So where is Aswan located on the Nile?

Located on the end of the First Cataract, Aswan was remarkable as ancient Egyptian kingdom’s southern frontier. It was used as the garrison town for the military campaigns against Nubia and its quarries supplied stones for the larger than life obelisks and sculptures. In fact, the Unfinished Obelisk is one of the attractions and it is in the heart of an ancient quarry. Technically although Aswan is the third largest city in Egypt, it is often considered by many as a quick stop to begin or end the Nile Cruise. It is a pity because this beautiful Nilotic city has lots to offer including some enchanting natural beauty.

The Nubian heritage

To understand Aswan is to recognize Nubia and its very unique Nubian culture. Everything in Aswan is a bit different from the rest of Egypt and it includes the people. The ancient Egyptian literature refers to Nubia as the land of Cush.  It was from here that luxury goods from Sudan like ebony, ivory, leopard skins and resins were obtained. For thousands of years Nubians have inhabited until the middle reaches of the Nile and their lifestyle revolved around agriculture, fishing, transportation and as professional warriors. In fact, many Pharaohs hired professional Nubian armies and they were famous as great fighters. The original Nubia is written off in the ancient texts as a dry hot land located between the city of Aswan and northern Sudan.

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In aswan do visit the nubian villages

The stunning, yet touristy Gharb Seheyl island in Aswan

What’s happening with the Nubians today?

Today most of the original Nubian land lies beneath the water created by the High Dam Reservoir (Lake Nassar/Lake Nubia). With its construction, an entire population of a hundred twenty thousand people and ancient monuments were relocated. Although with note-worthy UNESCO efforts, the temples were saved from destruction, the relocation of the Nubians remains a sticky, painful affair. Nowadays, the Nubian village of Gharb Seheyl has become a major tourist attraction and its colourful traditional houses stand out like toy buildings on the Nile’s west bank desert. Needless to say, Upper Egypt has a distinctively African essence and its trading traditions are still carried out in the lively local souq. In fact, even the name Aswan is an Arabic corruption of the ancient word swenet which means to trade. Aswan has always been a prosperous trading town until recently when most of its visitors opt for Luxor over this Nubian hub. This makes life in this riverine town slower and sweeter without the aggressive hassling of the Luxor merchants.

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This photo was taken on my first visit to Aswan in 2010. Location – Aswan High Dam

My Aswan visit then and now

I loved our stay in Aswan last year (2018) in winter. It was the perfect place to getaway from Cairo’s freezing weather and Aswan is one of the sunniest places in the world. The days were warm there, free from the warm covers and at night the balmiest Nile breeze breathed into the city. On my last visit, spring produce scented the city with petrichor as donkey carts bearing freshly picked Egyptian garlic trotted on the streets. The earth clinging to the tendril-like roots gave off a cloying smell and it reminded me of good, old, rich earth deposited by the Nile on its banks. In winter, flowers especially lots of Arabian jasmines gave out heady scents and I loved taking it all in on the lovely sunny balcony of our homestay overlooking the Nile.

There is more to Aswan than just the pitstop for the Nile Cruise

There’s more to Aswan than just a Nile Cruise start/endpoint

We stayed at the Elephantine Island which apart from the ugly concrete block like Movenpick Hotel was a strictly residential area. Any motorized vehicle including cars is not allowed on it. The local children play without fear on the main thoroughfares and quintessential Nubian paintings of feluccas, palm trees, and crocodiles decorate the brightly coloured domed houses. It was a very laidback place to be and a few pennies of felucca rides took us to the other parts of Aswan. We stayed there for 3 nights and 4 days and based all our excursions from there. On the first day, we visited the Philae temple, along with the Nubian museum and kept the Aswan town and Tombs of the Noble for the following day. That was a relaxing itinerary because we even managed to visit the Botanical Garden at Kitcherner’s Island and ended our evening at the colourful, touristy Nubian village of Gharb Seheyl. It was a full moon night when we sailed down the Nile on a felucca to Elephantine from Gharb Seheyl and it was epic experience in Aswan. We kept our last day free for shopping, relaxing and eating out, with a day visit to Abu Simbel in a private car the next morning.

Suggested Read: The gorgeous Philae Temple of Aswan

The mind blowing Abu Simbel is a day trip from Aswan

The mind-blowing Abu Simbel is a day trip from Aswan

Ready to get hooked to gorgeous Nubia?
This was our Aswan trip in a nutshell and since photos can speak a thousand words, let me take you on a virtual tour of this fabulous less visited destination in Egypt. Already hooked? Stay tuned for the upcoming Aswan itinerary guide. Start planning your Egypt holiday today and drop me a line if you want any help or advice.