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Aswan
أسوان
View of Aswan, overlooking the Nile
Aswan is located in Egypt
Aswan
Location in Egypt
Coordinates: 24°05′N 32°56′E / 24.083°N 32.933°E / 24.083; 32.933
Country  Egypt
Governorate Aswan Governorate
Government
 - Governor
Population (2008 (estimate))
 - Total 275,000
Time zone EST (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)

Aswan or Aswanl, formerly spelled Assuan, (Arabic: أسوان‎, Aswān; Ancient Egyptian: Swenet, "Trade"; Coptic: ⲥⲟⲩⲁⲛ, Swān; Ancient Greek: Συήνη, Syene) is a city in the south of Egypt, the capital of the Aswan Governorate.

It stands on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract and is a busy market and tourist center. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine.

Aswan is one of the driest inhabited places in the world; as of early 2001, the last rain there was six years earlier. As of 6 October 2009, the last rainfall was a thunderstorm on May 13, 2006. In Nubian settlements, they generally do not bother to roof all of the rooms in their houses.

Contents

History

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Aswan is the ancient city of Swenet, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt to the south. Swenet is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptian goddess with the same name. This goddess later was identified as Eileithyia 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 the Egyptian symbol for trade.[1]

Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, Swenet was the first town in the country, and Egypt always was conceived to "open" or begin at Swenet. The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (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 3000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, four miles in length, was cut beside them from Syene to Philae.

Swenet 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 southward and northward. Around AD 330, the legion stationed here received a bishop from Alexandria; this later became the Coptic Diocese of Syene.[2] The city is mentioned by numerous ancient writers, including Herodotus (ii. 30), Strabo (ii. p. 133, xvii. p. 797, seq.), Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v.), Ptolemy (vii. 5. § 15, viii. 15. § 15), Pliny the Elder (ii. 73. s. 75, v. 10. s. 11, vi. 29. s. 34), De architectura (book viii. ch ii. § 6), and it appears on the Antonine Itinerary (p. 164). It also is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah from the Scriptures (ref. Ezekiel 29:10).

View of Aswan from the Tombs of the Nobles on the other side of the Nile

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.

Eratosthenes used measurements at Aswan (Elephantine) to contest the Flat Earth theory and tried to determine the circumference of Earth, using Syene as the originating point and Alexandria as the terminal point of a measured arc (based on shadow length at the solstice).

The Nile is nearly 3000 yards wide above Aswan. From this frontier town to the northern extremity of Egypt, the river flows for more than 750 miles without bar or cataract. The voyage from Aswan to Alexandria usually took 21 to 28 days in favourable weather.

Climate

Weather data for Aswan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 38
(100)
39
(102)
43
(109)
46
(115)
48
(118)
51
(124)
51
(124)
49
(120)
47
(117)
44
(111)
42
(108)
37
(99)
51
(124)
Average high °C (°F) 23
(73)
26
(79)
31
(88)
36
(97)
39
(102)
42
(108)
41
(106)
41
(106)
39
(102)
37
(99)
31
(88)
25
(77)
34
(93)
Average low °C (°F) 10
(50)
11
(52)
14
(57)
19
(66)
23
(73)
26
(79)
26
(79)
26
(79)
24
(75)
22
(72)
17
(63)
12
(54)
19
(66)
Record low °C (°F) 3
(37)
2
(36)
6
(43)
9
(48)
11
(52)
20
(68)
21
(70)
19
(66)
17
(63)
14
(57)
6
(43)
4
(39)
2
(36)
Precipitation mm (inches) 0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
Source: BBC Weather [3] 2009-09-11

Education

In 1999, South Valley University was inaugurated and it has three branches; Aswan, Qena and Hurghada. It was the first university in Upper Egypt and it was organized in departmental basis. The university grew steadily and now it is firmly established as a major institution of higher education in Upper Egypt. Aswan branch of Assiut University began in 1973 with the Faculty of Education and in 1975 the Faculty of Science was opened. Aswan branch has five faculties namely; Science, Education, Engineering, Arts, Social Works and Institute of Energy. The Faculty of Science in Aswan has six departments. Each department has one educational programme: Chemistry, Geology, Physics and Zoology. Except Botany Department, which has three educational programmes: Botany, Environmental Sciences and Microbiology; and Mathematics Department, which has two educational programmes: Mathematics and Computer Science. The Faculty of Science awards the following degrees: Bachelor of Science in nine educational programmes, Higher Diploma, Master of Science and Philosophy Doctor of Science. Over 100 academic staff members are employed in the faculty.

Gallery

See also

References

External links

Coordinates: 24°05′N 32°56′E / 24.083°N 32.933°E / 24.083; 32.933

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The River Nile as it passes through Aswan
The River Nile as it passes through Aswan

Aswan is a city in the south of Egypt, some 680km (425 miles) south of Cairo, just below the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, with a population of 1.18 million. Aswan is far more relaxed and smaller than Cairo and Luxor.

Ice Delivery from a Cart
Ice Delivery from a Cart

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.

Get in

By plane

Aswan International Airport is situated 25km SSW of the city, on the west bank and just south of the high dam. Public buses don't go to the airport and security on the approach road to the terminal is tight, so it's probably worth taking a taxi, for which you must agree a price in advance. It is possible to argue the fare down to LE25, but LE30 to LE40 is more realistic (and easier) for most foreigners.

The following airlines operate service to Aswan International Airport: Air Memphis (to/from Abu Simbel), Astraeus (to/from London Gatwick), EgyptAir [1] (to/from Abu Simbel, Cairo, Luxor), Iberworld [2] (to/from Madrid), and LotusAir (to/from Cairo)

By train

Egypt's passenger train service runs along the Nile between Cairo and Aswan. Travel time to Luxor is around 3 hours on 1st/2nd class AC services. Five AC express services depart to Cairo each day, taking 13-14 hours (55LE 2nd class, 109LE 1st class), in addition to the Abela sleeper train (US$60, two trains each evening, one continuing to Alexandria). Tickets sell out so it important to buy a day or two in advance.

Aswan train station is on the northern end of the city centre, a few hundred metres inland from the river. Leave plenty of time to buy tickets, as the service at the counters is slow. Mini buses depart from outside the station (turn right as you exit the terminal), and there are a number of cafes and basic hotels on the blocks between the station and the river.

Railway Station Street
Railway Station Street

By bus

From Hurghada (513km away) buses cost 45LE. Tickets are sold on the bus, but be sure to ask the price at the ticket office, because the ticket seller on the bus will often raise the price 5LE or so and pocket the excess if you are a foreigner.

By boat

Dozens of cruise ships depart from Luxor to Aswan everyday. These can be booked through agents or at the actual ships themselves.

Get around

Aswan is compact enough to negotiate primarily on foot. To access Philae, the High Dam, and the unfinished obelisks, you can take a taxi or a horse-drawn carriage. A taxi excursion to all of these sights should cost 80LE to 100LE per vehicle.

To access the sights on the river islands or on the West Bank, you will need to cross the river by motor boat or felluca. Be sure to pay attention to the price as operators try to overcharge tourists.

Vendor in an Aswan souq
Vendor in an Aswan souq
  • 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.), [3]. daily 9AM-1:00PM and 5:00PM-9:00PM winter, 6:00PM-10:00PM summer. Very well organized, features Nubian treasures recovered before the flooding of Nubia. Adult: 20LE; Student: 10LE.  edit
  • 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. 25LE.  edit
  • 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 (Adult: 25LE, Student 15LE) at the southern end of the island houses items found during escavations 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.   edit
  • 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. 10LE.  edit
  • 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, 65LE.  edit
Desert view of the St Simeon Monastry
Desert view of the St Simeon Monastry
  • 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. Adult: 20LE, Student: 10LE.  edit
    • 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'.  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Monastery of St Simeon. Oct to May: 8AM-4:00PM; Jun-Sep: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. Adult: 20LE, Student: 10LE.  edit
  • 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. 20LE.  edit
  • Philae Temple, (Agilkia Island). Built to honor Isis, this was the last ancient temple built in the 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 grafitti dating from the 1800s.  edit
  • 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.  edit
  • Abu Simbel. Most people use Aswan as a base to see this fantastic temple. There is a convoy that departs at 3AM, and is usually arranged by your hotel. See Abu Simbel article for more details.  edit
Philue Temple
Philue Temple
Aswan Fellucas
Aswan Fellucas
  • Rent a Bike. Bikes available at many hotels. Cross the modern bridge to the east bank and bring back your bicycle afterwards by ferry boat.  edit
  • Local Felucca Cruise. Aswan is a great place for a local cruise to the nearby islands. Two hours of felucca trip will cost you between 25-50 EP depends on your negotiation skills. See felucca cruise on the Nile.  edit
  • Camel Rides. Grab a felucca captain and they will shuttle you across to the camel marshalling area. Ride the camel to the Monastery of St Simeon.  edit
  • Tea with the Local Shopkeepers. You will get a fascinating insight into their daily lives, and they love to practise their English on you.  edit

Buy

The souqs (markets) in Aswan are refreshingly exotic without the same level of high-pressure selling found in some tourist towns further north. You will generally find that Nubian handicrafts are of higher quality and better value in Aswan. All other goods will be more expensive than in Cairo due to shipping costs to Aswan and the lower tourist demand. Having said that, the Aswan souk is

  • Sharia as-Souq. The most charming souq in Egypt, There is far less pressure to buy than in other cities. Buy Nubian talisman, baskets, Sudanese swords, african masks, live produce, food, fruit, vegetables, henna powder, t-shirts, perfume, spices, robes, statues.  edit
  • Al-Masry Restaurant, Sharia Al Matar. Popular with locals. Great kafta and kebabs, pigeon, and chicken, all served with bread, salad and tahini Dishes: 8LE to 30 LE.  edit
  • Aswan Moon, Corniche an Nil (Situated on pontoons along the Nile), 231 6108. Decent food with cheery service. The local fish joints near the city market can be excellent -- their fish is fresh, and you can watch it cook. Don't miss the crab soup! Mezze: 4LE to 9LE; Pizza: 19Le to 25LE; Kebob: 25LE; Daoud Basha (meatballs and tomato sauce): 13LE.  edit
  • Biti Pizza, Midan al Mahatta (Near the train station). Serves fiteer, a flaky Egyptian pizza, as well as western varieties. Pizza: 20LE.  edit
  • Chef Khalil, Sharia al Souq (Near the train station). Fresh fish restaurant, priced by weight. Small place but worth the wait. From 25LE to 60LE.  edit
  • Emy, Corniche an Nil (On a double deckered boat moored in the Nile, next to Aswan Moon), 230 4349. Popular amound Nubian felucca captains. Beer available. Beer: 9LE; Salads: 3LE; Egyption and international dishes: 13LE to 18LE; Fresh juices: 5LE.  edit
  • Madena Restaurant, Sharia al souq (Close to Cleopatra Hotel). Small place. Kofta meal: 22LE; Vegetarian meal: 15LE.  edit
  • Nubian House, off Sharia al Tahrir, 1km past Nubian Museum, 232 6226. Spectacular sunset views over the first cataract. Sheesha and tea. From 15LE to 22LE.  edit
  • Panorama, Corniche an Nil, 231 6169. Serves simple Egyptian stews served in clay pots, with salad, mezze, rice. All day breakfast Dishes; 8LE to 20LE.  edit

Drink

Aswan is much less strict on drinking alcohol than Cairo or Luxor, and many of the restaurants sell Stella (Egyptian brand not the Belgian brand) and Saqqara, both of which are lagers and comparable to European beers.

Sunset over the Nile in Aswan, view from The Philae Hotel.
Sunset over the Nile in Aswan, view from The Philae Hotel.
  • Abu Schleeb Hotel, (Off Shaira Abbas Farid), 230 3051. Small but clean rooms Singles: 35LE, Doubles: 40LE, Triples: 45LE.  edit
  • Happi Hotel, (Sharia Abtal al Tahrir), 231 4115. Gloomy hotel but clean rooms. Singles: 65LE, Doubles: 90LE.  edit
  • Hathor Hotel, (Corniche an Nil), 231 4580. 36 rooms. Swimming pool. Singles: 40LE, Doubles: 60LE.  edit
  • HI International Youth Hostel, 96 Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, 230 2313. The cheapest place to stay in Aswan, but you get what you pay for. Dorm bed: From 9LE, Singles from 15LE.  edit
  • Keylany Hotel, 25 Sharia Keylany, 231 7332, [4]. The best budget hotel in Aswan. Clean and comfortable rooms. Spotless bathrooms. Internet access available for 10LE per hour, but is very slow. Singles: 60LE, Doubles: 75LE, Triples: 90LE.  edit
  • Marwa Hotel & Hostel, (In a small side alley off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir). OK budget option if you are looking for the cheapest bed. Dorm bed: 6LE.  edit
  • Memnon Hotel, (Corniche an Nil, south of Aswan Moon restaurant). Great Nile views. Singles: 45LE, Doubles: 65LE.  edit
  • Noorhan Hotel, (Off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir), 231 6069. Clean and pleasant with functioning (common) hot shower. Staff is aggressive about trying to sell you a tour. Singles: 15LE, Doubles: 20LE.  edit
  • Nuba Nile Hotel, (Sharia Abtal al Tahrir). The second best value for your money, after the Keylany Hotel. Clean comfortable rooms, near train station. Next to internet cafe and ahwa. Singles: 60LE, Doubles: 75LE.  edit
  • Nubian Oasis Hotel, 234 Sharia as Souq, 231 2126. Staff is aggressive about trying to sell you a tour. Beer available in roof garden. Clean rooms Singles: 25LE, Doubles: 30LE.  edit
  • Orchida St George, (Sharia Muhammed Kahlid). Friendly 3-star hotel with tacky decor. Singles: 80LE, Doubles: 100LE.  edit
  • Philae Hotel, (Corniche an Nil), 231 2090. Friendly staff, and some of the best views in Egypt (make sure you get a Nile View room). On the downside somewhat rundown rooms, gives you that camping inside feeling, not always plenty of hot water! Singles: 60LE, Doubles: 75LE, 20% premium for Nile View.  edit
  • Ramsis Hotel, (Sharia Abtal al Tahrir), 230 4000. High rise hotel. Slow service and no character but good views and good value. Singles: 65LE, Doubles: 100LE.  edit
  • Yassin Hotel, (Off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, next to Noorhan Hotel), 231 7109. Rooms are basic but clean. Staff is aggressive about trying to sell you a tour. Singles: 15LE, Doubles: 20LE.  edit
  • Bet el Kerem, (The only hotel accommodation on the Westbank, near the Tombs of the Nobles and close to the ferry boat to Aswan centre), [5]. Quiet atmosphere, hospitable staff, clean rooms, small (8 double rooms), restaurant for guests on the roof terrace. Marvellous view over the Nile, the desert and the Nubian villages. Perfect place if you are looking for something different! Bike rental available. Double: €30; House rental: €45.  edit
  • Elephantine Island Resort. Run down, but in the process of being refurbished.  edit
  • Movenpick Resort, (Northern end of Elephantine Island), +20 97 230 34 55 (). Best resort hotel in Aswan. Rates from USD160 per room per night. 7 night package with meals and massage: USD1,064 (summer) to USD1,414 (winter).  edit
  • Old Cataract Hotel, (Abtal El Tahrir Street), +20 97/2316000 (), [6]. CLOSED FOR REFUBISHMENT UNTIL MAY 2010. Live it up like the aristocrats of old! Part of the Sofitel chain of hotels, the Old Cataract Hotel overlooks the Nile River opposite the island of Elephantine. 123 rooms and 8 suites.  edit

Stay safe

Aswan is generally a very safe city. The locals will look after you like a long lost brother, although I hope they don't try to fleece family like they do Tourists! Women should avoid travelling alone if they are not comfortable with leering men, although they are all bluster.

Contact

Internet access is available at Keylany Hotel and Noorhan Hotel for 10LE per hour; however, internet speeds are very slow.

NB: As of August 2004, Aswan has had its telephone exchange upgraded and an additional "2" must now be added to old 6-digit telephone numbers..... The format for overseas callers, for example, should now be +20 97 2xxx xxx. Mobile phone numbers are unaffected by this change.

Cope

There is so much to do around the Aswan area, that time will be an issue. The local people have been very cooperative, and for a price, doors might remain opened regardless of the hour.

Philae Temple at Night
Philae Temple at Night
  • Taxi trips or organized tours to the nearby towns of Daraw and the Temple of Kom Ombo further north on the Nile. These trips should cost 150LE. Arrange this carefully as a police convoy may well be necessary.
  • Cruises to Luxor - The 2-night cruise should cost US$75++ per night, including meals, depending on the boat.
  • Felucca trips to Luxor - see the Felucca guide for a complete itinerary and information
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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|The Nile at Aswan, seen from Elephantine Island]] Aswan (24°05′N 32°56′E, population 200,000) is a city in the south of Egypt and the capital of the Aswan Governorate. It is on the east bank of the Nile and is a busy market and tourist center.

Aswan is one of the driest places in the world where people actually live; as of early 2001, the last rain there was 6 years earlier. As of October 13, 2007, the last rainfall was a thunderstorm on May 13, 2006. In Nubian settlements, the people often do not put a roof over all of the rooms in their houses.

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