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Why visit Egypt?


The view from an Aswan hotel

Aswan has to be one of the most beautiful places in Egypt. Rolling dunes of golden sand brush the edges of the cool Nile River. Bright green palm trees contrast starkly against the dusty buildings and golden tones of the desert. In winter the temperature can be quite mild often in the seventies, but it can get cold at night. As soon as you step from your boat you will be barraged by taxi drivers, of the horse drawn kind. It is a very small town so you will absolutely not need one.

You will discover there is a trip to Abu Simbel Temple while in Aswan. Before the Aswan dam could be built this magnificent temple had to be relocated; it is now a six hour round trip bus ride from Aswan. The road is rough and somewhat dangerous from natural and human threats. It is supposed to be a wonderful temple to visit, but the trip is not worth the effort. If you have been visiting the other temples on your way to Aswan then skip this one.


What is worth a visit is one of the many old hotels in town. Most of them have spectacular views and cool drinks. A sail in a felucca (sail boat) is a must do while in Aswan. In fact, it is best to take a felucca to Kitchener Island. This island and botanical garden is in the middle of the river and is one of the most beautiful spots on the Nile. Take a walk through the park and observe exotic birds while breathing the excellent Nile air.

Nubian arts and crafts

No stopover in Aswan would be complete without a visit to a Nubian village. This excursion could be the most rewarding experience of your whole adventure. You can spend the evening with a Nubian family in their home and have tea and dinner with them. The Nubian's live very modestly in a medieval style, but they are welcoming and seem very happy with their lives. Nubian guides are happy to talk about Nubian history, but it is difficult to know what they are saying as their English can often be limited. If you are carried away by the Arabian Nights atmosphere henna tattoos are available. They say it will wear off in several weeks. And finally the villagers are more than happy to sell you their arts and crafts. A wonderful experience! Of course watch out for the food and drink as it can leave you with a gift that keeps on giving.

Camel ride to the Saint Simeon

On the other side of the Nile from the town of Aswan you can ride a camel across the desert to the Saint Simeon monastery. This is one of the oldest known Christian monasteries and reflects a time when Christianity was an influential religion in Egypt. Riding camels is fun except they are smelly, dusty, and make the strangest gurgling sounds from time to time. Make sure that the price of your ride includes a saddle and camel boy.

The Philae Temple on the island of Aglika is also worth a visit. The temple was moved from its original island after the building of the Aswan dam, which was a mammoth task as the temple is enormous.

In my next article we will continue our adventure around Egypt with a visit to the Vegas of Egypt.

Fly from San Francisco to Cairo from $1,258 to $1,532 and cruise from Cairo to Aswan for $642.58.


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