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Aswan City - Sights & Tours


Page update - Sep 7, 2023

A tour to Aswan includes not only the city's sights and the Aswan Dam, but also the Nubian village and the local botanical garden. A tour to Aswan is usually combined with a visit to another important attraction in Egypt, the Abu Simbel temples.

The dam and hydroelectric power station itself is not very interesting for tourists. Of course, if you've never seen such a structure, it might impress you a lot. When you stand on the dam, think about the fact that it's a 110 meters (360 feet) high structure under your feet.

Compared to Grand Coulee or Hoover dams, the Aswan HPP looks modest. It takes a very modest 70th place in the ranking of the largest HPPs. Of course, it is an interesting construction, it is possible to look at it, but there is nothing to admire.

But, for Egypt, this hydroelectric complex is the largest and the main source of electricity for the country. In addition, the dam controls the water level in the Nile River, and it was after its construction that the Nile overflows, which often caused floods, stopped.

The Aswan Dam was built by Soviet engineers. Aswan has a monument to Arab-Soviet friendship, which is one of the main attractions of the city.

You can see the monument in the photo near. The monument was built in 1970 to commemorate the opening of the Aswan waterworks.

To be honest, the frankness of this friendship is a bit of a stretch, to say the least. President Nasser skilfully maneuvered between the US and the USSR in negotiating the construction. Both superpowers were interested in construction, they wanted a strong ally in the Middle East. Nasser arranged some visibility of the contest, although it was already clear that having both Egypt and Israel as allies would be problematic for the US.

As a result, the construction was carried out by the USSR, paying about a third of the cost out of its budget. The Soviet Union lent the remainder to Egypt, some of which was later written off. The expected turn to socialism in Egypt did not materialize - by and large, the USSR did not receive any major benefits from that friendship.

Two coats of arms are painted on one of the walls of the monument, the first one of the Soviet Union, the second one of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the quote of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The Aswan Dam not only generates energy, it has several other important functions. Before it was built, the Nile River flooded every year, the water level in the river could rise up to 8 meters (26 feet), and the coastal towns were flooded. It was not very good for agriculture either, as the fields were simply washed away.

Now the level of the river is controlled there. The Nile no longer floods, and the delta has an organized system of irrigation of the fields. The Egyptians harvest three crops a year. Of course, all is not well, the dam has caused many environmental problems, because it has kept the silt down, which has been the natural fertilizer for the soil in the delta since ancient times.

During construction, a vast body of water was to form what is now called Lake Nasser, in honor of Egypt's second president. Several important historical monuments were to be sunk.

The largest monument was the Abu Simbel temples. All of them were simply sawn into blocks and moved to other sites. There were 22 such moves in total.

The Egyptians are still dealing with various problems related to the dam. The water level in Lake Naser is constantly rising, and channels are being dug to take away water from the lake, otherwise the dam would not hold, even though it is built with great safety margins. The soil in the Nile Delta is worsen and the fish in the Mediterranean Sea are depopulating. These are a few of the negative effects of the Aswan Dam, not all.

Another interesting site in Aswan is the botanical garden. Many readers will ask what could be so unusual about a botanical garden? The fact is that Aswan is one of the driest places on our planet to live. The rainfall in Aswan is 500 times less than in Europe and it only rains once in few years.

The contrast of a desert, a river and an island of greenery is the main feature of the botanical garden in Aswan.

Tourists are taken to the botanical garden by small motor boats or sailing boats called "felucca" which are easily recognized by their skew sails. Sometimes there are combinations of motor and sail on the same boat. Of course, these boats look rather fragile, but on the other hand, there are no storms on Lake Nasser or the Nile itself.

The botanical garden is a very pleasant place to walk around, there are lots of trees, flowers and other greenery, and there are also birds walking around the garden, as shown in the photo below.

There's not much to say about the garden, you have to look and walk around.

The third place tourists are taken to during a tour of Aswan is the Nubian village. The Nubians have lived in these places since ancient times, perhaps they can be called the most native of all the population of Egypt.

Most of the inhabitants of modern Egypt are culturally Arabs. However, genetically they are not the Arabs they think they are. We covered this in detail in the review "Who are the modern Egyptians". Arabs came to Egypt in the 7th century AD, during the conquests of the Arab Caliphate. Coptic Christians consider themselves native Egyptians, and of course have some reason to call themselves so, but not much remains of the ancient pyramid builders in them.

Nubians have always lived there. They have nothing to do with the building of pyramids and temples, they represent a completely different nationality from the ancient Egyptians and the modern population of the country.

They are very easily recognizable due to their dark skin, but they are not a black african race. Their facial features are more like the Arabs. It is more correct to call them Ethiopians.

The number of these people is small, no one can give an exact figure, but it certainly does not exceed two million people. This figure includes all the Nubians who live on the territory of Egypt and neighboring Sudan.

In ancient times, there was an ancient state of Nubians called Nubia, from the ancient Egyptian word "Nub", which means "gold". Gold was indeed mined there.

Camels are used as transport to the Nubian village. Camels are not necessary transport, one could walk from the boat to the village or take any means of transport. It's just that camels are more interesting.

In the village, you will see the everyday life of modern Nubians, in which you will find almost nothing ancient. These people do not live according to ancient precepts, they have electrical devices and other benefits of civilization.

The number of souvenir shops in the village is enormous, so much so that one wonders whether you've come on a tour or a shopping trip. The souvenirs are colorful and interesting, and the range differs from the standard set in the souvenir shops in the resorts.

There are many items with African motifs, especially the ritual masks. Some of them ward off evil spirits, some are just for decoration. It's difficult to find out, as the locals speak almost no English. Most of the population speaks very poor foreign languages.

The Nubian village has a special attraction - crocodiles are bred right in the village. The famous Nile crocodile, once the most fearsome predator along the entire Nile coast from Sudan to the Mediterranean Sea, is now almost completely defeated by man.

It is hardly ever found in the wild, but many farms have been set up to artificially reintroduce these animals. One of these farms is right in the village and all tourists are allowed to touch the little crocodiles.

Be warned, be careful, the crocodiles are small but can bite, their jaws are quite strong. Do not put your fingers near the animal's mouth, it has good reactions and reflexes.

Excursions in Aswan come in all sorts of different styles. In addition to the places we have described on this page, there are also ruins of an ancient Egyptian temple, ruins of a monastery and other interesting places in the city.

Useful tips

- Aswan is one of the hottest and driest cities on our planet. It is still relatively comfortable in winter, but in summer it can be unbearably hot. Don't forget to protect yourself from the treacherous sun - make sure you cover your shoulders and wear a hat. We have talked in detail about the dangers of the sun in the reviews "What not to do in Egypt" and "What to take for Egypt";

- If you want to buy something in Aswan outside the tourist market, dollars and euros are unlikely to be accepted. You need Egyptian pounds. Read our in-depth review of "Money Exchange in Egypt";

- And by the way, we forgot to remind you! If you get badly burnt, you'll have to treat your sunburns out of your own pocket, as it's NOT an insurance event.

Have a great trip to Aswan and read our helpful pages about Egypt for tourists (see the pages list below).

TIPS FOR TOURISTS

What Don't Do in Egypt

Cheats of Tourists in Egypt

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To Egypt With Kids

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