Museum, in Aswan, as a matter of fact, is deemed to be one of the most
important Egyptian museums. A number of factors have combined together, yielding the magnificence of such museum, as it is the only unique open museum of its kind.

2. Visit Aswan Egypt (link)

The city of Aswan is famous for its large number of mosques, and Muslims from around the world visit this holy city. Non-Muslim travellers who visit the region will appreciate the unique architecture of these mosques.

3. Aswan and Luxor (link)

Abu Simbel was built by Ramses II (I’m pretty sure, we have been bombarded with Egyptian history and I could very well be confused) and was originally 4 figures including him and his wife cut into the side of a hill, there is then a small temple inside the hill behind the figures. However when the Aswan dam was built Abu Simbel would be flooded, so they moved the entire structure up the hill in the 1960-70’s. The figures on the outside are amazing and the inside is just as impressive. There is still colour on the walls..over 3000 years old! At the far end of the inside of the temple is a statue of Ramses II and every year on October 22nd the temple was built so that the sun would hit his face just for that day, which was the day of his coronation.

4. Madam, tip my horse, too (link), with some great photos.

The trip to the Northern Quarries was hot and lasted half an hour. A short brief story of the Unfinished Obelisk, photo opportunity and straight back to the bus without a glance at any shops..Next stop , Aswan High Dam at Lake Nasser which is the huge source of energy for Egypt. .
We then proceeded to what I think is the loveliest temple – Philae temple on a tiny island on the island called Philae. Built by the Romans, the rich greenery contrast with the lovely golden monuments and seeing it during sunset made the it really beautiful.

Photos of Aswan:

1. West Bank of Nile opposite Aswan (link)

2. Photo of Unfinished Obelisk (link)

1 comment to Visit Aswan – Egypt’s 3rd largest city and gateway to many treasures

  • viky

    Hey.. Must have taken a lot of research to post this. Well it is an awesome post and it is going to help me choose my year end vacations. Thanks geek.

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