Aug 092013
 

Aswan is the last major city and last railway station in the Southern Part of the Egypt. It is the second important place in Upper Egypt after Luxor. The city mainly serves as the base for a day trip to Abu Simbel Temples, located further 290 kms south,  just 40 kms before Egypt-Sudan Border. Majority of tourist visit Aswan because of this sole purpose only. But there are lot of other tourist attractions in Aswan, that can be enjoyed during the trip to Aswan.

Aswan is also the home of world famous Nile Cruises running on the Nile River between Luxor and Aswan along-with the other famous centers of Ancient Egyptian Civilization that include Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo Temples. Aswan is an authentic place to actually experience the Nubian Culture of Egypt.This post list out some of the major attractions of Aswan City :

Understanding The Location of Tourist Attractions in Aswan: Majority of the hotels in Aswan are located along the Nile Riverfront, famously known as Chorniche El Nile. In this post, I assume that you are staying in a hotel located along the Nile riverfront. So all the locations, modes of transport and travel durations are explained with respect to the Nile River Front. Since the riverfront is many miles long, but majority of hotels are concentrated between Feryl Garden to McDonald Restaurant, lets take Memnon hotel as a reference point.

Graphical Representation of Tourist Attractions in Aswan

Graphical Representation of Tourist Attractions in Aswan

Tourist Attractions in Aswan City can be divided in these different categories:

1. Tourist Attractions on the West Bank and can be covered by walk: These attractions include The Tombs of The Nobles, Quebbet-El-Hawa, Monastery of St. Simeon, Mausoleum of Aga Khan and A Nubian Village. If you are adventurous enough to explore, then no need to hire a car on West Bank.  Public Ferries are available from East Bank to West Bank.

2. Tourist Attractions on the East Bank and can be covered by Walk: Fryal Garden, A Cathedral and Nubian Museum. All can be covered by a 30 minutes walk along the Nile Waterfront.

3. Tourist Attractions in River Island and can be covered by public boats: Elephantine Island, Aswan Museum and Nubian Village, Kitchner Garden. Public Ferries are available from East Bank to these islands.

4. Tourist Attractions that can be covered by a cab only, No choice of Public transport:  Philae Temple, Kalabasha Temple, Aswan High Dam, Unfinished Obelisk, Fatimid Cemetery.  Public Transport in Aswan City is not so great, so better to cover all these attractions by a cab only.

Some of these attractions are worth-visiting, which I will try to list below. Some of the attractions can be ignore, if you are short of time:

Attractions on the West Bank:

Important Point while visiting  the West Bank: Please don’t forget the water bottle.  If you want to explore the West Bank on foot, then it requires a lot of hiking on the hill and walking through the desert. Once you crossed the ticket counter of The Tomb of The Nobles and climb on the hill, you will not find any water source till the monastery of St. Simeon. At St. Simeon, you can get some water, that the security guards use for their drinking purpose (No packed water bottle there also !). Once you crossed the monastery and moved towards the Aga Khan’s Mausoleum, no drinking water till you return the public ferry terminal near entry ticket counter of the Tomb of The Nobles.

1. Tomb of The Nobles:  These tombs are situated on the West Bank of River Nile. They are basically the Egyptian Princes’s tombs dating back to the Old Kingdom. There are some tombs also belonging to the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. These tombs have some nice paintings to describe the daily life in those days. Many of these tombs are closed now because of the renovation work,  and remaining of the open tombs are locked or blocked by the local staff looking for the tips.

Total Time Required: At least 2 hours to walk from one end to other end with proper rest and photography
Best For: Peaceful Environment, Hiking, Nice photography of Nile River and Aswan City
Entry Ticket Cost:  30 EGP
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Tombs of The Nobles, West Bank

Tombs of The Nobles, West Bank

2.  Qubbet el-Hawa : Known as “the dome of the wind”, it is a small dome like structure situated on the top of the sand hill, that houses the noble tombs. It was basically the tomb of a holy man and today, there is nothing to see at this tomb. But hiking to this dome is worth in the sense that it provides an excellent view of Aswan City, Nile River and nearby Nubian Village. It can be considered as the highest point at the West Bank of Aswan.

Total Time Required: At least 20 minutes to climb from the tomb of the nobles
Best For: Peaceful Environment, Hiking, Nice photography of Nile River , Aswan City, Nearby Nubian Village and Desert
Entry Ticket Cost: Clubbed in Tomb of the Nobles ticket
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Qubbet-el-Hawa

Qubbet-el-Hawa

3.  Monastery of St. Simeon:  Situated in the middle of desert, about two and half kilometer away from the Tomb of the Nobles Entry ticket counter,  this mud monastery is an amazing piece of architecture. At the first look, it looks like a huge ruins of mud building, but as you walk from one section to another section inside the monastery premises, you can find the glimpse of its age-old grandeur.

Total Time Required: At least one hour walk from Tomb of the Nobles to the Monastery through the desert. One hour to visit the monastery.
Best For: Peaceful Environment, Walking in the Desert, Nice photography of Desert
Entry Ticket Cost: 25 EGP
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Monastery of St Simeon, West Bank

Monastery of St Simeon, West Bank

4.  Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan:  This can be a biggest surprise for an Indian citizen. When I visited the exterior of this tomb (since entry is not allowed inside for the general public), I thought Aga Khan was an emperor of Egypt in the old days. But later, when I read about this tomb, the biggest surprise is that it is the mausoleum of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (Aga Khan III), the first president of All India Muslim League, who died in 1957. He was a great spiritual leader of Fatimid (Shia) Muslims with his followers all over the world. He built the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India and also started Aga Khan Trophy for horse riding in Ireland.

Total Time Required:  At least 15 walk from the Monastery on a paved road. Mausoleum is closed for the General Public.

Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, West Bank

Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, West Bank

Attractions on the East Bank:

5.  Nubian Museum:  It is deemed as one of the most important museum of Egyptian History and basically related to the history of Nubia, the area between Aswan and Sudan. Like many other prominent places of Upper Egypt, this museum is also the result of UNESCO initiative to save the remains of Egyptian Civilization from the rising water of River Nile due to the construction of Aswan High Dam. During this historical rescue campaign many excavations too place and many items were recovered. Some of those items and antiquities belonging to Geological, Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic era are now safe under the roof of Nubian Museum.

Total Time Required: At least 30 minutes walk from Memnon Hotel. Three hours to visit the museum.
Best For: Learning the details of Nubian Culture, Items belonging to Geological Era, Photography (It is allowed here without flash)
Entry Ticket Cost: 50 EGP
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 01:00 PM and then 05:00 PM  to 09:00 PM in winter or 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM in summer

Nubian Museum, East Bank

Nubian Museum, East Bank

6.  Elephantine Island:  Situated in the middle of Nile River, this island is about 1300 meters long and 400 meters wide. It can be accessed by a short boat-ride from the East Bank. The island houses a Nilometer, Temple of Khnum and Aswan Museum. You can walk peacefully through the small village, full of mud huts and banana tress, which is the home to the local Nubian People.

Total Time Required:  15 minutes walk from Memnon Hotel to Public Ferry Terminal, 10 minutes to cross the river and 2 hours to explore the island.
Best For: Peaceful Environment, Experiencing the Nubian Culture
Entry Ticket Cost:  No ticket required to visit the village.  Aswan Musem: 25 EGP (0900 AM to 0500 PM)

Through the Nubian Village at Elephantine Island

Through the Nubian Village at Elephantine Island

7.  Archangel Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral: This is a very nice cathedral at the beginning of the road going towards The Nubian Museum from Fryal Garden. In the evening, this place become one of the most happening place in Aswan, where you can spend few hours inside the prayer room or chatting to the young boys and girls.

Total Time Required:  20 minutes walk from Memnon Hotel , 10 minutes before Nubian Museum on the same road.
Entry Ticket Cost:  No ticket required.

Archangel Michael's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, East Bank

Archangel Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, East Bank

8.  Aswan High Dam: This is a much shouted dam site of New High Dam built on Nile River in the city of Aswan. Because of this dam, the water level in its reservoir Naseer Lake rose significantly to relocate many ancient temples. Its not look so impressive and really not worth its entry ticket price of 30 EGP.  It is the part of many tour itinerary, but unless, you are a die-hard dam lover, it is not recommended to visit.

Total Time Required:  20 minutes drive from Memnon Hotel.  15 minutes to explore dam site.
Best For: Peaceful Environment and to feel its legacy. However,  I will recommend it to visit.
Entry Ticket Cost: 30 EGP
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Aswan High Dam

Aswan High Dam

9.  Philae Temple: Situated on an island, in the midst of a reservoir of the old Aswan Dam, you have to hire a boat to reach this temple. This temple was once sinking in the rising water of Nile River due to construction of the High Aswan Dam, but later relocated piece by piece to its present location. It is an excellent piece of architecture with beautiful carvings on its wall. Must visit place in Aswan.

Total Time Required:  15 minutes drive from High Dam and 15 minutes drive from Memnon Hotel.  15 minutes to reach the island by a ferry. One hour to visit the temple
Best For:  Excellent Architecture, Beautiful Carvings
Entry Ticket Cost:  50 EGP (and 30 EGP ferry to Philae Temple)
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Philae Temple

Philae Temple

10.  Unfinished Obelisk: Located in a stone quarry, it is the largest known Obelisk of Ancient Egypt. If finished it would have measured around 42 m (approximately 137 feet) and would have weighed nearly 1,200 tons. Its curator began to carve out directly from the bedrocks, but after sometimes a crack appear in the structure, and they abandoned this project. The obelisk is still lied on the ground in the same position and the crack is also visible. With many visible markings of tools on the obelisk, it provides a great opportunity to explore the stone-carving techniques of Ancient Egypt. (Our tour group driver delayed the pick from Philae Temple, so we couldn’t visit this place).

Entry Ticket Cost:  30 EGP
Opening Hours:  09:00 AM to 05:00 PM

Unfinished Obelisk

Unfinished Obelisk

11.  El Corniche Nile: El Corniche Nile is the East Waterfront of Nile River glittering with many hotels and anchored Nile cruises. The waterfront is a perfect place to spend an evening and walk around with the gentle cool breeze blowing on the face. There are many restaurants and food outlets on the waterfront to enjoy the dinner also.

Total Time Required:  One hour to walk along the river.

View of Nile River in The Night

View of Nile River in The Night

A Special Attraction Outside Aswan City:

Abu Simbel Temple: Well, these temples are not in Aswan actually, but they are some 290 kms away in a small city of Abu Simbel,  just 40 kms North of Sudan Border.  Aswan serves as the base for one day trip to these temples.  Majority of the people come to Aswan to take a day trip to Abu Simbel. There is basically two temples at the site. First Big Temple was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the Rameses himself . This is considered as one of the most impressive temple in whole Egypt. Second small temple is temple of Hathor and Neferati; was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s chief consort, Nefertari. (Read here: How to reach Abu Simbel Temples from Aswan City? )

Abu Simbel Temple

Abu Simbel Temple

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  2 Responses to “Interesting Places to Visit in Aswan, Egypt”

  1. Very well described and a good guide

  2. Thanks for the share.It’s not like what we see usually on TV

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