If you want to discover the real Egypt, Aswan is the place to visit. Aswan is the southernmost part of the three major cities of the Nile in Egypt and is completely different from the northern cities of Luxor and Cairo, as it has a more relaxed atmosphere with a distinct African feeling. This is mainly because Aswan has a large Nubian population that has its own language and traditions. The Nile swings gently through the hot desert and handcrafted islands and is a sight to see. From Elephantine Island to the Nobles tombs on the west coast of Nile, Aswan offers a great history and culture for visitors to discover. Mausoleas, tombs and monasteries are among the many attractions 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 colonial times and not the extensive complexes found in the more popular tourist resorts.
The largest part of the city of Aswan is located on the eastern coast of Nile and this is where you experience the amazing bazaar that goes along the Corniche (promenade), visiting the cemetery with its Fatimid era tombs or just taking a quiet walk in the Ferial Gardens. On the west shore you can visit the Nubian villages, relax in the botanical gardens of Kitchener Island and visit the St Simeon Monastery. There are many historical sites to visit, including the Aga Khan Mausoleum, the unfinished obelisk, the Kalabsha Temple and the granite quarry. Do not 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 Nile beach, 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 Pharaoh, Philae Island, Abu Simbel and the largest artificial lake Nasser Lake. As you drive along the Nile, you can enter all the sights and sounds of the city that are especially wonderful at sunset or sunrise.
A must on your visit to Aswan is a trip to the local bazaar where you can test your shooting skills on stalls selling traditional Egyptian goods like spices, tea, rugs, jewelry, gold, glass and perfume. An exciting day out is a visit to the weekly market in Darau where you will experience the traditional trade of camels, a great sight to see.
Evenings in Aswan are spent at restaurants and bars in the city followed by watching Nubian dancers, folklore groups performing scenes from city life and stick-fight dances. There are many outdoor restaurants where you can try local dishes such as shawarma, koftas and kebab, all along with hibiscus that is a local specialty.
Aswan is the hottest and driest city in Egypt and hardly gets any rain 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 the temperature reaches 24-36C with 10 hours of sunshine a day. November to February is cooler with temperatures ranging between 24C and 31C, making sightseeing a much nicer experience than in the summer months when the temperature is 40-42C, which often reaches the 50C mark.
If you are lucky enough to visit in late February or at the end of October, you should visit the amazing Abu Simbel Sun Festival. This is a celebration of Ramses II and when sunshine enters the Abu Simbel Temple, enlightening the statue of the Pharaoh and the sunsets e-Horakhte and Amen-Re. This spectacular event is an experience of once in a lifetime that will remain with you forever. Do not miss this amazing experience that is paired with music, dance and food is something that should not be forgotten.