If you want to discover the real Egypt then Aswan is the place to visit. Aswan is the southern-most of the three major cities on the Nile in Egypt and is totally different from the northerly cities of Luxor and Cairo as it has a more relaxed atmosphere with a distinct African feel. This is
mainly because Aswan has a large Nubian population who have their own language and traditions. The Nile gently meanders through the hot desert and palm-lined islands and is a sight to behold. From Elephantine Island to the Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank of the Nile, Aswan offers a wealth of history and culture for visitors to discover. Mausoleums, tombs and monasteries are among the many sights to be visited when in Aswan. Aswan is not as busy as the resorts in Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada therefore accommodation is available for all budgets and you will be able to find a cheap hotel at any time of the year. Most of the hotels here are from the colonial era and not the extensive complexes you find in the more popular touristy resorts.
Most of the city of Aswan lies on the east bank of the Nile and it is here that you experience the amazing bazaar which runs alongside the Corniche (promenade), visit the Cemetery with its Fatimid era tombs or just take a gentle stroll in the Ferial Gardens. On the west bank you can visit the Nubian villages, relax in the botanical gardens on Kitchener Island and visit the Monastery of St Simeon. There are many historical sites to visit including the Aga Khan mausoleum, the Unfinished Obelisk, Kalabsha Temple and the granite quarries. Don’t forget to visit the Old Cataract Hotel where the classic Agatha Christie movie ‘Death on the Nile’ was filmed. The Sound and Light Show at the Philae Temple is an exciting experience not to be missed.
Due to its excellent location on the banks of the Nile, Aswan offers a great opportunity to take a cruise along this beautiful river. There is so
much to see on a riverboat trip along the Nile including Elephantine Island which has been a place of worship since the days of the Pharaohs, Philae Island, Abu Simbel and the largest man-made lake, Lake Nasser. As you drift along the Nile you can take in all the sights and sounds of the city which is particularly lovely at sunset or sunrise.
A must on your visit to Aswan is a trip to the local bazaar where you can test your haggling skills at the stalls selling tradition Egyptian goods like spices, tea, rugs, jewellery, gold, glassware and perfume. An exciting day out is a visit to the weekly market at Darau where you will experience the traditional trading of camels, an amazing sight to see.
Evenings in Aswan are spent at the restaurants and bars of the city, followed by watching Nubian dancers, folklore groups who perform scenes from village life and stick-fight dances. There are many open-air restaurants where you can sample local dishes such as shawarma, koftas and kebabs, all accompanied by hibiscus tea which is a local speciality.
Aswan is the hottest and driest city in Egypt and receives hardly any rainfall at all, maybe less than an inch every five years! The best time to visit is during the winter months from October to April when temperatures reach 24-36C with 10 hours of sunshine a day. November to February are cooler with temperatures varying between 24C and 31C, making sightseeing a much more pleasant experience than in the summer months when temperatures average 40-42C, often reaching the 50C mark.
If you are lucky enough to visit at the end of February or the end of October you should visit the amazing Abu Simbel Sun Festival. This is a celebration of Ramses II and is when shafts of sunlight enter the Abu Simbel Temple and light-up the statue of the pharaoh and the sun gods e-Horakhte and Amen-Re. This spectacular event is a once in a lifetime experience that will remain with you forever. Don’t miss this amazing experience which added together with music, dancing and food is something not to be forgotten.