Egypt’s southernmost city, Aswan occupies an enviable position on the First Cataract of the Nile, where the river’s mighty waters flow around the granite-clad Elephantine Island steeped in palm groves and tropical plants. Small enough to navigate on foot and graced with a beautiful setting and little rain, Aswan has long been a favourite winter resort. Time can easily be spent strolling along the broad Corniche watching sailboats tack, ambling around the city’s souk, renowned as the best outside of Cairo, sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish or perhaps exploring some sights.
Just upriver from the First Cataract stands the old Aswan Dam, built by the British in 1898 and once the largest dam in the world. Just outside of Aswan is the mighty High Dam. By 1952, it was apparent the Aswan Dam could not satisfy the country’s needs for water, so the gargantuan High Dam was commissioned by former President Nasser. A modern feat of engineering, the by-product for this immense construction is Lake Nasser – the world’s largest artificial lake.
On Agilika Island lies Philae Temple, dedicated to the goddess Isis. The temple dates from the 4th century BC but the Ptolomies and the Romans built most of the existing structures as late as the 3rd century AD. After the building of the first Aswan Dam, rising waters lapped and surged around the majestic temple and when it became clear that the new High Dam would submerge Philae forever, a massive operation was put into action in order to relocate the temples to Agilika Island.
Aswan, Egypt’s sunniest southern city and ancient frontier town located about 81 miles south of Luxor, has a distinctively African atmosphere. Its ancient Egyptian name was Syene. Small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Days can be spent strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the sailboats etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish.
In Aswan the Nile is at its most beautiful, flowing through amber desert and granite rocks, round emerald islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants. Explore the souk, full of the scent and color of spices, perfumes, scarves and baskets. View the spectacular sunsets while having tea on the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel (Named due to the location of the Nile’s first cataract located here). Aswan has been a favorite winter resort since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and it’s still a perfect place to get away from it all.