A TO Z ABOUT ASWAN

 

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel area is located 280 km south of Aswan. The two temples at Abu Simbel were built by Ramses II, in the 13th century BC.

The big temple, which is known as the Great Temple of Ramses II, was dedicated to the Sun God Re-Herakhte. It’s among the most magnificent monuments in the world. Ramses II built the temple with four colossal statues of himself at the entrance to demonstrate his power and his divine nature.

Nearby lies the small temple of Nefertari, the first wife of Ramses II. Her temple was dedicated to the Goddess Hathor, the wife of the Sun God.

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Accommodation

Aswan offers an abundance of hotels ranging from 1 to 5 stars.

Most hotels are located downtown. Others are located on islands in the archipelago opposite the corniche. There are also many Nubian and cultural houses located in various Nubian villages where tourists can stay overnight.

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Aga Khan Mausoleum

The Mausoleum is located on a hill on the west bank. Mohammed Shah Aga Khan was the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Shiite sect. He succeeded his father in 1885 to become the 48th imam, and he had followers all over the world, especially in India. The Mausoleum is no longer open to the public.

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Archipelago

Flowing through golden desert and around enchanting emerald islands, the Nile forms the lifeline of Aswan and its unique archipelago.

The two major islands are Elephantine, the largest in the archipelago, and Kitchener’s Island with its exotic botanical garden. The islands can be reached by felucca, motorboat, or public ferry. The best way to see the archipelago is by felucca.  

Air Ticket

The most comfortable and fastest way to travel to Aswan is by air from Cairo Airport. The direct flight duration is 80 minutes.

There are many flights running 24-hours a day from Cairo to Aswan on Egypt Air and other Egyptian local airlines.

Try to book a direct flight to Aswan and avoid those transit ones via Luxor. It’s time consuming. For additional information, check the website of Egypt Air www.egyptair.com.  

Airport

Aswan airport is located 20 km outside the city. Taxi cars are available at any time outside the airport. A trip into the city takes 20-30 minutes. Taxi fare is approximately 70 EGP (12 USD).  

Alcoholic Beverages

Aswan as the rest of Egypt is a Muslim city. Most Muslims don’t drink alcohol. It’s therefore difficult to buy alcoholic beverages from the market. The Duty Free, which is located at the southern end of the corniche (same building as the Nile hotel), is one of the few places where you can buy such beverages.

Some restaurants sell take-away local alcoholic beverages to foreign tourists but the prices are higher than the Duty Free shop. The most popular local beers are Stella, Luxor and Sakkara. Some of the local wines are acceptable but nothing to write home about.

If you want to enjoy a nice cold beer after a hectic day, then visit one of the restaurants or coffee shops located on the corniche. Note that not all places serve alcohol so ask before you enter. Upscale restaurants serve alcoholic beverages.  

Bazaar

The old bazaar of Aswan, also known as souk, is located on a street parallel to the southern area of the corniche. It is a lively market full of colourful merchandise and the scent of exotic spices and perfumes.

You want to bring home some “karkede” tea, made from hibiscus flowers? Buy it here. You like cooking? You will find all the ingredients for an exotic meal.

The merchants are very friendly and helpful. Some of them can be a little persuasive but don’t lose your calm and good temper. A smile, a joke and a few kind words will make you a success in the souk.

There are no set prices so a little bargaining is part of the process. Remember that the right price of a product is exactly what you are willing to pay for it.

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Bamiya

Bamiya is a popular national dish in Egypt, including Aswan. It’s a stew prepared with okra, meat; and tomato and onion sauce.  

Camel Ride

In Aswan you have the possibility to ride a camel in different places. The most common spots are:

  • The Tombs of the Nobles. Camel ride to the Tombs and/or Gharb Aswan, a Nubian Village on the west bank.
  • The Monastery of St. Simeon. Camel ride uphill from the west bank to the Monastery.
  • The beach close to Gharb Seheil, a Nubian village. Camel ride from the beach into the village.
Price per camel is about 50 LE.  

Cash Withdrawal

There are many banks on the corniche where it’s possible to withdraw money from their ATM machines. The best ones are at the CIB - Commercial International Bank - located 200 meters north of McDonalds, and BNP Paribas, close to the Isis Corniche hotel.  

Child Price

(entrance fees)

A child price is usually half of the adult price.

A child under 6 years of age has free access to all sites in Egypt.

Between 6 and 12, the child price applies.

12 years and older, a child must have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) to pay a child price.  

Climate

Aswan is Egypt's sunniest city and one of the driest inhabited places in the world. In Nubian villages, they generally do not roof all of the rooms in their houses.

The coldest months are December and January. The temperature can reach 20°C during the day and 5°C during the night.

In summer, especially July and August, the temperature can easily reach 45°C during the day. It's the dead tourist season.  

Convoys

Convoys between Aswan and Abu Simbel are still in force. Tourists can't travel to and from Abu Simbel on their own. They must join a police convoy.

First convoy leaves Aswan at 4 A.M. and arrives in Abu Simbel at 6.45 A.M, and then leaves Abu Simbel at 9 A.M. and arrives in Aswan at noon.

Second convoy leaves Aswan at 11 A.M. and arrives to Abu Simbel at 1.45 P.M, and then leaves Abu Simbel at 4 P.M. and arrives back in Aswan at about 7 P.M.  

Cruise Ships

There is an abundance of Nile cruise ships that leave Aswan to Luxor on daily basis. There are packages for all budgets. A cruise duration takes between 2 and 7 days.

There are also cruises on Lake Nasser. You can either start from Aswan High Dam and end at Abu Simbel or vice versa. A cruise journey on Lake Nasser takes 3 or 4 days.

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Dahabiya

It's the traditional means of transportation for long distances on the Nile.

A dahabiya has usually two sails and is bigger than a felucca. It's equipped with a few cabins and their bathrooms, up to six.

Modern dahabiyas are often accompanied by a motor vessel that pulls it when there isn't enough wind.

Sailing on a dahabiya is by far the most authentic way to explore the Nile. However the good dahabiyas are rather expensive, sometimes more expensive than the upscale deluxe cruise ships.

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Dress Code

Aswan, as the rest of Egypt, is a conservative society.

Egyptian men don't walk around wearing shorts. Most Egyptian women, especially Muslims, wear headscarves and keep their neck, ankles and wrists covered.

As a tourist, it’s highly recommended that you understand and respect those customs in order to avoid any unpleasant situation. You don’t want to offend the very people you’re visiting!

Dress modestly, especially when visiting places such as mosques or bazaars. Men should avoid walking topless and women should cover their legs and upper arms. Public displays of affection are not acceptable.

The picture is different on board of cruise ships and upscale hotels. You may wear whatever you like, especially by the swimming pools.

Note that in December and January the temperature drops quickly after sunset and it gets chilly in the evening so pack warm clothes.  

Duty Free

The duty free is located at the southern end of the corniche (same building as the Nile hotel). They sell mostly local and imported alcoholic beverages.  

Edfu

The town of Edfu is located on the east bank of the Nile River between Aswan and Luxor.

The Temple of Edfu, which is the second largest temple after Karnak in Luxor, was built over 180 years, between 237 and 57 BC, during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. It was dedicated to the Falcon God Horus, the Elder.

The site can be reached either by car from Luxor or Aswan (day tour), or by felucca (3-day trip from Aswan), or by Dahabiya/cruise ship (several days cruise).

Enrance fees as from July 2013:
Adult - LE 60
Child - LE 30 

Elephantine Island

Elephantine is the largest island in the Aswan archipelago with many traces of its ancient history. It’s located 150 meters opposite the corniche.

In addition to the archaeological site, the island today is a part of the modern Egyptian city of Aswan and it houses:

  • the Aswan Museum at the southern extreme of the island.
  • a sizable population of Nubians in three villages in the middle.
  • a large, dominating luxury hotel at the downstream, northern end.
The island can be reached by felucca, motorboat, or public ferry.

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Entrance fees

(as from July 2013. In Egyptian pound LE.)

  • Abu Simbel
    Adult: 100
    Child: 50
  • Aswan Museum
    Adult: 35
    Child: 15
  • Edfu Temple
    Adult: 60
    Child: 30
  • Kalabsha Temple
    Adult: 40
    Child: 20
  • Kom Ombo Temple
    Adult: 40
    Child: 20
  • Nubian Museum
    Adult: 60
    Child: 30
  • Philae Temple
    Adult: 60
    Child: 30
  • Tombs of the Nobels
    Adult: 40
    Child: 20
  • Unfinished Obelisk
    Adult: 40
    Child:20
 

Felucca

A felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat used particularly along the Nile in Egypt. Its rig consists of one lateen sail.

There is no better way to become acquainted with the mysteries of Egypt and to explore the wonders of the Nile than by sailing in a felucca.

Nowadays feluccas are made of metal covered with wood on the inside and can measure up to 12-13 meters.

Feluccas depend a great deal on the wind since they are not equipped with motors. It’s therefore difficult to set a fixed period of time especially for long trips to Edfu. A programme is usually tailor-made according to the wishes of the passengers. However, there is a sailing route that should be followed.

In Aswan there is an abundance of felucca captains who are willing to take you on a short sailing trip around the archipelago, or a longer trip along the Nile to Kom Ombo, Edfu, or Esna. It’s enough to take a short walk on the corniche and you’ll be approached by many captains.

The Tourist Office in Aswan is also a place where you can get help about sailing along the Nile in a felucca. Although the office has a set of maximum prices, the real market prices fluctuate according to the season. It’s more expensive to book a sailing trip in winter than in summer.

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Food

(see Nubian cuisine)  

Granite

Aswan was known for its abundance of granite. Colossal statues, obelisks, and shrines that are found throughout Egypt were constructed from granite transported from Aswan.  

Hygiene

Here are some pieces of advice that might help you in preventing stomach problems. Most importantly, trust your instincts.

  • Eat at upscale restaurants/hotels or any other places that look and feel clean. Avoid street food.
  • Wash your hands often or use antibacterial hand cleanser especially after touching money or before eating.
  • Avoid drinking tap water or adding ice to your drink.
  • Don’t drink directly from a can. If so, wash the can well before drinking.
  • Wash fruits that you usually eat with your hands such as apples, oranges, and bananas. Peel them yourself.
  • Drink enough water to avoid dehydration.
  • On board of a felucca make sure that the Nile water is not used as a source for preparing food/hot drinks or washing utensils. In one word, don't use the Nile water for anything.
Remember that human bodies react differently to germs and bacteria. If you know that you have a sensitive stomach, then be more cautious and don’t take chances. Else, don't exaggerate and have fun!  

Kalabsha Temple

Kalabsha Temple is located close to Lake Nasser, near the western end of Aswan High Dam. It was dedicated to the God Mandulis.

The site can be reached by motorboat only.

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Karkadeh

Karkadeh is a popular drink made of hibiscus flowers. It can be consumed hot or cold.  

Kitchener’s Island

Kitchener's Island, known also as the Botanical Garden, is a small, oval-shaped island in the Aswan archipelago. It's located between Elephantine Island and the west bank of the Nile.

The island was given to Lord Kitchener as a thank-you for his services in the Sudan Campaign (1896-1898).

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Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo is located 45 km north of Aswan, on the way to Luxor.

Many Nubians, who were displaced by Lake Nasser in the south, have settled in and around Kom Ombo.

The Temple of Haroeris and Sobek, known as Kom Ombo, is actually two temples. It was built during the Ptolemaic dynasty. It stands upon the top of a high dune on the east bank of the Nile.

The site can be reached by car from Luxor or Aswan (day tour), felucca (2-day trip from Aswan), or cruise ship/Dahabiya (several days cruise).

Enrance fees as from July 2013
Adult: LE 40
Child: LE 20  

Kushari

Kushari is a popular national dish in Egypt, including Aswan. It’s a mixture of boiled brown lentils, pasta, rice, and chickpeas topped with spicy tomato sauce and roasted onions.  

Moloukhiya

Moloukhiya is the most popular national dish in Egypt. It’s a green soup made from finely chopped Jew's Mallow leaves. It’s either served as a soup only, or with chicken or rabbit meat and rice.
 

Money Exchange

You can easily exchange major currencies (based on the daily rate) in Aswan at most banks or exchange offices.

In fact, it's better to buy Egyptian money in Egypt. You get a better rate.  

Motorboat

Motorboats are popular in Aswan as a means of transportation to islands and villages on the west bank. Motorboats are faster than feluccas that depend a great deal on the wind.

However motorboats are noisy and unpleasant for long trips. Feluccas are a better choice.  

Mosquito Repellent

If your skin is attractive to mosquitoes then you should consider using a repellent. There is a local brand in Egypt called OFF. You can find it at any local pharmacy. It costs about 30 LE and it’s effective.  

Nubia

The southern area of Aswan and its surroundings was known as the country of Nubia in ancient times. It’s a city that witnessed many civilisations come and go since prehistoric times. It has however preserved its original traditional heritage.

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Nubian Cuisine

Today, the integration of many communities together in Egypt led to the adaptation of new forms of national dishes. Besides, most of the traditional food is prepared with modern machines, stoves and utensils. The Nubian cuisine is no exception to this development. As a result, the old traditional Nubian cuisine has almost vanished and only elderly people still remember the names of dishes that they used to eat in their childhoods.

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Nubia Museum

With the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960’s, monuments and villages in the Nile Valley of Nubia were threatened with submersion under the rising waters of the reservoir (Lake Nasser).

To rescue this important and ancient heritage, the Egyptian government appealed to the United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) seeking help.

As a result, an immense international apparatus was formed to excavate and record hundreds of sites. Due to the importance of the material that was recovered from tombs, temples and settlements, UNESCO planned a museum in Aswan to exhibit the unique Nubian heritage. The museum is known as the Nubia Museum and it opens until late in the evening (about 9 P.M.).

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Nubian Villages

Nubian villages are found in and around Aswan. A couple of them are located only 150 meters from the corniche on Elephantine Island in the Aswan archipelago.

Other interesting villages are located on the west bank of the Nile and can be reached by boats or cars.

A famous village is Gharb Seheil located near the old dam, south of the archipelago on the west bank. It can be reached by motorboat or car via the old dam.

Another famous Nubian village is Gharb Aswan, north of the Tombs of the Nobles. It can be reached by motorboat or public ferry opposite McDonald's.

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Nubian Lifestyle

Nubians live in houses painted with bright colours. Traditionally, the floor was made of sand and not all the rooms were roofed. Protection against rain is not a priority since Aswan is one of the driest places in the world.

Nubians are friendly and hospitable. They often invite you to their homes for a cup of tea or “Karkade”, a drink made of hibiscus flowers. Many would happily show you their handicrafts.

They sometimes invite you to taste their unique “Shamsi” bread which has a special baking technique. The bakers, usually the women of the village, let the dough rise in the sun before baking it. Some connoisseurs claim that the “Shamsi” bread is one of the best kinds of bread in the world.

After such hospitality, a reciprocal gesture of generosity is not necessary but would certainly be appreciated!

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Philae Temple

Philae Temple is actually many temples dedicated to more that one God. However, the main and largest temple in the complex was dedicated to the Goddess Isis, who was the wife and sister of Osiris and the mother of Horus, the falcon God.

Isis temple with its huge pylons and beautiful scenes is considered as one of Egypt’s greatest temples.

Philae Temple was originally located on an island known as Philae, in the Nile Valley south of Aswan. After the construction of the old dam in 1906, the temple was partly submerged under the rising waters.

As a result, it was moved to its present location on an island called Agilika, The site can be reached by car and motorboat.

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Prices

The right price of a product is exactly what you are willing to pay for it. If you think that a price is high, which is often the case, then bargain until you’re satisfied.  

Restaurants

Aswan offers an abundance of restaurants and coffee shops where you can enjoy a nice meal or a cold beer after a hectic day.

Another way to experience the magic of Aswan and to enjoy an exotic atmosphere is to eat at a Nubian restaurant serving exotic food.  

Sailing

The most exotic way to discover the beauty of Aswan and the Nile is sailing in a felucca. It’s one-in-a-lifetime experience.

It might be a short trip of a few hours around the archipelago and the major sites of Aswan, or a longer voyage of several days to destinations downstream, like Kom Ombo and Edfu.

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St. Simeon Monastery

The abandoned Monastery of St. Simeon is one of the largest and best preserved Coptic monasteries of all Egypt.

The monastery is located on a hill on the west bank near the Aga Khan Mausoleum and was once inhabited by thousands of residents.

The Monastery can be reached by felucca or motorboat. It can also be also reached by car via the old dam but it's a long drive.

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Sightseeing

read places to visit >

Shamsi Bread

In Aswan, there is a special kind of bread called Shamsi. The bakers, usually the women of the village, let the dough rise in the sun before baking it.

Some connoisseurs claim that the Shamsi bread is one of the best kinds of bread in the world. The Nubian House restaurant in Aswan serves fresh Shamsi bread.  

Sleeper Train

Special trains for foreign tourists from Cairo to Aswan (and vice versa).

Those trains leave in the evening, at around 7 P.M, and take 14 hours to reach Aswan. Each sleeping compartment can take 2 persons. Booking can be done either at Ramsis Central Station in Cairo or at the train station in Aswan.

Price of a one-way ticket is approximately 60-65 USD per person including dinner and breakfast. Tickets are paid in USD and you need to show your passport when you book. 

Souvenirs

The best place to buy souvenirs in Aswan is at the old bazaar. See Old Bazaar.  

Swimming

Is it safe to swim in the Nile? Generally speaking, the answer is No.

This is due to the fact that the Nile is polluted by many sources mainly raw sewage from cruise ships and villages, all sorts of garbage, and dead animals.

However the Nile in Aswan, especially south of the city, is cleaner than anywhere else in Egypt and tourists do swim.

If you decide to take a swim after all, then it will be at your own risk.  

Taamiya or Falafel

It’s a popular national dish in Egypt, including Aswan. It’s a deep fried mixture made of beans, parsley, and onions.  

Tagen

Tagen is a kind of stew prepared with onion and tomato sauce, and served in clay pots. It’s popular in Aswan and among the Nubians. It can be prepared with only vegetables or meat or fish.

The best way to eat Tagen is with Shamsi bread or rice.  

Taxi

The best way to commute in Aswan or visit places outside the city is by taxi. Taxi cars are available everywhere at any time of the day.

A taxi fare for a short trip within the city is maximum 20 LE. For a private day tour (5 hours), a taxi fare is about 150 to 200 LE. You have to bargain in order to get a good price. If you prefer a good quality car with A/C, then ask your hotel reception or a local tour operator to arrange one.  

Tombs of the Nobles

Qubbet el-Hawa or the Windy Dome is a hill located on the west bank of the Nile in Aswan. The site is filled with tombs of nobles dating from the Old Kingdom till the Roman Reign period. The hill is illuminated at night and can be seen from the corniche. It’s spectacular.

ThThe best way to reach the site is by felucca or motorboat.

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Tourist Season

The tourist season in Aswan is from the beginning of October till the end of April. During this period the weather is pleasant.  

Train Station

The Train Central Station is located in the middle of Aswan, only 200 meters away from the corniche. Taxi cars are available at any time outside the station. A taxi fare to any hotel downtown is approximately 20 EGP.  

Unfinished Obelisk

The Unfinished Obelisk lies in a granite quarry in Aswan. It’s 42 meters in length and is probably the heaviest obelisk ever cut in Ancient Egypt weighing nearly 1100 tons.

Work on the obelisk started during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. After discovering severe cracks in the rocks, work on the obelisk was abandoned.

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Water

Aswan is the driest area in Egypt. Therefore, you should drink as much water as you can to avoid dehydration. Drink bottled mineral water and avoid tap water.

WELCOME TO ASWAN
an exotic adventure