Travel to Aswan – Favourite Nile-Side Bazaar Town
Aswan usually becomes most visitors’ favourite city after a day or so and it’s easy to see why. The Nile is at its most beautiful here and there’s much to occupy a traveller for a day or two or indeed longer, from exploring the river and its Nubian villages, shopping in the souq to exploring Egypt’s most romantic temples.
Aswan certainly feels like a frontier town located as it is at the gateway to Nubia. The tall, dark-skinned Nubian peoples’ homeland stretches south from Aswan into today’s Sudan. In ancient times the area was a centre for the Pharaonic Cult of Khnum, the ram-headed god. Today its souqs are crammed full of spices, fruit and veg and oriental souvenirs. Felucca captains ply their trade on the elegant Nile-side Corniche whilst women with shopping piled high on their heads catch the ferry back to their villages on the west bank.
Visitors to Aswan have much to occupy several days’ sightseeing. The streets of the souq run for 500 metres or so two blocks inland from the Nile and provide for several hours’ entertainment, shopping for souvenirs or spices. On the west bank of the river lies St Simeon’s, a ruined monastery on the edge of the Western Desert.
For those with a wish to see more Pharaonic wonders both Philae Temple and, further south, the stunning temples at Abu Simbel should be on their list. Kitchener’s Island is home to a beautiful Botanical Garden whilst the Nubian Museum gives a history of these friendly and proud people. Just out of town and usually visited en route to or from the Aswan High Dam is the Unfinished Obelisk.
Aswan itself is small enough to walk around although most sights require you to use some form of transport to get to and from them, requiring some good-humoured if persistent haggling with transport providers. For those that have less time but who don’t want to miss out it’s simple to arrange a sightseeing tour which includes all the major sights. Note that flights to Abu Simbel book up well in advance, so if you want to avoid the 31/2 hour drive each way you should make arrangements before you arrive in Aswan.
Entertainment in Aswan is very low-key. The city has several 5* hotels with occasional floor shows open to non-residents, but for a more authentic experience eschew these in favour of the floating Nileside restaurants along the Corniche. Other options are limited but include chatting with locals over a glass of tea and a sheesha in a coffee-house and a sunset felucca trip on the Nile.
Caleshes can take you the length of the Corniche and taxis further, otherwise Aswan is small enough to explore on foot.
- Atmospheric, laid-back frontier town – quickly becomes most people’s favourite
- Don’t miss the stunning temples at Abu Simbel and Philae
- Enjoy a sunset felucca ride on the Nile