Aswan, Swenet as the ancients called it, is a city in the south of Egypt and was the ancient Egyptian’s gateway to Africa. Swenet is an Egyptian goddess which means “the opener” and the city’s symbol means “trade”. A bustling market town and a tourist center on the bank of the Nile in the south of Egypt, Aswan is worth a visit to wander around the stalls and sail upriver to the Temple of Philae, as well as being the start-point for trips to spectacular Abu Simbel. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine. A city that is small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing.
Aswan is Egypt’s hottest and driest city. Its climate ranges from mild in the winter to very hot in the summer with absolutely no rain all year. Aswan is one of the driest inhabited places in the world. In winter the temperatures average from 11°C at night to 25°C during the day. In summer the temperature averages 25°C at night to 40°C during the day.
What to see in Aswan?
Tombs of the Nobles & Kubbet al Hawa – The noblemen’s journey into Africa can be seen here through their hieroglyphic biographies and inscriptions on their tombs from the 6th Dynasty family. Kybbet al Hawa means “windy dome” in the northern hills of the west bank are filled with the rock-hewn tombs of princes from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. More tombs to see are:
Tombs of Mekhu & Sabni – Reliefs show invasion of Nubia
Tomb of Sarenput II – One of the most beautiful and preserved tombs
Tomb of Harkhuf – Hieroglyphics
Tomb of Hekaib – Reliefs show fighting and hunting scenes
Tomb of Sarenput II – Six pillars decorated with reliefs
Kubbet al Hawa – Located on the hilltop above the other tombs. Stunning views of the Nile
Mausoleum of the Agha Khan – A pink granite structure of late 1950 origin, which also resembles the Fatimid tombs in Cairo. Thier members consider themselves to be the direct spiritual descendants of the Fatimid. The Mausoleum has an excellent view, including Aga Khan’s white villa below.
Elephantine Island – It is the largest and the most ancient site of the Aswan area islands, home to artifacts dating to predynastic periods. Truly a fortress of much history, at one time there was a bridge from the mainland to the island. One of its main attractions is its Nilometer. Another major attraction is the ruins of the Temple of Khnum. A collection of all kinds of Nubian products and objects from nature around Aswan and Lake Nasser is showcase in the small museum of guide Mohamed along the information about daily life in Nubia and even connections with the history of the pharaohs.
Nubian museum – Here displays thousands of antiquities that would have been lost under the waters of Lake Nasser had not a major international effort salvaged them during the 1960’s and ’70s. Life sized displays show of their Nubian life. On higher ground, the complex comprises the museum building itself, an open-air exhibition, and an open-air theatre. The exhibitions represent all stages of Nubian history: Prehistory, the Pharaonic period, Graeco-Roman Period, Christianity in Nubia, Islam in Nubia, and Nubian Folk Heritage.
The botanical gardens on Kitchener Island – Lord Kitchener owned this 6.8 hectare island in the 1890’s and converted it to a botanical garden. it is filled with birds and hundreds of plant species and palm trees. It is also filled with exotic plants and trees from around the world. The island is accessable by boat, and is located on the other side of Elephantine Island from Aswan. The Island was given to Lord Kitchner for his campaigns in the Sudan, and he moved their and created his garden, importing plants and trees from all over the world.
The Aswan Dam – It was designed to control the Nile River it controls flooding and stores water for times of drought, it is equipped to provide hydroelectric power. But when the Aswan Dam was built, the region of Nubia was flooded and the Nubians were relocated, and sadly their lifestyle was destroyed in the process.
Monastery of St. Simeon – This monastery is still in use; it housed 300 monks, and could in addition receive up to 100 pilgrims at a time. The monastery was surrounded by a 10 metre high wall, and doubled as a fortress. Way back in 7th century, the monastery history survived long as a Christian stronghold of southern Egypt until destroyed by Saladin in 1173.
Unfinished obelisk – Around these quarries are many inscriptions, many of which describe successful quarrying projects. The Unfinished Obelisk located in the Northern Quarry still lies where a crack was discovered as it was being hewn from the rock. The largest known ancient obelisk, carved directly out of bedrock.
Kalabsha temple near Lake Nasser – The main temple was built to the Nubian fertility and sun god Marul during the rule of Emperor Augustus. Kalabsha Temple originally built at Kalabsha (Talmis) was moved to its present location at New Kalabsha (Chellal) in 1970, together with other monuments from Nubia, including the Kiosk of Qertassi (Kertassi) which is the amazing Temple of Beit al-Wali built by Ramesses II. Beit al-Wali, was the largest free-standing temple of Egyptian Nubia and the design of Kalabsha Temple is classical for the Ptolemaic period with pylons, courtyard, hypostyle hall and three room sanctuary.
Abu Simbel; the world famous temples of Ramses – Abu Simbel has two temples that are one of the most magnificent monuments in the world, but their removal and reconstruction was a historic event in itself. When the temples (280 kilometers from Aswan) were threatened by submersion in Lake Nasser, due to the construction of the High Dam from 1964 to 1968, the two temples were dismantled and raised over 60 meters up the sandstone cliff where they had been built more than 3,000 years before. Here they were reassembled, in the exact same relationship to each other and the sun, and covered with an artificial mountain.
The double temple of Kom Ombo – Temple, dating to the Ptolemies, is built on a high dune overlooking the Nile. The actual temple was started by Ptolemy VI Philometor in the early second century BC and known as Kom Ombo is actually two temples consisting of a Temple to Sobek and a Temple of Haroeris. It is located in the town of Kom-Ombo, about 45 kilometres north of Aswan.
Temple of Isis on Philae Island – This was built for the Goddess Isis by the ancient Egyptians but the this magnificent temple became submerged after the first Aswan dam was built in 1906, and it was not until the seventies that many nations attempted to save the Temple. They were successful in saving it finding a suitable place and waited for the completion of the High Dam, in 1971, which would stabilize the level of the water around their chosen island.
Tourists days can also be spent strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the sailboats or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish.