Aswan formerly spelled Assuan, is a city in the south of Egypt, the capital of the Aswan Governorate. Aswan is a busy market and tourist centre located just north of the Aswan Dams on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine.
Aswan is far more relaxed and smaller than Cairo and Luxor. Aswan is the smallest of the three major tourist cities on the Nile. Being the furthest south of the three, it has a large population of Nubian people, mostly resettled from their homeland in the area flooded by Lake Nasser. Aswan is the home of many granite quarries from which most of the Obelisks seen in Luxor were sourced. Aswan was the ancient Egyptians' gateway to Africa.
|TIME ZONE :||EST (UTC+2)|
|LANGUAGE :||Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes|
|RELIGION :||Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%|
|AREA :||(+20) 97|
|ELEVATION :||194 m (636 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||24°05′20″N 32°53′59″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.22
• Female: 49.78
|ETHNIC :||Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4%|
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Aswan Town and the East Bank
- Nubian Museum (opposite the Basma Hotel, south of the Old Cataract Hotel, at the southern edge of Aswan town on Sharia Abtal al-Tahrir - approximately a half hour walk from the city centre.). daily 9AM-9:00PM. Very well organized, features Nubian treasures recovered before the flooding of Nubia.
- Unfinished Obelisk (South of Aswan). The largest known ancient obelisk, carved directly out of bedrock. If finished it would have measured around 42m (120 feet) and would have weighed nearly 1,200 tons.
- Fatimid Cemetery (Southern end of Aswan). The faded former glory of the Fatimid empire can be seen on the crumbling graveyard.
- Ferial Gardens (Southern end of Corniche). When you're in Aswan you'll have to walk along the Kornish Al Nile (Corniche) at least once. It is a pleasant stroll, made even more pleasant by the fact that you can walk right into the Ferial Gardens at its Southern End. They are a park that is as relaxing as it is beautiful.
The River and Islands
- Elephantine Island: Nubian Villages & Aswan Museum. Nubian villages of Siou and Koti occupy this island. Also home to the famous Nilometers and the Temples of Sati, Khnum (ancient rams-head god) and Pepinakht-Heqaib. Movenpick resort is on the island. The Aswan Museum at the southern end of the island houses items found during excavations on Elephantine Island.
Also, be careful of unsolicited tours from locals, which will result in a request for baksheesh. There is regular boat taxi to Elephantine Island run by the locals for only 2LE for one crossing but they will charge more for tourists.
- Aswan Botanical Gardens (On the entirety of Kitcheners Island to the west of Elephantine Island). Lord Kitchener, who owned the 6.8 hectare island in the 1890's converted it to a botanical garden. Filled with birds and hundreds of plant species and palm trees. Accessible via a Felucca tour.
- Seheyl Island (Just north of the old Aswan Dam). 7AM to 4:00PM. Friendly Nubian villages. Well known for its excellent beaded jewelry. Also the location of the Famine Stela. Cliff with more than 200 inscriptions from the 18th dynasty,
- Tombs of the Nobles. 8AM to 4:00PM. 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.
- Note that some locals will hang around the entrance as you climb the hill, and tell you that it's closed and you need a key. They will show you a key, implying that they can help you gain access...for a small fee. Just tell them, "no thanks....just looking", and they should leave you alone.
- Tombs of Mekhu & Sabni - Reliefs show invasion of Nubia
- Tomb of Sarenput II - One of the most beautiful and preserved tombs
- Tomb of Harkhuf - Hieroglyphics
- Tomb of Hekaib - Reliefs show fighting and hunting scenes
- Tomb of Sarenput II - Six pillars decorated with reliefs
- Kubbet al Hawa - Located on the hilltop above the other tombs. Stunning views of the Nile
- Kubbet el-Hawa (on top of the hill above the Tombs of the Nobles). Small shrine / tomb of a local sheikh and holy man. The climb is rewarded with amazing views of Aswan, the Nile river and the surrounding landscape, richly evoked in the translation from the Arabic of the place name, "the dome of the wind'.
- Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan (High up in the west bank). Tomb of the 48th iman of the Islami sect and his wife. Visible from the outside, although closed to the public.
- Monastery of St Simeon. October to May: 8AM-4:00PM; June-September:7:00AM-5:00PM. 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. To get here, ride a camel or walk from the Tombs of the Nobles.
- The High Dam. Despite being a highly important piece of infrastructure, the Aswan High Dam is (to put it delicately) a bit of a letdown even for dam lovers.
- Philae Temple (Agilkia Island). Built to honor Isis, this was the last ancient temple built in the classical Egyptian architectural style. Construction began in approx 690 BC. It was moved from its original location on Philae Island, to its new location on Agilkia Island, after the flooding of Lake Nasser. A major multinational UNESCO team relocated Philae, and a number of other temples that now dot the shores of Lake Nasser. You can see the submerged original island a short distance away, punctuated by the steel columns used in the moving process. Don't miss the Sound and Light show at night, see picture to the right, the least cheesy of the Sound and Light "extravaganzas". On your feet, look out for the extremely creative guards who will do all in their power to get in your photos, or to point out the hieroglpyhs that you can quite clearly see yourself, all for some baksheesh(tip)! Note also the re-use of the temple as a Christian church, with crosses carved into the older hieroglyph reliefs, and images of the Egyptian gods carefully defaced. There are graffiti dating from the 1800s.
- Kalabsha Temple. Like Philae, this temple and its surrounding ruins were moved by UNESCO to save them from the floodwaters of Lake Nasser. The main temple was built to the Nubian fertility and sun god Marul during the rule of Emperor Augustus. Don't miss the Kiosk of Qirtasi and the amazing Temple of Beit al-Wali built by Ramesses II.
- Abu Simbel. Most people use Aswan as a base to see this fantastic temple. There is a convoy that departs at 4AM, and is usually arranged by your tour agent. See Abu Simbel article for more details.
- Aswan International Sculpture Park. Sculptors from around the world exhibit their pieces here every spring for the International Sculpture Symposium. The works are all created in Aswan (on the terrace of the Basma Hotel) and when finished brought to this site and exhibited next to each other within view of the ancient quarry.
Aswan is the ancient city of Swenett, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. Swenett is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptiangoddess with the same name. This goddess later was identified asEileithyia by the Greeks and Lucina by the Romans during their occupation of Ancient Egypt because of the similar association of their goddesses with childbirth, and of which the import is "the opener". The ancient name of the city also is said to be derived from theEgyptian symbol for trade, or market.
Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, Swenett was the first town in the country, and Egypt always was conceived to "open" or begin at Swenett. The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (and north of) the first cataract of the flowing waters, which extend to it from Philae. Navigation to the delta was possible from this location without encountering a barrier.
The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite. They furnished the colossal statues, obelisks, and monolithal shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids; and the traces of the quarrymen who wrought in these 3,000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, 6.5 kilometres (4.0 mi) in length, was cut beside them from Syene to Philae.
Swenett was equally important as a military station as that of a place of traffic. Under every dynasty it was a garrison town; and here tolls and customs were levied on all boats passing southwards and northwards. Around AD 330, the legion stationed here received a bishop from Alexandria; this later became the Coptic Diocese of Syene. The city is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Herodotus, Strabo, Stephanus of Byzantium, Ptolemy, Pliny the Elder, Vitruvius, and it appears on the Antonine Itinerary. It also is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Isaiah.
The latitude of the city that would become Aswan – located at 24° 5′ 23″ – was an object of great interest to the ancient geographers. They believed that it was seated immediately under the tropic, and that on the day of the summer solstice, a vertical staff cast no shadow. They noted that the sun's disc was reflected in a well at noon. This statement is only approximately correct; at the summer solstice, the shadow was only 1/400th of the staff, and so could scarcely be discerned, and the northern limb of the Sun's disc would be nearly vertical. However,Eratosthenes used this information together with measurements of the shadow length on the solstice at Alexandria to perform the first known calculation of the circumference of the Earth.
The Nile is nearly 650 m (0.40 mi) wide above Aswan. From this frontier town to the northern extremity of Egypt, the river flows for more than 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) without bar or cataract. The voyage from Aswan to Alexandria usually took 21 to 28 days in favourable weather.
Aswan has a hot desert climate like the rest of Egypt. Aswan and Luxor have the hottest summer days of any city in Egypt. Aswan is one of the hottest, sunniest and driest cities in the world. Averages high temperatures are consistently above 40 °C (104.0 °F) during summer (June, July, August and also September) while averages low temperatures remain above 25 °C (77.0 °F). Summers are long, prolonged and extremely hot.
Averages high temperatures remain above 23 °C (73.4 °F) during the coldest month of the year while averages low temperatures remain above 8 °C (46.4 °F). Winters are short, brief and extremely warm. Wintertime is very pleasant and enjoyable while summertime is unbearably hot with blazing sunshine although desert heat is dry.
The climate of Aswan is extremely dry year-round, with less than 1 mm (0 in) of average annual precipitation. The desert city is one of the driest ones in the world, and rainfall doesn't occur every year, as of early 2001, the last rain there was seven years earlier. Aswan is one of the least humid cities on the planet, with an average relative humidity of only 26%, with a maximum mean of 42% during winter and a minimum mean of 16% during summer.
The climate of Aswan is extremely clear, bright and sunny year-round, in all seasons, with a low seasonal variation, with about some 4,000 hours of annual sunshine, very close of the maximum theoretical sunshine duration. Aswan is one of the sunniest places on Earth.
|Daily highs (°C)||22.9||25.2||29.5||34.9||38.9||41.4||41.1||40.9||39.3||35.9||29.1||24.3|
|Nightly lows (°C)||8.7||10.2||13.8||18.9||23||25.2||26||25.8||24||20.6||15||10.5|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization|