We were amazed to see the greenery of Aswan , while in train. I have only heard and read about the fertility of the banks of the Nile river but when I saw it personally the greenery, I am really elated. God has been so kind to them, their black soil and the hard working people. The hard working people of Egypt has really converted the desert in to an Oasis. Please see more pictures in next tips. All these pictures were taken from train travelling at high speed.
The very popular Elefafantine island was rather fantasy to me - made more colourful and attractive for the tourists. The real essence of nuba villages can be found on the West-Bank. There You will find everything - the old nuba houses, Yellow Sahara, gorgeous panorama of the whole Aswan.
On the main road from the ferry dock You will find a lovely local NUBIAN GARDEN CAFETERIA run by the friendly Magraby! He can also take You aroud the village. He was the best quide - everyone knows him in the village and he knows all the places - took me also to meet local women in the houses and to witness a sacred religious ceremony in the village one night.
He also manages some felluccas. His an hounest and friendly nuba man who can really make the visit to Aswan worth a hundred times!
Here's his number: 0020124984432
Have fun in Aswan!
During our stay in Aswan last winter we rented a bike at guesthouse Bet el Kerem and made a beautiful cycle trip on the West bank of the Nile. The quality of the road was surprisingly good and the area is very nice: on your right the Nile and the green agriculture grounds where the farmers are working, accompanied by donkeys, camels and ibises. On the left the desert and the traditional Nubian village life; women carrying their shopping bag on the head, men gathering at the water taps, children are playing. We got a good impression of everyday life in Nubia. People were gladly surprised to see cyclists, and welcomed us in their village for a cup of tea in their house. The trip on the West bank to the bridge takes approximately one hour (and a half), but if you go into the villages you can easily spend a whole day.
If you cross this new modern suspension bridge, you can make a nice round trip and bring back the bicycle by local ferry afterwards. The local ferry leaves opposite the street of the railway station and takes you to the other side in 10 minutes. Walk to the right and you will find Bet el Kerem at the first house file.
Located just south of the High Dam on the shores of Lake Nasser, Kalabsha refers to the largest of five structures on this site, also known as the Temple of Mandulis. This temple along with the other four, the Kiosk of Qertassi, Chapel of Dedwen, Temple of Gerf Hussein and Temple of Beit Wali were originally located further south in five different areas now flooded by Lake Nasser. With German funding, the temples were rescued and moved to a single new location, sometimes referred to as "New Kalabsha", much closer to Aswan. A trip to Kalabsha is highly recommended, not only for the elegant temples, but also for the stunning views over Lake Nasser. Kalabsha is also a wonderful respite from the tourist masses, for this site is skipped by all major tour operators, and could be easily combined with a trip to Philae on the same afternoon. For more on New Kalabsha, go to my Kalabsha page.
Lake Nasser, the world's largest man-made lake, was created with the completion of the High Dam in 1972. The lake was formed along the valley of the Nile in the southernmost part of Egypt and extending into northern Sudan. It has enabled Egypt to regulate the unpredictable flow of the river and provided it with a large resevoir of water which can be distributed all over the country. Unfortunately, in its creation, a large area was inundated along with Nubian villages and many Ancient Egyptian ruins. The villages and their inhabitants have been moved along with most of the ancient ruins - with international cooperation - to various areas around the region. Several cruise ships sail down the large lake and stop along the way at these ancient temples.
One of Egypt's most impressive sites, the Temples of Abu Simbel are definitely worth a visit. They are located near the Sudanese border in the southernmost part of Egypt, overlooking Lake Nasser. The temples date from the 13th century BC and were originally located lower down the hill in an area now submerged by the lake. While the High Dam was being built, the temples were rescued and reconstructed in their current location. The temples are best reached by plane from Aswan (a smooth 40 minute flight), or by car (in a convoy) which takes about 3.5 hours or so. For more on the Temples of Abu Simbel, go to my Abu Simbel page.
Built around 1900 during the British occupation of Egypt, the Aswan Dam was the largest of its kind at the time. It was meant to regulate the waters of the Nile, but proved insufficient for the task. In fact, its height was twice increased, yet it was clear that another larger dam was needed. Thus, in the 1960s the High Dam was created further upstream and the result was a lake formed between the two dams. This lake contains the ruins of Philae which had to be moved from the original island of Philae in order to save them from flooding. The motorway from Aswan to its airport and to Abu Simbel crosses over the Aswan Dam.
As the older British-built Aswan Dam proved insufficient in fully controlling the waters of the Nile, Egypt decided to embark on a much larger project. After the refusal of the US and the UK to provide financing, Egypt turned to the Soviet Union. Between 1964 and 1972, the massive High Dam was built with Soviet aid and proved most successful in containing the river. A modern lotus-shaped monument was erected to commemorate Soviet cooperation. The construction of the High Dam had many consequences. The positives were plenty and included controlling the river, of course, and providing an enormous resevoir of water to be directed to other parts of Egypt. In addition, the dam was a great source of hydro-electric power. On the flip side, the halt of the flooding of the Nile downstream meant a gradual deterioriation of the fertile lands that made Egyptian agriculture what it is, thus farmers have had to turn to chemical fertilisers to improve the soil which in turn has led to environmental issues. Furthermore, the creation of the Lake Nasser resulted in the inundation of an area rich in archeological treasures. Fortunately, with international cooperation, many Ancient Egyptian temples, such as Kalabsha and Abu Simbel, were relocated to drier lands.
Considered one of Egypt's most romanticised sites, the Complex of Philae has been attracting visitors and pilgrims for over two thousand years. Dedicated to the cult of Isis, the original construction first began under Nectanebo I in the 4th century BC and continued for centuries, while the complex persisted as the last bastion of paganism in the Roman Empire. It is here that Ancient Egyptian religion was finally extinguished, as late as 540 AD. The temples were later converted to churches only to be abandoned as Islam slowly took over the region. After the completion of the Aswan Dam in 1902, the temples of Philae were submerged under water for about six months per year, but in 1970, with the help of UNESCO, the entire complex was dismantled and reconstructed on the higher Agilkia island next door. Visiting this site is a must when in Aswan. It is located about 15 minutes south of Aswan by car, then it can only be reached by boat. For more on Philae, go to my Philae page.
Additional excursions which were not included into the standard program of cruise have been offered to us in the first morning after arrival in Aswan. Among these excursions there was a trip to a Nubian village. Though I do not like such rural exotic things, I have agreed and now I do not regret.
Certainly, the village has the appearance adapted under tourist needs. It was clear enough from the very beginning. Horsemen on camels, east spices and a nursery of crocodiles - all these should attract tourists. We have visited the Nubian house where we were treated with local tea. As it was very hot outside, I have drunk several cups with great pleasure. Then we were suggested to smoke a hookah. Excursion lasted about an hour.
You may see my VIDEO-Clip from my personal YouTube channel: 4 min 29 sec Egypt Aswan Nile Nubian Village 2007
You may watch my Nubian Village high resolution photos on Google Earth in Aswan according to the following coordinates 24º 4' 8.53" N 32º 51' 53.38" E
or on my Google Earth Panoramio Aswan Nubean Village 1, Crocodile.
I think the most impressive excursion we had in Aswan was a trip to the Cataract area. I couldn’t even imagine after two days sailing over the Nile that it would have such unusual river landscapes. Our motorboat floated through fast currents maneuvering between rocky islands.
There were fine views of the rocks of the First Cataract some brown and some black, some rugged and some smooth between which the Nile pursues a tranquil course.
You may see my VIDEO-Clip from my personal YouTube channel: 7 min 54 sec Egypt Aswan Nile Cataracts 2007
You may watch my Cataract area high resolution photos on Google Earth in Giza according to the following coordinates 24º 4' 6.84" N 32º 51' 58.63" E
or on my Google Earth Panoramio Aswan Cataract area 1, Aswan Cataract area 2, Aswan Cataract area 3.
A felucca trip round Elephantine is full of interest. A felucca is a small boat for 15-20 passengers under a sail. You may admire with beautiful sights of the river and the Nile banks. You will listen to Nubian songs! Some 500m south, near the right bank of the Nile, is a small islet on which can be seen a number of "potholes", gouged out of the rock and worn smooth by the Nile flood.
I don’t know how much the trip cost because we had a complex excursion, which included a felucca trip, a botanical garden and a Nubian village (all together $20).
You may see my VIDEO-Clip from my personal YouTube channel: 6 min 05 sec Egypt Aswan Felucca Trip 2007
You may watch my Felucca trip high resolution photo on Google Earth in Aswan according to the following coordinates 24º 6' 4.47" N 32º 53' 43.07" E
or on my Google Earth Panoramio Aswan Felucca trip 1, Aswan Felucca trip 2, Aswan Felucca trip 3.
On our way to and back from the Dam we saw and passed by a Nubian (Fatimid) cemetery. When I had a free time, I have taken advantage of an opportunity to come to this cemetery and to examine several crypts. The cemetery was opposite to stone quarries with Unfinished Obelisk. Appearance of the cemetery and crypts were very unusual for me. Therefore I walked around with interest.
Unfortunately it was not possible to be in solitude as several locals approached to me wishing to show the cemetery. I refused their help, but they didn't go away. Therefore I did not continue my own excursion.
The main bait, which I have been enticed into a Nubian village, was an opportunity to see the real crocodiles. I understood that one of the first questions, which I would be asked after returning from Egypt there will be a question whether I saw crocodiles or not. It would be precipitate to answer this question negatively.
Now I answer this question positively because in the Nubian village we were shown real crocodiles. Frankly speaking they were very small and were not terrible. Each interested person could take the crocodile in hands. I have made it as well.
However it was very a pity to look at these poor crocodile children who were forced to suffer such a mockery. Each of them probably thought: " Get to me when I shall grow up! "
There is a bypass canal 1,600m long on the east bank of the river. After passing through six tunnels with a total length about 300m this drives the turbines of a Hydroelectric Station, which produces 10 billion kWh of power annually, making a major contribution to the industrial development of the Nile Valley.
It was built under the Soviet assistance in 1960th.
Hundreds villages have received electricity.