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Aswan, Egypt’s southern frontier town, in its delightful river setting, is often approached as part of a Nile cruise. It is stunningly beautiful, charmingly romantic, and the sunniest city in Egypt, hence its popularity. Although the sense of ancient enchantment that used to pervade the very air of Aswan is hard to find now, it is still here – you just might have to look on the west bank or in one of the villages to find it.
For many centuries, a sleepy backwater, Aswan assumed national importance when it became the headquarters for the successful 1898 Anglo-Egyptian re-conquest of Sudan. With the 1902 construction of the Aswan Dam the town became a fashionable winter resort for rich Europeans who relished its dry heat, luxury hotels and stunning views, particularly from the feluccas sailing on the River Nile at sunset.Read more
The city itself is not too large to walk around in the cooler part of the day and the pace of life is slow and relaxing. From the cool and inviting Corniche you can watch tall-masted feluccas handled masterfully by a tiny crew and listen to Nubian musicians. Across the river, dramatic desert cliffs merge with palm-lined Nile waters, and huge apricot-coloured sand banks appear startling against the cloudless blue sky.
After the hustle of the capital, Aswan is positively tranquil, so take time to relax by strolling through the Nubian villages of Koti and Siou on Elephantine Island where you can learn about local culture. Later, catch a ferry to the west bank of the Nile where you can arrange a camel ride through the desert to the 7th century Monastery of Saint Simeon. In the late evening you can watch the flocks of egrets skimming the surface of the Nile as they go to roost before you feast on freshly caught fish. In the early morning you can watch the sun rise behind the city and hear the call of the muezzin. With the outstanding Nubian museum, colourful west bank villages and islands to explore, as well as proximity to several notable temples and the nearby High Dam, the city is much more than a stopover en route to Abu Simbel.