EGYPT CLOSED - Chaos Across Egypt (Jan - Feb 2011)
So much for my trip to Cairo and beyond, three hours into my flight the captain announces we are diverted to Athens instead. Later it is confirmed the flight landed due to a bomb scare as reported by the BBC. The rising unrest in Egypt and the peoples call to bring down the government brings disruption to tourism in Egypt (Feb 2011). The UK Foreign Office finally advises not to travel to Egypt but the choice is still yours.
Aswan is a city in the south of Egypt. It stands on the east bank of the Nile and is a busy market and tourist center. Aswan is one of the driest inhabited places in the world.
Aswan is some 680km (425 miles) south of Cairo, just below the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser. Aswan is far more relaxed and smaller than Cairo and Luxor. 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.
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. 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.
Aswan is generally a very safe city. The locals will look after you but will try to fleece Tourists! Women should avoid travelling alone if they are not comfortable with leering men.
Nubian Museum, features Nubian treasures recovered before the flooding of Nubia.
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.
Elephantine Island: 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.
The Aswan Museum at the southern end of the island houses items found during escavations on Elephantine Island.
Aswan Botanical Gardens, 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.
Seheyl Island, just north of the old Aswan Dam, friendly Nubian villages well known for its beaded jewelry. Cliff with more than 200 inscriptions from the 18th dynasty.
Tombs of the Nobles, 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. 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. 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.
Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, tomb of the 48th iman of the Islami sect and his wife. Visible from the outside, although closed to the public.
Monastery of St Simeon. 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.
The High Dam. Despite being a highly important piece of infrastructure, the Aswan High Dam is a bit of a letdown even for dam lovers.
Philae Temple, 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.
Kalabsha Temple, this temple and its surrounding ruins were moved by UNESCO to save them from the floodwaters of Lake Nasser.
Abu Simbel. Most people use Aswan as a base to see this fantastic temple.
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. 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 (and 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 3,000 years ago are still visible in the native rock. They lie on either bank of the Nile, and a road, four miles (6 km) 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 southwards and northwards. The latitude of the city that would become Aswan 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.