Aswan

Aswan

The Ancient Syene

Aswan is one of the sunniest cities in Egypt, offering a delightful beauty and a relaxed atmosphere, with a warm and dry climate. Located about 890 km south of Cairo, and 180 km south of Luxor, it has a more African ambience than any other city in Egypt. It has long been known as the “Gate of Africa”, and much of its charms come from the River Nile. Life here is slow-paced and relaxed, and its setting on the Nile is gorgeous. Boats sail by gracefully, and floating restaurants offer rhythmic Nubian music and delicious fresh fish.

The Nile in Aswan is at its best, flowing gently around bright green islands adorned with tropical foliage. The local souk (market) is filled with the exotic scents of spices and perfumes. Handmade baskets are piled high in the market, alongside handmade scarves. The bazaar in Aswan is especially large, and continues past the Fair Gardens, the Nubian Museum and down to the cemetery.

 

Philae Temple

Philae TemplePhilae Island was a rocky island in the middle of the River Nile, south of Aswan. The Ancient Egyptians built a beautiful and magnificent Temple on this island for the goddess Isis. But Philae is actually a nonexistent island now buried beneath Lake Nasser.  The island was sometimes visible and sometimes not after the Old Aswan Dam was built, but was permanently submerged by the High Dam. Fortunately, Philae was saved from drowning. In 1977, a coffer dam was constructed around the temples and the water was pumped out. Then the temples were carefully dismantled with every block assigned a number and its position noted. A nearby higher island called Agilkai was modified to resemble Philae and the temples were resembled. In 1980, Philae was once again opened to the public.

The High Dam

Aswan High DamToday visitors enjoy visiting the Aswan Dam and the Aswan High Dam. The latter was completed in 1968, resulting in an artificial lake called Lake Nasser. It is a massive structure of stones, 3600 meters long, with a width of 980 meters at the base and 40 meters at the top. In all, the High Dam equals 17 times the volume of the Great Pyramid. The High Dam has changed the course of the Nile and the course of Egypt’s history as well.

 

Lake Nasser

Lake NasserThe largest artificial lake in the world, named after President Nasser, the leader of the Egyptian Revolution. The lake is 300 miles long, holding 157000 million cubic meters of water. Realizing the historical value of the monuments located there, worldwide rescue efforts were undertaken to save some of the most important temples and artifacts from the flooding resulting from damming the water.

 

Isis Temple

One of the temples saved from submersion in Lake Nasser was the beautiful Temple of Isis. Ancient Egyptians believed Isis to be the goddess of fertility and motherhood, having great magical skills. She was represented as having a human form, though with the horns of a cow in place of ears. It was believed that the temple sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, was the source from where the waters of life originated.

 

Unfinished Obelisk

Unfinished Obeliskis the largest known ancient obelisk, located in the northern region in Aswan. If finished, it would have weighed over 1,200 tons and would have measured around 42 m and would have been the world’s largest piece of stone ever handled. It is believed that it was constructed and abandoned during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty). It was ordered by Queen Hatshepsut commemorating her 16th anniversary on the throne. Since cracks appeared in the granite, the project was abandoned.

 

Agha Khan Mausoleum

The late leader of the Ismailis, Aga Khan III chose to be buried here in this simple yet beautiful mausoleum.
The mausoleum has an excellent view, including Aga Khan's white villa below, and is near the Monastery of St. Simeon on the west bank of Aswan. It was built in a very elegant manner by using pink granite. The interior of the mausoleum is given ethnic contrast combination of light colors, floored with red carpets and immaculately maintained.

 

Aswan FeluccaThe Cultural Center

For those interested in experiencing local culture, the Cultural Center, just off the main thoroughfare in Aswan, houses colorful Nubian shows. Every night, Nubian dancers and musicians in their native costumes recreate scenes from village life and perform the famous Nubian mock stick-fight dances.

 

Islands of the Nile

For a delightful excursion, visitors go by sailboat to small granite islands of the Nile, including the Elephantine and Kitchener (or Botanical) islands.

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