Aswan

Aswan is a busy market and tourist centre located just north of the Aswan Dam on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine.

Aswan is the ancient city of Swenett, later known as Syene, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. Swenett is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptian goddess with the same name.This goddess later was identified as Eileithyia by the Greeks and Lucina by the Romans during their occupation of Ancient Egypt because of the similar association of their goddesses with childbirth, and of which the import is “the opener”. The ancient name of the city also is said to be derived from the Egyptian symbol for “trade”,or “market”.

Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented themselves toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, and as Swenett was the southernmost town in the country, Egypt always was conceived to “open” or begin at Swenett. The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (and north of) the first cataract of the flowing waters, which extend to it from Philae. Navigation to the delta was possible from this location without encountering a barrier.

The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite. They furnished the colossal statues, obelisks, and monolithal shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids; and the traces of the quarrymen who worked in these 3,000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, 6.5 km (4.0 mi) in length, was cut beside them from Syene to Philae.

The most obvious is Elephantine Island, which is timeless with artifacts dating from pre-Dynastic times onward. It is the largest island in the area. Just beyond Elephantine is Kitchener’s Island (Geziret el-Nabatat). It was named for the British general Haratio Kitchener (185–1916) and was sent to Egypt in 1883 to reorganize the Egyptian army, which he then led against the Sudanese Mahdi. But the island is known for its garden and the exotic plants the Kitchener planted there, and which continue to flourish today.

On the opposite shore (west bank), the cliffs are surmounted by the tomb of a marabut, Qubbet el-Hawwa, who was a local saint. Below are tombs of the local (pharaonic) nobles and dignitaries.

Upriver a bit is the tomb of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan who died in 1957. Known as the Tomb of the Aga Khan, it is beautiful in its simplicity. A road from there leads back to the Coptic Monastery of St Simeon, which was built in the sixth century in honor of Amba Hadra, a local saint.

Just up river a bit, there is also the old Aswan dam, built by the British, which was enlarged, expanded, but unable to control the Nile for irrigation.

Places you can visit in Aswan:

  • Lake Nasser Egypt
  • Aswan souk | Aswan Old Market
  • Kitchener’s Island in Aswan
  • The High Dam in Aswan Egypt
  • Philae Temple, Aswan
  • Elephantine Island
  • Nubian Museum in Aswan
  • The Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan
  • Fishing in Lake Nasser
  • Nubian Villages in Aswan Egypt
  • Philae Sound and Light show
  • Abu Simble TemplesActivites you can do :

To DO

  • Rent a Bike. Bikes available at many hotels. Cross the modern bridge to the east bank and bring back your bicycle afterwards by ferry boat
  • Local Felucca Cruise. Aswan is a great place for a local cruise to the nearby islands. Two hours of felucca trip will cost you between 25-50 EP depends on your negotiation skills. See felucca cruise on the Nile.
  • Trips to Abu Simbel. See Abu Simbel. This is a must!
  • Camel Rides. Grab a felucca captain and they will shuttle you across to the camel marshalling area. Ride the camel to the Monastery of St Simeon

Most Related Tours