Aswan is a city in the south of Egypt, some 680km (425 miles) south of Cairo, just below the Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, with a population of 275,000. 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 International Airport is situated 25km SSW of the city, on the west bank and just south of the high dam. Public buses don't go to the airport and security on the approach road to the terminal is tight, so it's probably worth taking a taxi, for which you must agree a price in advance. It is possible to argue the fare down to LE25, but LE30 to LE40 is more realistic (and easier) for most foreigners.
The following airlines operate service to Aswan International Airport: Air Memphis (to/from Abu Simbel), Astraeus (to/from London Gatwick), EgyptAir (to/from Abu Simbel, Cairo, Luxor), Iberworld (to/from Madrid), and LotusAir (to/from Cairo)
Egypt's passenger train service runs along the Nile between Cairo and Aswan. Travel time to Luxor is around 3 hours on 1st/2nd class AC services. Five AC express services depart to Cairo each day, taking 13-14 hours (55LE 2nd class, 109LE 1st class), in addition to the Abela sleeper train (US$60, two trains each evening, one continuing to Alexandria). Tickets sell out so it important to buy a day or two in advance.
Aswan train station is on the northern end of the city centre, a few hundred metres inland from the river. Leave plenty of time to buy tickets, as the service at the counters is slow. Mini buses depart from outside the station (turn right as you exit the terminal), and there are a number of cafes and basic hotels on the blocks between the station and the river.
From Hurghada (513km away) buses cost 45LE. Tickets are sold on the bus, but be sure to ask the price at the ticket office, because the ticket seller on the bus will often raise the price 5LE or so and pocket the excess if you are a foreigner.
Dozens of cruise ships depart from Luxor to Aswan everyday. These can be booked through agents or at the actual ships themselves. Also a boat to Wadi Halfa in sudan departs once a week.
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. A taxi excursion to all of these sights should cost 80LE to 100LE per vehicle.
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.
Nubian Museum , daily 9AM-1:00PM and 5:00PM-9:00PM winter, 6:00PM-10:00PM summer, opposite the Basma Hotel, south of the Old Cataract Hotel, at the southern edge of Aswan town on Sharia Abtal al-Tahrir - approximately a half hour walk from the city centre., Very well organized, 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 & Aswan Museum, 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. Movenpick resort is on the island. The Aswan Museum (Adult: 25LE, Student 15LE) at the southern end of the island houses items found during escavations on Elephantine Island. Also, be careful of unsolicited tours from locals, which will result in a request for baksheesh. There is regular boat taxi to Elephantine Island run by the locals for only 2LE for one crossing but they will charge more for tourists.
Aswan Botanical Gardens, On the entirety of Kitcheners Island to the west of Elephantine Island, 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. Accessible via a felucca tour.
Seheyl Island, 7AM to 4:00PM, Just north of the old Aswan Dam, Friendly Nubian villages. Well known for its excellent beaded jewelry. Also the location of the Famine Stela. Cliff with more than 200 inscriptions from the 18th dynasty,
Tombs of the Nobles, 8AM to 4:00PM, 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. Stunning views of the Nile
Kubbet el-Hawa, on top of the hill above the Tombs of the Nobles, 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, richly evoked in the translation from the Arabic of the place name,
Mausoleum of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, High up in the west bank, 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, Oct to May: 8AM-4:00PM; Jun-Sep:7:00AM-5:00PM, 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. To get here, ride a camel or walk from the Tombs of the Nobles.
The High Dam, Despite being a highly important piece of infrastructure, the Aswan High Dam is (to put it delicately) a bit of a letdown even for dam lovers.
Philae Temple, Agilkia Island, 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. Don't miss the Sound and Light show at night, see picture to the right, the least cheesy of the Sound and Light
Kalabsha Temple, Like Philae, this temple and its surrounding ruins were moved by UNESCO to save them from the floodwaters of Lake Nasser. The main temple was built to the Nubian fertility and sun god Marul during the rule of Emperor Augustus. Don't miss the Kiosk of Qirtasi and the amazing Temple of Beit al-Wali built by Ramesses II.
Abu Simbel, Most people use Aswan as a base to see this fantastic temple. There is a convoy that departs at 3AM, and is usually arranged by your hotel. See Abu Simbel article for more details.
Rent a Bike, Bikes available at many hotels. Cross the modern bridge to the east bank and bring back your bicycle afterwards by ferry boat.
Local Felucca Cruise, Aswan is a great place for a local cruise to the nearby islands. Two hours of felucca trip will cost you between 25-50 EP depends on your negotiation skills. See felucca cruise on the Nile.
Trips to Abu Simbel, See Abu Simbel. *This is a must!*
Camel Rides, Grab a felucca captain and they will shuttle you across to the camel marshalling area. Ride the camel to the Monastery of St Simeon.
Tea with the Local Shopkeepers , You will get a fascinating insight into their daily lives, and they love to practise their English on you.
Al-Masry Restaurant, Sharia Al Matar, Popular with locals. Great kafta and kebabs, pigeon, and chicken, all served with bread, salad and tahini
Aswan Moon, 231 6108, Corniche an Nil, Situated on pontoons along the Nile, Decent food with cheery service. The local fish joints near the city market can be excellent -- their fish is fresh, and you can watch it cook. Don't miss the crab soup!
Biti Pizza, Midan al Mahatta, Near the train station, Serves fiteer, a flaky Egyptian pizza, as well as western varieties.
Chef Khalil, Sharia al Souq, Near the train station, Fresh fish restaurant, priced by weight. Small place but worth the wait.
Emy, 230 4349, Corniche an Nil, On a double deckered boat moored in the Nile, next to Aswan Moon, Popular amound Nubian felucca captains. Beer available.
Madena Restaurant, Sharia al souq, Close to Cleopatra Hotel, Small place.
Nubian House, 232 6226, off Sharia al Tahrir, 1km past Nubian Museum, Spectacular sunset views over the first cataract. Sheesha and tea.
Panorama, 231 6169, Corniche an Nil, Serves simple Egyptian stews served in clay pots, with salad, mezze, rice. All day breakfast
Aswan is much less strict on drinking alcohol than Cairo or Luxor, and many of the restaurants sell Stella (Egyptian brand not the Belgian brand) and Saqqara, both of which are lagers and comparable to European beers.
Abu Schleeb Hotel, 230 3051, Off Shaira Abbas Farid, Small but clean rooms
Happi Hotel, 231 4115, Sharia Abtal al Tahrir, Gloomy hotel but clean rooms.
Hathor Hotel, 231 4580, Corniche an Nil, 36 rooms. Swimming pool.
HI International Youth Hostel, 230 2313, 96 Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, The cheapest place to stay in Aswan, but you get what you pay for.
Marwa Hotel & Hostel, In a small side alley off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, OK budget option if you are looking for the cheapest bed.
Memnon Hotel, Corniche an Nil, south of Aswan Moon restaurant, Great Nile views.
Noorhan Hotel, 231 6069, Off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, Clean and pleasant with functioning (common) hot shower. Staff is aggressive about trying to sell you a tour.
Nuba Nile Hotel, Sharia Abtal al Tahrir, The second best value for your money, after the Keylany Hotel. Clean comfortable rooms, near train station. Next to internet cafe and ahwa.
Nubian Oasis Hotel, 231 2126, 234 Sharia as Souq, Staff is aggressive about trying to sell you a tour. Beer available in roof garden. Clean rooms
Orchida St George, Sharia Muhammed Kahlid, Friendly 3-star hotel with tacky decor.
Philae Hotel, 231 2090, Corniche an Nil, Friendly staff, and some of the best views in Egypt (make sure you get a Nile View room). On the downside somewhat rundown rooms, gives you that camping inside feeling, not always plenty of hot water!
Ramsis Hotel, 230 4000, Sharia Abtal al Tahrir, High rise hotel. Slow service and no character but good views and good value.
Yassin Hotel, 231 7109, Off Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir, next to Noorhan Hotel, Rooms are basic but clean. Staff is aggressive about trying to sell you a tour.
Bet el Kerem , The only hotel accommodation on the Westbank, near the Tombs of the Nobles and close to the ferry boat to Aswan centre, Quiet atmosphere, hospitable staff, clean rooms, small (8 double rooms), restaurant for guests on the roof terrace. Marvellous view over the Nile, the desert and the Nubian villages. Perfect place if you are looking for something different! Bike rental available.
Elephantine Island Resort, Run down, but in the process of being refurbished.
Movenpick Resort, +20 97 230 34 55, +20 97 230 34 55, Northern end of Elephantine Island, Best resort hotel in Aswan.
Old Cataract Hotel , +20 97/2316000, +20 97/2316000, Abtal El Tahrir Street, *CLOSED FOR REFUBISHMENT UNTIL MAY 2010.* Live it up like the aristocrats of old! Part of the Sofitel chain of hotels, the Old Cataract Hotel overlooks the Nile River opposite the island of Elephantine. 123 rooms and 8 suites.
The souqs (markets) in Aswan are refreshingly exotic without the same level of high-pressure selling found in some tourist towns further north. You will generally find that Nubian handicrafts are of higher quality and better value in Aswan. All other goods will be more expensive than in Cairo due to shipping costs to Aswan and the lower tourist demand. Having said that, the Aswan souk is
Aswan is generally a very safe city. The locals will look after you like a long lost brother, although I hope they don't try to fleece family like they do Tourists! Women should avoid travelling alone if they are not comfortable with leering men, although they are all bluster.
Internet access is available at Keylany Hotel and Noorhan Hotel for 10LE per hour; however, internet speeds are very slow.
NB: As of August 2004, Aswan has had its telephone exchange upgraded and an additional "2" must now be added to old 6-digit telephone numbers..... The format for overseas callers, for example, should now be +20 97 2xxx xxx. Mobile phone numbers are unaffected by this change.
There is so much to do around the Aswan area, that time will be an issue. The local people have been very cooperative, and for a price, doors might remain opened regardless of the hour.
Taxi trips or organized tours to the nearby towns of Daraw and the Temple of Kom Ombo further north on the Nile. These trips should cost 150LE. Arrange this carefully as a police convoy may well be necessary.
Cruises to Luxor - The 2-night cruise should cost US$75++ per night, including meals, depending on the boat.
Felucca trips to Luxor - see the Felucca guide for a complete itinerary and information
Abu Simbel - See Ramses's amazing temple
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Claus Hansen, Experience Nubia, Jhon Erickson Ginting, Mark Sheffield, Kevin Gabbert, Nick Roux, Ravikiran Rao, optional, Jamie Court, Daniel, Andrew Haggard, Tim Sandell, firstname.lastname@example.org and Colin Jensen, Inas, 12foot3, Nebpehtira, Tatatabot, Merrywanderer, Lakerhaug, Cacahuate, Pjamescowie, Nickyjones, Allenjam, Nzpcmad and Nils
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