Aswan is located in the south of Egypt, some 680 km (425 miles) south of Cairo, just below the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser. Compared to Cairo and Luxor, Aswan is a far more relaxed, if smaller, alternative as a traveller's destination.
Aswan is the smallest of the three major tourist cities based on the Nile. Being the furthest south of the three, it has a large population of Nubian people, mostly resettled from their homeland in the area flooded by Lake Nasser. Aswan is the home of many granite quarries from which most of the Obelisks seen in Luxor were sourced. Aswan was the ancient Egyptians' gateway to Africa.
An average of six return flights a day are maintained by Egyptair between Aswan and the Egyptian capital Cairo. One morning flight also exists between Luxor and Aswan, the lower frequency reflecting the cities' greater proximity and practical alternatives like train and taxi.
Egypt's train service which runs along the nile extends down to Aswan and is a regular and a good travel alternative.
If you are in Hurghada you can catch a bus from there down to Aswan for less than $7
Hurghada-Aswan is around 300 kilometres but as Egyptian buses aren't always very reliable the trip could take anything from three hours to nine.
Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai --> boat to Hurghada --> bus to Aswan --> approximately $15
Dozens of cruise ships depart from Luxor to Aswan everyday. These can be booked through agents or at the actual ships themselves.
Aswan is compact enough to negotiate primarily on foot. For weary feet or for some of the more far flung attractions (like Philae, the High Dam and the unfinished obelisks) there are other options that include taxis and horse-drawn carriages. Note that to access the sights on the river islands or on the West Bank, you will need to cross the river by motor boat or felluca.
The souqs (markets) in Aswan are refreshingly exotic without the same level of high-pressure selling found in some tourist towns further north - see below in Buy
Aswan Town and the East Bank
- Nubian Museum, located opposite the Basma Hotel, south of the Old Cataract Hotel, at the southern edge of Aswan town on Sharia Abtal al-Tahrir - approximately a half hour walk from the city centre. Entry EGY£20. Camera fee: EGY£10. Open daily 0900-1300 and 1700-2100.
- Unfinished Obelisk, gives a glimpse into the way these structures were constructed.
The River and Islands
- Sehel Island - Well known for its excellent beaded jewelry. Also the location of the Famine Stela. The site is open till 4:00 P.M.
- Elephantine Island - The local Nubian villages of Siou and Koti occupy this island. Also home to the famous Nilometers and the Temples of Sati, Khnum and Pepinakht-Heqaib.
- Kitcheners Island - Also known as Plantation Island: has wonderful botanical gardens amidst the Nile.
- Tombs of the Nobles
- Kubbet el-Hawa - on top of the hill above the Tombs of the Nobles is to be found a small shrine / tomb of a local sheikh and holy man. The climb is rewarded with amazing views of Aswan, the Nile river and the surrounding landscape, richly evoked in the translation from the Arabic of the place name, "the dome of the wind'.
- Mausoleum of the Aga Khan
- Monastery of St Simeon
- The High Dam - The Aswan High Dam is a vast structural locality on the river Nile, just south of the city of Aswan in Egypt. As one of the great (if enduringly controversial) engineering feats of the late 20th century, the Aswan High Dam is a great drawcards for Egyptians and foreign travellers alike.
- Philae Temple - Built to honor Isis, this was the last ancient temple built in the tclassical Egyptian architectural style. Construction began in approx 690 BC. It was moved from its original location on Philae Island, to its new location on Agilkia Island, after the flooding of Lake Nasser. A major multinational UNESCO team relocated Philae, and a number of other temples that now dot the shores of Lake nasser. You can see the submerged original island a short distance away, punctuated by the steel columns used in the moving process. Don't miss the Sound and Light show at night, see picture to the right, the least cheesy of the Sound and Light "extravaganzas". On your feet, look out for the extremely creative guards who will do all in their power to get in your photos, or to point out the hieroglpyhs that you can quite clearly see yourself, all for some baksheesh(tip)! Note also the re-use of the temple as a Christian church, with crosses carved into the older hieroglyph reliefs, and images of the Egyptian gods carefully defaced. There are grafitti dating from the 1800s.
- Kalabsha Temple - Like Philae this temple and its surrounding ruins were moved by UNESCO to save them from the floodwaters of Lake Nasser. The main temple was built to the Nubian fertility and sun god Marul during the rule of Emperor Augustus. Don't miss the Kiosk of Qirtasi and the amazing Temple of Beit al-Wali built by Ramesses II.
- Abu Simbel - Most people use Aswan as a base to see this fantastic temple. There is a convoy that departs at 3am, and is usually arranged by your hotel. See article for more details
- Take a felucca cruise on the Nile at Aswan
- Get on a tour to visit Abu Simbel (must see)
- Take a camel ride to the Monastery of St Simeon. Grab a felucca captain and they will shuttle you across to the camel marshalling area.
- Have tea with the local shopkeepers in the souk. You will get a fascinating insight into their daily lives, and they love to practise their English on you.
You will generally find that Nubian handicrafts are of higher quality and better value in Aswan. All other goods will almost certainly be cheaper as you travel North towards Cairo due to shipping costs to Aswan and the lower tourist demand. Having said that, the Aswan souk is the most charming in Egypt, and deserves your custom, so if you don't mind paying a 5-10% premium in price you should help these struggling shopkeepers and buy from them. There is far less pressure to buy than in other cities.
The Aswan Moon - Situated on pontoons along the Nile, cheap and generally decent food with cheery service, just make sure you have some spare time as they can be a little slow - Hey this is Egypt after all. Be prepared to hear waiter's jokes that are not always funny. The local fish joints near the city market can be excellent -- their fish is fresh, and you can watch it cook. Don't miss the crab soup!
Elephantine Island Resort. Poor quality of food. Stale bread for breakfast... Yummee......
The Old Cataract Hotel is wonderful. Be sure to have a a meal and a beverage on their terrace at sunset, watching the feluccas. Agatha Christie stayed here, and wrote 'Death on the Nile'.
Aswan is much less strict on drinking alcohol than Cairo or Luxor, and many of the restaurants sell Stella (Egyptian brand not the Belgian brand) and Saqqara, both of which are lagers and comparable to European beers.
The terrace bar at the Old Cataract Hotel is open to non-guests for a small fee, so budget travellers can enjoy a drink in luxury.
- The Philae Hotel - A mixed bag. On the upside excellent price, friendly staff, and some of the best views in Egypt(make sure you get a Nile View room). On the downside somewhat rundown rooms, gives you that camping inside feeling, not always plenty of hot water! Still if you are up for a bit of adventure, the Philae Hotel is worth a try!
- Keylany Hotel, Sharia Keylany, Tel. (097) 231 7332, 29 rooms. Cheap and comfortable. Rooms and sheets are very clean unlike many other budget hotels in Egypt. It is located near Nile corniche and the bazaar. WiFi is not free. And you will have to wait for your breakfast for rather long time.
- Noorhan Hotel, off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, doubles from 15 EGP, clean and pleasant with functioning (common) hot shower, self-contained rooms from 20 EGP
- Marwa Hotel, in a small side alley off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, dorms from 6 EGP
- HI Youth Hostel, 96 Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, dorms from 6 EGP
Don't stay on Elephantine Island Resort until the place has been refurbished. We did and it was a shame to see how run down it was
- The Old Cataract Hotel , Abtal El Tahrir Street, tel +20 97/2316000, fax +20 97/2316011, email: mailto:H1666@accor.com - Live it up like the aristocrats of old! Now part of the Sofitel chain of hotels, the Old Cataract Hotel overlooks the Nile River opposite the island of Elephantine. 123 rooms and 8 suites. Standard room from €89, breakfast included.
NB: As of August 2004, Aswan has had its telephone exchange upgraded and an additional "2" must now be added to old 6-digit telephone numbers..... The format for overseas callers, for example, should now be +20 97 2xxx xxx. Mobile phone numbers are unaffected by this change.
Aswan is generally a very safe city. The locals will look after you like a long lost brother, although I hope they don't try to fleece family like they do Tourists! Women should avoid travelling alone if they are not comfortable with leering men, although they are all bluster.
There is so much to do around the Aswan area, that time will be an issue. The local people have been very cooperative, and for a price, doors might remain opened regardless of the hour.
- Aswan is the ideal base for trips to the nearby attractions of the Aswan High Dam and the temple of Philae. A taxi-driven tour to these sites, including a visit to the Unfinished Obelisk, should cost about £30-40 for a small group.
- The little visited Kalabsha Temple is worth a visit if you want to do something a bit different from the Tourists. Kalabsha is another relocated temple from the flooding of Lake Nasser. A short taxi ride from Aswan, not far from Philae Temple. Don't miss the outdoor Museum around the back, along with a small Ramses II tomb.
- Taxi trips can also be taken to the nearby towns of Daraw and Kom Ombo further north on the Nile. Arrange this carefully as a police convoy may well be necessary.
The best way to leave the city of Aswan is by Felucca. This is a traditional sailing boat typical of the region. Felucca trips can be taken all the way to Luxor along the Nile although most people do two or three nights. You sleep on board the boat and have a crew of two who sail the boat and cook the the meals. You can stop and visit the village of Daraw as well as seeing some smaller temples along the way. The most famous of the captains is the Jamaica family. You will have to take the ferry from opposite Thomas Cook over to Elephantine to find them (the house is where you get off the ferry), although if you ask, any of the captains in the main city will "say" they are from Jamaica family. Ask for JJ or give him a call  and he can meet you in the town.
- Further afield lies Abu Simbel.
This page was last edited at 16:13, on 3 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Mark Sheffield, Kevin Gabbert, Nick Roux and Ravikiran Rao, Wikitravel user(s) Merrywanderer and Lakerhaug, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.