Travel to Aswan: Digging Up What the Land of Gold Has to Offer
Not only is Aswan’s untouched nature therapeutic, and by that I mean a therapeutic for the mind, body and soul sorta thing, but many have set foot across these lands that go by the name of Aswan today.
Home to one of the richest and oldest tribal cultures, the Nubian language and traditions stretching all the way to Khartoum, Sudan, are currently undergoing projects of preservation having been considered almost endangered.
From beholding temples and artefacts dating back to the Ancient Egyptian, Roman, Christian, and Islamic eras to becoming home to the legend of Isis and Osiris and even best-selling crime writer Agatha Christie.
Peanuts, spices, 100% cotton scarves, souvenirs and traditional authentic garments, natural organic henna temporary tattoo ink, handmade woven crafts and baskets, natural remedies, herbs, incense, and a million different types of the Egyptian equivalent to Palo Santo – you simply cannot walk away from the Nubian market empty-handed! And make sure you don’t miss Nubian brewed coffee, Gabana.
How To Get There
✨ There are flights every day from Cairo to Aswan via Egyptair, so there’s always that.
✨ If you’re a hardcore traveller and would like to make quite the road trip out of this, you can either take a 10.5 hr trip down the Nile River with a view of what I can only imagine endless greenery and farmland or – you can take an hour-long trip along the Red Sea and then some green till you arrive.
✨ A crowd favourite if you’re more on the adventurous and heavy sleeper side is the sleeper train. Just imagine a whopping 8+ hours overnight, in a comfortable cosy cabin, equipped with electricity, a sink, two pullout double-decker mattresses, and breakfast & dinner (slightly better than what your average airline would serve) and free tea & coffee (which you’ll need especially around dawn on the train).
✨ …and don’t forget that the internet has a ton of options when it comes to Nile Cruises that usually pass by Luxor as well, so be sure to check those out!
Where To Stay
You’ll probably only want to stay in downtown Aswan and not in Nubia’s Gharb Seheil (see below) if you have to stay at a conventional kind of hotel, in which case you’ll have plenty of options online, but this is a disclaimer that the names mentioned below are personally recommended and tried either by me on my many trips to Aswan, or by friends.
🥜 For more of a lavish an extra posh stay, or even meal or coffee or a few hours out:
- Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel is one of the most integral pillars to Aswan. Dame Agatha Christie even called it home for a year in 1937, to write for her iconic novel Death on the Nile.
📍Gharb (South of) Seheil Island + Nubian Village
You can stay at one of the iconically hospitable guest houses in the most inhabited island, home to the famous Nubian market (don’t confuse that with the Aswan market – see below):
📸: Sara Farouk
With a jacuzzi/pool on every terrace of every room looking at the Nile, this adult-only boutique hotel has its very own dessert chef and is personally recommended.
- Regardless of where you’re going to stay, markets usually close at around 8-9 pm, and restaurants usually a bit after that, but make sure you have munchies on you if you’re a late-night snacker!
- Also, if you won’t be staying there, transportation to and from Gharb Seheil and the Nubian market is via microbuses you will find in the streets. You can also always ask someone to call you a cab/help – it is quite well known that the people are the nicest. Literally.
- If you will be staying in Gharb Seheil, everything is within walking distance! But be sure to pack your own meds if you’re not a fan of natural remedies, which is what you’ll find the best for. Pharmacies there (keeping in consideration you’re in a village) will probably not be as diversely equipped as in mainland Aswan, and even then not very so.
Where to Eat
Right off the bat I’m going to assume your guest houses/hotels will be serving amazing food but if for any reason you’d like to branch out at any time, know you have options!
⛵ If you’re on mainland Aswan:
- Chef Khalil – For amazing seafood, you can find this gem in the Souq in Aswan.
- 1902 Restaurant in Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel – High-end international cuisine restaurant, located in Aswan.
- McDonald’s – Like it needs an introduction…
⛵ If you’d like to enjoy a Felucca ride getting to your food:
- Solaih Nubian – Overlooking the ancient Philae Temple in Aswan, it’s located on the Bigeh Island.
- Kato Dool – Located on the Nag’ Gharb Siheil Street in the Nubian village, and if you’re not already staying there for the amazing experiences they offer (check below!), make sure to not miss their infamous breakfast buffet!
- El Dokka – Located on Eissa Island.
- Nubian Dream Aswan – Located on Elephantine Island.
What to Do in Aswan
You’re not going to need much help on this turf I think as you probably already have endless reasons to already be considering visiting Egypt and the whole Southern area, whether you’re interested in history, mythology, religions, indigenous tribes, aliens, natural remedies or even therapeutic treatment, the legendary land of Aswan and the Ancient Egyptian civilization engraved on its temples’ got you covered, and where better than the heart of the Land of Gold.
Nubian Museum in Aswan
Located right across the street from the Old Cataract, museum fan or not, you can’t miss this! You’ll get to know so much of the Nubian civilization with all the history and culture laid out simply and beautifully for you.
Spot the Aga Khan Mausoleum sitting above the Nile Bank
It’s that lit up dome right up there!
🥜 Fun Fact from our friend Nadine over at @CurlsEnRoute: To treat his rheumatism, Aga Khan resorted to Nubia’s golden sands of magic, which is why he chose to be buried here. And that after he passed away in 1957, his wife, Begum Om Habibeh, used to leave a red rose by his pink granite tomb every day until she died and was buried next to him.
Sail the Nile River in all its glory & (literally) soak up all it has to offer!
📸 2 Bottom Photos Credit: @KatoDool
From gorgeous day and sunset views you can just sit back and enjoy from a double-decker felucca to kayaking and swimming in the fresh clean water, all the way to natural therapeutic mud therapy and sand bathing:
Take a Felucca Ride to Philae Temple (the Temple of Isis), Elephantine Island, and Aswan’s Botanical Gardens (Kitchener’s Island)
…and the infamous Abu Simbel Temple
📸: George Atef
This will be a proper day trip since its 280 km south of Aswan and will probably be taking around 9-10 hours out of your schedule – 3 hr to and fro the temple and say, 3 hours there maybe if you want to soak up as much of the majestic energy as you can!
The Aswan High Dam + Lake Nasser
🥜 Lake Nasser from above:
Meander around & shop handmade goods & spices at the Nubian Village:
Best known for their fresh peanuts, colourful spices, incense powder, henna tattoos and handmade everything! Technically located in the Gharb Seheil Island, Nubia, Aswan.
An interesting fact most people don’t know, and a small personal story – the Nubian culture and society is of Matriarchal roots. Not only do Nubian women work magic with their hands on the most colourful traditional handicrafts, but they also get the last say in the household. I had that conversation with locals myself after sharing my observations: I had been walking in the Nubian village earlier and asked a big group of people seated for directions, most of which were men with the exception of one elderly lady, and they all by default let her have the mic. Out of respect to her age, I thought, but it turned out it was because she was the head of the household, she as a woman and as an elderly gets first and last say.
🥜 What Not to Miss!
You can find some households in Nubia that keep crocodiles as pets, so don’t miss a chance to get up close & personal with the majestic creatures if you’re interested!
- If you plan your trip in February, make sure to check if the annual Aswan International Women Film Festival’s date coincides and catch some screenings of (both local and international) independent short and feature films and take part in the festival’s activations – admission is free!
- If you’re timing your trip in Egypt’s summer months May-August, beware of the heat. Seriously. I was just there last July and my face felt like it was going to melt off every time I stepped out into the literal sauna that was the outdoors during daylight (weather in the nighttime though was amazing!) BUT this heat is THE PERFECT SAUNA just like I said, and this is the best time to go for medicinal and therapeutic purposes – the hot sand is ready for burial (usually around September would be ideal for this) and it’s the perfect time to use the islands as one big water park!
🥜 Insider tip: you can always rent a felouka for yourself and ask the guy to take you around different uninhabited/stone islands along the river or make unscheduled stops for dips and treat it like a whole day at an outdoor water park immersed in the beautiful scenery!
If you’re interested in Egypt, make sure you also check out the gorgeous Siwa Oasis in the middle of the Western Desert!
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