Sights around Aswan
There is much to discover in and around Aswan!
This southern Egyptian city is therefore worth staying.
Many cultural heritage from the time of the pharaohs is preserved in this area. Along with the interesting Nubian museum they provide a clear picture of the impact of the Nubians at different times in the ancient Egyptian civilization.
Below you will find all the sights in a row, with a brief description:
Tombs of the Nobles
The northern hills of the west bank are filled with the rock-hewn tombs of princes from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. The 6th Dynasty tombs, some of which form linked family complexes, contain important biographical texts. Inside, the tombs are decorated with vivid wall paintings showing scenes of everyday life, hieroglyphic biographies and inscriptions telling of the noblemen's journeys into Africa.
The grave of a local saint. Qubbet al-Hawa means windy dome. It's quite a climb, but you will be rewarded with a fantastic view over the Nile Valley.
St. Simeon Monastery
The history of the monastery of St. Simeon dates back to the 7th century, and survived long as a Christian stronghold of southern Egypt until destroyed by Saladin in 1173. While 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. Apparently, the monastery did not return to its original use after Saladin's destruction.
Mausoleum of the Agha Khan
This is the Mausoleum of the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Shi'ite sect (as were the Fatimid) based principally in India but with followers around the world. It is a very elegant pink granite structure of late 1950 origin, which also resembles the Fatimid tombs in Cairo. Members of this sect consider themselves to be the direct spiritual descendants of the Fatimid. The Mausoleum has an excellent view, including Aga Khan's white villa below.
The botanical gardens on Kitchener island
Kitchner's Island is a botanical garden, filled with exotic plants and trees imported from all over the world. It is a perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in the shade. The island must be reached 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.
Elephantine Island is the largest of the Aswan area islands, and is one of the most ancient sites in Egypt, with artifacts dating to predynastic periods. This is probably due to its location at the first Cataract of the Nile, which provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubia. As an island, it was also easily defensible. In fact, the ancient town located in the southern part of the island was also a fortress through much of it's history. At one time, there was a bridge from the mainland to the island. One of it's main attractions is it's Nilometer. Another major attraction is the ruins of the Temple of Khnum. Don't forget to visit Animalia. It’s called the "unofficial Nubian Museum". It is the small museum of guide Mohamed, who collected all kinds of Nubian products and objects from nature around Aswan and Lake Nasser. You’ll find a lot of information about daily life in Nubia and even connections with the history of the pharaohs.
It is downriver from the First Cataract and the Aswan Low Dam. There are many hieroglyphs on stone - ancient inscriptions in the island's granite boulders, left by travellers marking the start or end of a journey into Nubia and Upper Egypt.
Aswan market (the soukh)
Delicious herbs in all scents and colors; typical African products and the usual tourist trinkets. In a cozy and relaxed atmosphere you can find everything at your leisure.
In November 1997, the long-awaited Nubia Museum opened in Aswan. It has been worth the wait as it displays thousands of antiquities that would have been lost under the waters of Lake Nasser had not a major international effort salavaged them during the 1960s and '70s. Also among the highlights are scenes of Nubian life demonstrated with a range of life-size displays.Sited on high ground, the complex com prising the museum building itself, an open-air exhibition, and an open-air theatre is an impressive achievement. The spacious museum building has three floors. 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.
Much of the red granite used for ancient temples and colossi came from quarries in the Aswan area. 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 Unfinished Obelisk is the largest known ancient obelisk. Finished it would have stood at 42m.
The Aswan Dam
The Aswan High Dam was designed to control the Nile River. The huge dam controls flooding and stores water for times of drought, it is equipped to provide hydroelectric power. These benefits however do not come without a price tag. When the Aswan Dam was built, the country of Nubia was flooded. The Egyptian government made arrangements for the Nubians to be relocated, but their lifestyle was destroyed.
Abu Simbel; famous temples of Ramses
Not only are the two temples at Abu Simbel among the most magnificent monuments in the world, but their removal and reconstruction was an historic event in itself. When the temples (280 km from Aswan) were threatened by submersion in Lake Nasser, due to the construction of the High Dam, the Egyptian Government secured the support of UNESCO and launched a world wide appeal. During the salvage operation which began in 1964 and continued until 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.
Tempel of Isis on Philae island
The Ancient Egyptians built a beautiful and magnificent Temple on this island for the Goddess Isis, but the 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. All these countries, together with UNESCO, selected a suitable place, but they had to wait until the completion of the High Dam, in 1971, which would stabilize the level of the water around their chosen island.
Kalabsha tempel at Lake Nasser
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). Also nearby is Beit al-Wali. It 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.
Double temple of Kom Ombo
Located in the town of Kom-Ombo, about 28 miles north of Aswan, the 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. The Temple known as Kom Ombo is actually two temples consisting of a Temple to Sobek and a Temple of Haroeris.
CROCODILE MUSEUM AND CAMEL MARKET
Crocodile Museum of Kom Ombo
You will find here several mummified crocodiles and an array of eggs and crocodile-related artifacts. The ancient Egyptians believed that gods sent physical manifestations of themselves to earth in the form of their totemic animals.
At the Temple of Kom Ombo a live crocodile was thought to contain a spark of the god within and was worshipped and cared for by the priests during its lifetime. After its death, the spirit of the god would move to another crocodile’s body, while the dead crocodile would be mummified and ceremoniously buried in a special cemetery.
Only 8 km south of Kom Ombo is the camel market. Sometimes up to 2,000 camels are brought to the market, which is usually liveliest on Sundays. Most of the camels come from the Sudan in caravans up to Abu Simbel.