Aswan – Egypt’s winter resort


We usually associate Aswan with a giant dam built in the 1960s with the assistance of the USSR. This dam has indeed become one of the city’s landmarks. Aswan, located on the Nile about a thousand kilometers south of Cairo, has been a trade center on the caravan route for centuries. The ancient Egyptians called it Suine and the Greeks called it Siena. Bone and other goods from Central Africa were brought here. The economic importance of the city was especially great during the reign of the pharaohs. In the vicinity of Aswan the famous pink granite was mined.

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Nowadays Aswan is known as a first-class winter resort, the climate here is just perfect and the temperature in winter is kept around +20 C (in summer it can be as high as +50 C). Aswan is said to have the most delicious dates in Egypt.

How to get there

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Aswan International Airport is also known as Darow Airport, located 16 km from the city.Online arrival and departure board.

Photos of Aswan

What to see in Aswan

Mausoleums and Monasteries

Interesting places are the mausoleum of the Aga Khan (Hodji Aga Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah), who died in 1957 and is considered a fine example of modern Islamic art, the ruins of the Coptic monastery of St. Simeon, founded in the 6th century, rock burials in the old Muslim cemetery, ruins on the island of Elephantine (the sanctuary of Satis, the patron goddess of the Nile; only the temple of Khnum, wife of the goddess, is preserved. Elephantine (sanctuary of Satis, the Nile goddess; of the whole complex, only the temple of Khnuma, wife of the goddess, is preserved) and granite quarries, where thousands of years ago they mined stones for building pyramids, palaces of pharaohs and temples. The high coast of Elephantine (Phile Island) is lined with stone slabs, on which the hieroglyphic inscriptions are carved. In this part of the island and began the ancient Aswan. Together with Edfu and Dendera, the temple on Elephantine Island is one of the three best preserved Ptolemaic temples, the temple of Isis being very well preserved. The foundations of the temple “went” underground, and the structure itself was buried under a layer of sand. After excavation and restoration, the temple has become one of the most remarkable monuments in Egypt.

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Dams are now being built on the rivers blocking the way to the stone temple in Abde and the Al Sobu temple on Lake Nasser. The dams built will become part of the road Aswan – Abu Simbel, which will enable a huge number of tourists to visit the restored monuments. The project to strengthen the entrances and reinforce the slabs in the temple of Edfu is expected to be completed. The historic city of Al-Qab, southeast of Edfu, will soon welcome tourists. The Khur-Mahab temple in the Al-Massala area, where ancient decorations and wall inscriptions have been found, will also become part of the tourist itinerary.

The rapids of the Nile

South of the city are the Nile rapids, which make Aswan one of the most scenic spots in the country. There are no bridges over the river in Aswan – many monuments are not accessible except by feluga (traditional Egyptian boat with a sloping sail). Near the pier is still preserved ancient “Nilomer”, which served to measure the level of water in the Nile. On the island of plants (Kitchener Island), laid out a beautiful botanical garden, which grows more than 400 species of subtropical flora, including the world’s largest collection of palm trees (over 100 species).

Aswan Dam

The Aswan Dam (Sadd el-Ali) is another of the city’s, and Egypt’s, landmarks. This unique giant structure 111 m high, 3.8 km long and 1 km wide is often called the “pyramid of the twentieth century. The dam created a gigantic reservoir, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, with an area of 5,200 sq. km. stretching for 510 km. southward through Nubia to Sudan.

Aswan Recreation from A to Z

Aswan is Egypt’s southernmost and one of the world’s most sultry cities and is nestled in a beautiful setting on the banks of the Nile. Speaking of the interest in it tourists should note the fact that it is the smallest town on the Nile, which takes cruise ships. Rest in Aswan – prices, entertainment and attractions – that’s what you can learn about in this article.

Briefly about Aswan

Aswan is a compact tourist town located almost 700 km. from the capital Cairo. Just above Aswan lies the Nasser Reservoir and the hydroscheme of the same name.

The city’s population is just under 300,000 people, many of whom are Nubians who were once stationed there when they left their homeland flooded by Lake Neser.

Interesting! In and around the city there are many granite quarries, they produce the material for the lion’s share of obelisks, which can be seen in Luxor.

Features of the climate

In one of the hottest cities in the world the daytime temperature during the year rarely drops below 21 degrees. January is the coldest month. During the summer the thermometer rises to 41⁰С.

Given that Aswan is not a beach resort, it is better to plan a trip for the coolest months, because it will avoid health problems caused by overheating.

How to get there?

By plane

Aswan can be reached by plane from Cairo, with flights on this route six times a day, or by a daily flight from Luxor. The International Airport which is 25 km. away from Aswan has no connection to the city by bus. Therefore you will have to take a cab from the airport, the price should be negotiated in advance, in 2022 the normal price is 60-70 LE, although eloquence and talent for bargaining can reduce the price to the mark of 40 pounds.

By bus.

This mode of transport connects Aswan with Cairo, Egypt’s capital, and Hurghada, popular with Russians.

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The disadvantage of both routes is the length of the journey.

From Cairo, the ticket price – 90 pounds, the fare applies to local residents, the tourist often pays 10-20 percent more expensive.

The place of departure is the capital’s main bus station Al-torjoman. The time of departure is 17:00. On the way will have to spend a whole night, the approximate time of arrival in Aswan – 9:00.

From Hurghada, the traveler can get in about 8 hours, the ticket will cost from 50 Egyptian pounds. The inconvenience is that Hurghada is not the starting point of the route, the bus follows from Suez, so it is almost impossible to determine exactly what time the departure will happen, as well as the chance to take a seat is not great.

By train

This is probably the most interesting option. The station is quite modern, located in the north of the city, there are daily trains from Cairo. The night trains are very convenient. Flight 84 departs from Cairo via Luxor to Aswan and flight 85 departs in the opposite direction.

Flight 84 departs at 8:00 p.m., arrives in Luxor at 5:00 a.m., and 15 minutes later begins its journey to Aswan, which it reaches at 8:15. The price of the ticket depends on the compartment option. A double seat costs $65 per person; a single seat costs $105.

In the opposite direction, the same fares apply. Departure time from Aswan is 18:30, from Luxor is 21:30, arrival in Cairo is 6:45.

By ferry

This mostly sightseeing route connects the city with Luxor. On such a cruise will have to spend 3-4 nights.

By the way, the ferry links Aswan with another iconic Egyptian town – Abu Simbel, where the unique temple complex of Ramses II. The route runs along the smooth surface of the Neser Reservoir.

How to get around the city

A distinctive feature of the city is its compactness. Therefore, the walking method of movement here will be relevant. If you want to see the Philae Island or the Aswan Hydroelectric Complex, you can hire a horse-drawn carriage, a felucca, or a less exotic cab.

Where to Stay

Aswan has a wide variety of options, varying in price and comfort level.

The most budget-friendly is a double room in the Otasho Nile View house, located 750 meters from the city center. Its price starts from 15 euros. According to the reviews of guests, and at a slightly higher price of 16 euros a room at El-amin Guest House would be much better.

It is worth noting that if you are guided by the reviews of tourists, there are not so many hotels with high value among the leaders of the rating. Over 9 on a scale of 10 received only one 5-star hotel – Sofitel Legend Old Cataract, for a spacious room in which you have to pay 170 euros. More economical options with excellent scores:

  • Battota Nubian Guest House, a room for two for 18 euros;
  • Ashry Narty, a complex located 5 kilometers from the city center, the room costs 56 euros;
  • Nubian Lotus – 32 euros;
  • The Mango Guest House 20 Euros;
  • Kato Dool Nubian House – 42 euros.

The prices are per room for double occupancy.

Where to eat

Aswan has a good selection of restaurants, so everyone can choose the cuisine to their liking. Here are just a few of them:

  1. Al-Masry Restauran, where you can have chicken, pigeons, and a delicious kebab for between 8 and 30 LE for lunch.
  2. Aswan Moon is one of the fish restaurants on the Nile promenade, where in addition to fresh seafood and tasty crab soup you can eat pizza or kebabs.
  3. Panorama, an institution on the Nile promenade, where you can try Egyptian roasts in clay pots.
  4. Biti Pizza, serving pizza with an Egyptian twist with a puff pastry base.
  5. Nubian House, an institution famous for its stunning view, is worth going here to have a cup of tea or order a hookah.
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As for alcohol, here in many places you can find beer in the menu. The fact that in the city there is not such a strict ban on alcohol.

What to see in Aswan?

Aswan is a fairly compact town, the attractions of which can be quite bypassed on foot. However, if you want to drive through the center by cab, it will cost about 15 LE.

Nubian Museum

Created under the auspices of UNESCO, the museum has the idea of preserving the cultural heritage of areas that have gone under water due to the construction of dams.

The museum complex is not only exhibition halls, there is an educational center and park area, where there is even a river with waterfalls, which was created by the hands of landscape designers.

The building where the exhibits are displayed is also interesting – it rises on a rock and the façade is made in a mixed style, it combines elements of modern and traditional Nubian architecture.

As for the internal organization, at the entrance to the main hall, visitors are greeted by a model of the Nile Valley where the main monuments are mapped. All the exhibits are displayed in chronological order, which allows you to trace the development of Nubia from antiquity to the time of the flood.

The museum is located in the southern part of the city and is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm, but has a break from 1 to 4 pm. The ticket costs about 8 euros.

Open Air Museum

Under this collective name, Aswan concentrates several archaeological finds that cannot be moved indoors:

    The Unfinished Obelisk, the largest obelisk known today, was discovered in the stone quarry area. Its creation is believed to be connected with the name of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. According to Egyptologists, if the construction had been completed, the monument would have weighed about 1,200 tons and would have been over 40 meters high. The obelisk was carved directly from the bedrock of granite, but its lower part remained in one piece with the rock. Scientists believe that the cause of the interruption was a crack. The significance of this find is that scientists have a chance to see what techniques were used in ancient times for processing stone.

All these sites are under state protection.

Fatimid Cemetery

This site is close to the Unfinished Obelisk and the Nubian Museum. It is in a dilapidated state and demonstrates the former glory of the Fatimid Caliphate.

Entrance to the site is free. However, on the cemetery grounds are not uncommon to meet local children who are quite aggressive towards tourists.

Botanic Garden

The garden, located in the southern part of the Nile embankment, the entrance here is free, so you should not miss the opportunity to take a break from the exhausting heat in some shady areas. The park is one of the most beautiful walking areas of the town.

The tombs of the nobility

To get to the tombs, carved out directly in the rock, you have to use the city ferry or felucca. To do so you must reach the north pier. Ferries start running at 6:00.

The Tombs

The tombs can be reached by ladders and paths winding up the slopes. The most interesting tombs are those marked numbers 31, 34-36, and 25-26. As you explore the vestibules, halls and chapels, it is worth paying attention to the drawings on the walls. They very vividly describe fragments of the life of the masters in various spheres of activity.

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After passing through all the tombs, it is worth lingering at the top and admiring the panorama of the city.

The tombs can be visited daily from 7 am to 5 pm. Entrance is about 2 euros.

Ruins of St. Simeon Monastery

The Coptic Monastery on the west bank of Aswan was built in the 7th century but was completely deserted after 6 centuries. Today there is nothing reminiscent of the religiousness of the site, it looks more like an ancient fortress, abandoned in the desert.

To the shore tourists usually deliver feluccas, and then you can walk or ride on a “ship of the desert”, you can hire a camel, paying about 5 euros. By the way, if you choose to walk on a camel and you have not yet visited the tombs of the nobility, then pay a little extra the owner of the animal and he will take you from the monastery in the desert directly to another attraction.

The monastery is open from 7 am till 4 pm and for 3 Euros the monastery keeper will take you through all parts of the building.

Aga Khan Mausoleum

The Aga Khan is a significant figure in the Islamic religious world. After his death and his placement in the mausoleum, the site became a target for a huge number of pilgrims, and as a result the state authorities denied access to the tomb for visits. Therefore, for a little over a dozen years, a trip to the mausoleum is an opportunity to see the building itself and the picturesque surrounding area.

Near the shore is a beautiful white villa building, surrounded by a garden that you can stroll through.

Attractions in the neighborhood

More often than not, tourists who come to Aswan are primarily interested in the sights around Aswan:

  1. Phile Island, with temples located there, legends claim that this is where Osiris was buried;
  2. The Aswan Dam, a hydraulic structure, the largest in Egypt;
  3. The islands of Elephantine, Kitchener and Seheil.

And of course Aswan, it is the last major settlement on the road to the greatest temples at Abu Simbel.

Philae Island.

The main treasure of the island are the architectural structures of the Ptolemaic period. Phile is the largest island, with such structures. Here are the temples of Nektaneb First, Isis and Hathor, as well as the pavilion of Trajan.

The most cultic Egyptians consider the temple of Isis, built in 350 BC.

The temple complex of Philae Island suffered considerably from flooding. In the 1980s, the temples were dismantled. An exact copy of the complex was erected on Ajalkija Island. Now on the island of Philae tourists can not only touch the ancient Egyptian architecture and atmosphere. Here you can see the colorful LED show, the main idea is the history of the temple complex. You can visit the island as part of a tour or on your own. The ticket price is 60 LE. It takes 10 minutes to get to the island on the Nile by felucca.

Aswan Dam

Egyptians are proud of this construction, designed, by the way, by Soviet engineers, because with its construction the country switched to year-round irrigation of its territories. However, it was its construction that caused serious damage to many ancient structures located along the waterway.

The scale of the dam is impressive: 40 meters wide and 4,000 meters long. Walking along the dam, it is not possible to assess the scale of the dam in height because of the erected fence. But it is from here you can see the huge power plant, with a capacity of 2,000 megawatts, enjoy the opening views of the Kalabsha temple behind Lake Nasser.

Near the dam, you can visit the Soviet-Egyptian Memorial, built in honor of the Soviet citizens who helped the Egyptian people build the dam. There is a small observation deck on the roof of the memorial, created in the form of a lotus of enormous size, which seats no more than 4 people at a time, with a spectacular view of the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser.

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The dam can only be visited as part of a tour. Opening hours are from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Taxi ride from Aswan is 30 LE, entrance fee is also 30 LE.

Calabash Temple

Just like the Phile Island structures, the temple buildings have been relocated as part of a UNESCO historic preservation project. The main building was erected to glorify the Nubian god of fertility and the sun during the reign of Octavian Augustus.

Also of interest are the Kirtasi Pavilion and the Temple of Beit el Vali, built by Ramses the Second.

Elephantine Island

Elephantine is an island where you can see fragments of the Temple of Khnum, dating back to the Middle Kingdom. In the south of the island, look at the ruins of the temple, created by Nektaneb the second.

In addition, the island is interesting to visit two Nubian villages and the Aswan Museum, which houses a famous exhibit, the Nilometer.

On the island there are also the ruins of Abu, formerly a large city and now a cleared labyrinth, where there are the remains of various stone buildings dating back to the Greco-Roman period.

A little more about the island is in the video:

Kitchener Island

The entire island is the best parkland in Aswan, a true tropical summer. It dates back to the 19th century and today there are more than 400 different species of flowers, trees and shrubs, including 100 species of palm trees.

You can get to the island from Elefantina, using the felucca or the boat.

Access to the park is from 7 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is 1 euro.

The island of Sehale

The island of Sehale

Located north of the Aswan Dam. It attracts several Nubian villages and hospitable inhabitants. There is also the Stela of the Hunger with over two hundred inscriptions from the 18th Dynasty.

What to do in Aswan?

If you have seen the sights and do not have time to sit in a hotel room, you can rent a bike and ride over the new bridge, or you can take a cruise on the felucca, two hours of travel around the nearby islands will not cost more than 50 LE.

Visiting local markets, such as Shariya el-Suk, is an opportunity to experience the exotic atmosphere and to buy Nubian goods at very low prices. A distinctive feature of the local markets is the absence of excessive pushiness of local vendors. However, you must remember to haggle and compare prices in different stalls.

You can buy souvenirs of your trip:

  • Talismans;
  • Sudanese swords;
  • Masks;
  • Elements of national clothing.

What else you should know about a vacation in Aswan

  1. Safety The city can be described as quite safe. Locals outside the tourist areas are friendly and honest. But being in the markets there is a chance to become a victim of a pickpocket, so watch where you carry cash and control your belongings.
  2. Travel with children. Aswan is not the city in which you should take small children. The reason is rather hot climate and almost total absence of suitable infrastructure and entertainment.

Holidays in Aswan is an opportunity to get to know Egypt from a completely different side than if you visit only seaside resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh. The connection to antiquity and the openness of the locals is what makes it worth coming to this sultry city.

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