Travel Guide Africa Egypt Aswan



The Nile at Aswan

The Nile at Aswan

© pranavc

A bustling market town on the bank of the Nile in the south of Egypt, Aswan is worth a visit to wander around the stalls and sail upriver to the Temple of Philae, as well as being the start-point for trips to spectacular Abu Simbel.



Sights and Activities

Tombs of the Nobles & Kubbet al Hawa

The northern hills of the west bank (Kubbet al-Hawa meaning windy dome) 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.

Nubian museum

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 1960's 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.

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

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 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.

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.

Monastery of St. Simeon

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.

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.

Unfinished obelisk

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.

Abu Simbel; the world 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 kilometres 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 metres 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.

Temple 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 temple near 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.

The double temple of Kom Ombo

Located in the town of Kom-Ombo, about 45 kilometres 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.

Other Sights and Activities

  • The Spice Markets around the town centre.
  • Camel Market of Daraw is just 8 kilometres south of Kom Ombo. 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.



Events and Festivals

The Abu Simbel Festival

The Abu Simbel Festival celebrates one of the most incredible sights in the world, the temple of Abu Simbel. The temple was designed so that twice a year the inner sanctum would light up and create an amazing spectacle. It's a breathtaking sight and together with the music, food and dance accompanying the festival, it is a day not to be missed.




Aswan is a very dry and sunny places with no rain whatsoever, making it one of the driest places on earth. Temperatures between November and February are pleasantly warm, between 23 °C and 28 °C, while average daytime temperatures in summer are above 40 °C, but records of 51 °C have been measured here!

Avg Max22.9 °C25.2 °C29.5 °C34.9 °C38.9 °C41.4 °C41.1 °C40.9 °C39.3 °C35.9 °C29.1 °C24.3 °C
Avg Min8.7 °C10.2 °C13.8 °C18.9 °C23 °C25.2 °C26 °C25.8 °C24 °C20.6 °C15 °C10.5 °C
Rain Days00000.1000.500.2500



Getting There

By Plane

Aswan International Airport (ASW) has several flights. There are frequent flights with Egyptair between Cairo and Aswan (about 1.5 hours). It also has flights to Luxor and Abu Simbel. Astraeus flies to and from London-Gatwick. Air Memphis flies to Abu Simbel, Iberworld to Madrid and Lotus Air flies to Cairo as well.

By Train

There are direct trains from Cairo and Luxor to Aswan with Egyptian National Railways.

By Boat

Feluccas and steamboats run from Luxor to Aswan and to points in between. Check the current security situation - travel on feluccas was recently not recommended beyond Kom Ombo due to the risk posed by terrorist activity.



Getting Around

By Foot

Aswan is a small town and can easily be explored on foot.

By Boat

As well as the Nile ferry, which docks at Elephantine Island, it is possible to hire boats to local destinations including the Temple of Philae.





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Keep Connected


Internet access is easy to find and cheap. Most cities, such as Greater Cairo and Luxor, and even smaller tourist sites, such as Edfu, boast a plethora of small internet cafés. The price per hour is usually EGP 2-10 depending on the location/speed. In addition, an increasing number of coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies and other locations now provide free wireless internet access. Free wi-fi (Mobilnil) is also available at modern coffee shops such as Cilantro and Costa Coffee, where you obtain access by getting a 2-hour "promotional" card from the waiter, and if you go into almost any McDonald's, you will have access to a free WiFi connection.


See also International Telephone Calls

The international telephone code for Egypt is 20.

Egypt has a reasonably modern telephone service including three GSM mobile service providers. The three mobile phone providers are Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat. Principal centers are located at Alexandria, Cairo, Al Mansurah, Ismailia, Suez, and Tanta. Roaming services are provided, although you should check with your service provider. Be aware that using your home SIM card can be very expensive, especially when using internet services but also calling is much more expensive. Try to get a local SIM card for your cell phone instead. Also, it is possible to purchase tourist mobile phone lines for the duration of your stay, which usually costs around EGP 30.


Egypt Post is the national postal service in Egypt. Services are generally reliable, affordable though pretty slow, even if you send post domestically. International letters and postcards take days, if not weeks if send to the US or Australia. They do have express mail services though, but these are relatively expensive. Opening hours of post officies are mostly from 8:30am to 2:00pm or 3:00pm daily except Friday, when all of them are closed. The central ones might keep longer hours, generally until 8:00pm. You can buy stamps here, or at certain newspaper kiosks. In touristic areas, these are available at many shops as well. For parcels, it's much better to use international courier services such as DHL, TNT, FedEx or UPS.

Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 24.0818
  • Longitude: 32.9108

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