A traditional felouka sailing into the sunset.
Time to pick up our blog series about Egypt again. After sailing away from the temple of Edfu, we reached our halfway point: Aswan. For most of us this meant a little break from all of the temples, although the highlight excursion from Aswan is a visit to the temple of Abu Simbel. Due to high costs, I decided to skip it though. The temple could at that point only be reached by airplane, due to the risk of terrorist attacks over land, and I was a 17 year old student… Needless to say more. I still regret it now, so if you ever get the chance: visit! It’s worth it!
So, what else can you do in Aswan?
- Take a dromedary ride in the desertThe Nile is a big river, flowing alongside the Arabic desert (between the Nile and the Red Sea) and the Sahara, westwards from the Nile. You can take a dromedary ride in the Sahara, up to the mausoleum of the Aga Khan. From that point you have a wonderfull view over the Nile, who is quite wide at Aswan, with several smaller islands spotted in its bedding.
- Take a felouka up to Kitchener island and visit the botanical gardenA boattrip on a traditional felouka is worth it. The botanical garden is a refreshing, shaded spot to spend a quiet afternoon or take a picnic.
- Go shopping in the local soukI found the souk in Aswan much more comfortable than the one up north in Luxor. Vendors were less pushy in Aswan, which made for a more relaxed shopping experience.
Strolling through the souks is also a nice way to observe local life. I mostly remember men smoking water pipes while chatting away in the shade of a cafe. Noteworthy for me at that time were the painted billboards as well.
- Visit the unfinished obeliskYou can visit a stone quarry with an unfinished obelisk, ordered by Queen Hatshepsut (1508–1458 BC), which is nearly a third longer than any other obelisk every erected in Egypt. It would have been 42 m high and the estimated weight is about 1200 tons.
Work on the obelisk was abandoned because the stone began to crack while they were carving it out of the bedrock.
5. Visit the Aswan High Dam
This dam, which was completed in 1968, created the Nasser Lake. The dam stopped the Nile from creating a yearly flood and it generates enough water to irrigate both Egypt and Sudan. The Nasser Lake would have flooded the Abu Simbel temple, who was rescued by Unesco. The entire temple was carved into blocks and relocated about 65 meters above the Nile water level and 200 m further away. It was a massive operation, which cost (at that time!) nearly 40 million dollars.
As you can see, a stopover in Aswan is well worth it. In the next Egyptian blogpost we’ll take you back to the Ancient culture, with a visit to the temple of Kom Ombo.