Aswan Tourist Attractions
The town Aswan (ancient Greek Syene) in Upper Egypt, celebrated for its cleanliness, lies in latitude 24° 5 north below the First Cataract.
Situated on the east bank of the Nile, partly on low ground and partly on a hill, it is a much favored winter resort thanks to its equable dry and warm climate and its sand baths, which are efficacious in the treatment of diseases of the joints. Aswan, the capital of Egypt's most southerly governorate and the terminus of the railroad line along the Nile Valley, has a university which is still in course of development. As a result of the construction of the High Dam farther up the valley Aswan is now becoming one of the country's principal industrial centers (steel, nitrogen, electric power).At Aswan the Nile divides into several arms, separated by large granite rocks and islands, in particular the island of Elephantine. There is only a narrow strip of cultivable land, supporting almost nothing but date-palms; the dates produced here are considered the best in Egypt. The Southern Cross constellation is visible here in January about 3 a.m., in April about 10 p.m.HistoryThe area around modern Aswan, including the island of Elephantine, was known in antiquity as Yebu ("Elephant Land"), perhaps because the Egyptians saw elephants here for the first time or because the rocks in the river, worn smooth by the water, were thought to resemble the backs of a herd of elephants. At a later date the name was restricted to the island and town of Elephantine. From the earliest times down to the Roman period the quarries of Yebu, which became known in the Ptolemaic period as Syene, supplied the Egyptians with fine colored granite (containing quartz, yellow and brick-red felspar and blackish mica) for their buildings and statues. The term "syenite" applied to this rock by Pliny is now, however, used by geologists to denote a different kind of stone containing a higher proportion of hornblende.Yebu was also of strategic importance, commanding as it did the Nile cataracts and traffic by water between Egypt and Nubia. It was also the starting-point of the great caravan route to Nubia and the Sudan, along which passed the commercial and military expeditions of the Egyptians. The ancient capital of the province, also called Yebu, lay at the south end of the island. In the sixth and fifth C. B.C. there was a Jewish military colony here, with a Temple of Yahweh, as was shown by Aramaic papyri found here in 1906-08 (now in the Egyptian Museum, West Berlin, and the Bode Museum, East Berlin).On the east bank of the river was the town of Swenet, the Greek Syene, which rose to importance only in a later period. In the early second C. A.D. the Roman garrison here was commanded by the satirical poet Juvenal, who had been posted to this remote frontier of the Empire as a punishment for his biting attacks on the Court. A celebrated curiosity of ancient Syene was a well into which the sun's rays descended perpendicularly at the summer solstice, casting no shadow; and this led the Athenian scholar Eratosthenes (276-196 B.C.), who was attached to the Museum in Alexandria, to devise his method of measuring the size of the earth. The town suffered greatly at the hands of the Blemmyes, but became the see of a Christian bishop, and seems to have regained its prosperity under the Caliphs. Arab writers record that a plague carried off 20,000 of its inhabitants, which points to a very large total population. From the end of the 12th C. Aswan suffered severely from the incursions of plundering bedouin tribes, which were ended only when the Turkish Sultan Selim stationed a garrison in the town in 1517.
There are only scanty remains of the ancient city of Syene on the right bank of the Nile mainly inscriptions on rocks and architectural fragments built into modern houses.
In the south of the town are the ruins of the Qasr el-Mula, situated on a hill amid beautiful gardens, and a small Ptolemaic temple.
From the railway station, at the north end of the town, a street leads west to the Corniche, a riverside promenade on which are the offices of the Governorate, several hotels and the Tourist Bazaar, with the Tourist Information Office.On the opposite side of the river can be seen the Kubbet el Hawa, a sheikh's tomb, crowning a hill which contains rock tombs of the Old and Middle Kingdoms.
Beyond this, in a magnificent situation on the banks of the Nile with a view of the island of Elephantine, stands the old Cataract Hotel, set in beautiful gardens reaching down to the river, with a spacious shady terrace and a swimming pool. Adjoining it is the modern New Cataract Hotel. To the east of the Cataract Hotel, on a granite rock below a stone wall of the Roman period, can be seen an inscription dating from the reign of Amenophis IV. On the right is Men, "Superintendent of Works", before an image of Amenophis III; to the left his son Bek, Chief Architect at Teliel-Amarna, before an image (defaced) of Amenophis IV, on which the sun's rays descend.
At the south end of the town is a small Ptolemaic temple (unfinished and poorly preserved) built by Euergetes I and Philopator and dedicated to Isis of Syene.The main doorway is crowned by a cavetto cornice. On the left hand door post, above, Euergetes presents an image of the goddess Maat to Amun; below, Euergetes in the presence of Min-Amun and of Mut and Isis. On the lintel Euergetes (in one case accompanied by his wife Berenice) is depicted before various gods. Within the doorway the King is shown in the presence of Thoth (right) and Harsiesis (left), with an inscription above each scene. The interior consists of a hall with two pillars in which are several bases for statues and sacred boats, and three chapels. On the rear wall of the middle chapel are reliefs depicting Euergetes (accompanied in one scene by Berenice) in the presence of the deities of Syene.
View of the Town
From the Tomb of Sheikh Harun, on a hill in the desert to the southeast of the town, there is a fine view of the town. Farther southeast is the Iittle Fort Sidi Harun.
In the desert to the south of Aswan are ancient Arab cemeteries. The graves are marked by rectangles of undressed stone and a slab bearing an inscription, those of wealthy people by small domed structures. On higher ground is a sheikh's tomb. On the surrounding hills large mosque like cenotaphs commemorate celebrated holy men and women such as Sheikh Mahmud, Sheikh Ali and the Lady (Sayyida) Zeinab, whose birthdays (mulis) are celebrated here.
Elephantine Island makes for a pleasant diversion from the hustle and bustle of Aswan. The island was home to the Nilometer, used by ancient Egyptians to monitor river levels The Nilometer can still be seen.
The Rock Tombs were built for the princes and grandees of Elephantine. They are on a hill known as Kubbet el-Hawa.
Founded in the 7th C, the Monastery of St Simeon is considered to be one of the best preserved Coptic monasteries in Egypt.
The High Dam at Aswan is a massive dam, which resulted in the creation of Lake Nasser. The dam eliminated unpredictable floods and allowed for controlled irrigation, but also created its own set of problems.
0.75mi/1km south of the west end of the Aswan High Dam, on the western shore of Lake Nasser, is the newly created archeological site of New Kalabsha, on which the temples of Kalabsha, Beit el-Waii and Kertassi, saved from the rising waters of the lake by a rescue operation which attracted international support, have been rebuilt.
Useful tips: ACCESS. By road from Aswan (8mi/13km north).
Because of the Aswan Dam and Lake Nassar the Temple of Kalabsha was disassembled from its original location 50 km south, and rebuilt in its present location.
The Rock Temple is also known by the local name of Beit el-Waii. It was relocated to New Kalabasha after its original site was flooded due by the creation of Lake Nassar.
Kalabsha - Temple of Kertassi
A little way north of the Kalabsha Temple is the small Temple of Kertassi, also transferred here from its original site, some 20mi/30km farther south. Only 25ft/8m square, it is very similar to the Kiosk at Philae. It is in much ruin, preserving only two Hathor columns at the entrance (which faces north) and four other columns with elaborate floral capitals and a single monolithic architrave.
The Nubia Museum opened in 1997. The collection reflects the history and character of Nubia. Among other pieces the collection includes the statue of Ramses II, statute of Amenras, the head of the Shpatka, and the head of black granite of Tahraqa.Many of the items were discovered during the UNESCO salvage operation in sites that are now submerged.
More Aswan Pictures
Map of Aswan Attractions