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Aswan - general info

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. 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. Every night Nubian dancers and musicians perform in the Cultural Center, just off the Corniche. Folklore troupes recreate scenes from village life and perform the famous Nubian mock stick-fight dances.

Aswan is considered to be a perfect Winter resort, its weather is dry and hot in the Summer time, fine in the Winter, Autumn and Spring. Cotton clothes and light shirts are preferable when going there, & just a jacket if it gets a bit chilly in one of the winter's nights. It's a small city of about 34,608 km2 with a population of about 1,042, 000. Agricultural and industrial activities take place to establish the city's economic economy besides income from tourism.

Tourist Info
Aswan - tours info

The city proper lies on the east bank of the Nile.  Relax here, visit a few mosques, but then prepare for an adventure.  The bazaar runs along the Corniche.  Just east of the cemetery in the famous area quarries is the gigantic Unfinished Obelisk .  Just to the south of this, two Greco-Roman sarcophagi and an unfinished colossus remain half buried in the sand.
The Unfinished Obelisk
Much of the red granite used for ancient temples and colossi came from quarries in the Aswan area. Around these quarries are many inscriptions, many of which describe successful quarrying projects. The Unfinished Obelisk located in the Northern Quarry still lies where a crack was discovered as it was being hewn from the rock. Possibly intended as a companion to the Lateran Obelisk, originally at Karnak but now in Rome, it would have weighed over 2.3 million pounds and would have been the worlds largest piece of stone ever handled. However, a crack in the stone occurred, which caused it to be abandoned. Tools left by it's builders have given us much insight into how such work was performed. The site has recently been renovated and equipped with tourist facilities. Nearby is the Fatimid Cemetery.)

The most obvious is Elephantine Island , which is timeless with artifacts dating from pre-Dynastic times onward.  It is the largest island in the area. Just beyond Elephantine is Kitchener's Island (Geziret el-Nabatat).  It was named for the British general Haratio Kitchener (185--1916) who came to Egypt in 1883 to reorganize the Egyptian army, which he then led against the Sudanese Mahdi.  But the island is known for its garden and the exotic plants that Kitchener planted there, and which continue to flourish till today.

On the opposite shore (west bank), the cliffs are surmounted by the tomb of a marabut, Qubbet el-Hawwa, who was a local saint.  Below are tombs of the local .

Up the river a bit is the tomb of "Mohammed Shah Aga Khan" who died in 1957.  Known as the Tomb of the Aga Khan , it is beautiful in its simplicity.  A road from there leads back to the Coptic Monastery of St Simeon , which was built in the sixth century in honor of Amba Hadra, a local saint.

There is also the old Aswan dam, built by the British, which was enlarged, expanded, but unable to control the Nile for irrigation.
Elephantine Island 

Elephantine Island is the largest of the Aswan area islands, and is one of the most ancient sites in Egypt, with artifacts dating to predynastic periods. This is probably due to its location at the first Cataract of the Nile, which provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubia. As an island, it was also easily defensible. In fact, the ancient town located in the southern part of the island was also a fortress through much of its history.

It is believed that the island received its name because it was a major ivory trading center, though in fact, it was a major trading post of many commodities. There are large boulders in the river near the island, which resembled bathing elephants, particularly from far, and this too has been suggested as a reason for the island's name.

The island is very beautiful, and while many of the artifacts there are in ruin, there is still considerable to see. One of its main attractions is the Nilometer, which is one of only three on the Nile, was used to measure the water level of the Nile. There has been an ongoing excavation at the town for many years by the German Archaeological Institute, and some of the finds along with many other island artifacts, including a mummified ram of Khnum, are located in the Elephantine Museum . Another major attraction is the ruins of the Temple of Khnum. Elephantine Island was considered to be home of this important Egyptian god, and while this structure dates back to the Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty, there are references to a Temple of Khnum on the island as early as the 3rd Dynasty. There are also ruins of a Temple of Satet, who was Khnum's female counterpart (the three local deities were foremost Khnum, but also Satet and a local Nubian goddess Anqet. These gods were worshipped here since the earliest dynasties), also build by Queen Hatshepsut, a shrine to Hekayib from the 6th Dynasty, a local governor who was deified after his death. His cult flourished during the middle kingdom, and some fine statues from the shrine are now in the museum. You will also find a 3rd Dynasty granite step pyramid, which is now just visible, and to the north, the mud-brick vaults of the late period, which housed the bodies of the royal rams. On the south end of the island is a small one room Ptolemaic temple, which was constructed from materials removed from the Kalabsha Temple. Here, there are decorations attributed to the Nubian Pharaoh Arkamani from the 3rd century BC. The building seems to have been finished by the Romans with reference to Caesar Augustus.

Other artifacts and archaeological sites have been removed or destroyed. Prior to 1822, there were temples of Tutmosis III and Amenhotep III, both of which were relatively intact, but they were destroyed in that year by the Turkish government. A rare calendar, known as the Elephantine Calendar, dating to the reign of Tutmosis III, was found in fragments, and a Papyrus dating to the 13th dynasty and known as the Elephantine Papyrus was also discovered. It is unclear where these artifacts are currently located. A stela with inscriptions commemorating the repairs made on a 12th Dynasty fortress which honored Senosret III was also found, and is now in the British Museum.

Elephantine Island is a beautiful place to visit, with wonderful gardens and some truly significant artifacts. It is also a good place to spend some leisure time, wondering among the Nubian villages where the people are friendly and the houses are often very colorful. The houses often have paintings or carved with a crocodile at the bottom, a fish in the middle and a man on top, with a woman's hand made of brass as a doorknocker between the fish and man. Others will have a sacred black cube of Mecca, with a painting depicting the means of the owner's pilgrimage to Mecca.

Kitchner's Island
(Plant Island, Gizirat al-Nabatat, Plantation Island, Gizirat al-Bustan, Botanical Island)
Kitchner's Island is a botanical garden, filled with exotic plants and trees imported from all over the world. It is a perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in the shade. The island must be reached by boat, and is located on the other side of Elephantine Island from Aswan. The Island was given to Lord Kitchner for his campaigns in the Sudan, and he moved there and created his garden, importing plants and trees from all over the world. Today, the Egyptian government operates this popular tourist destination.
The Tombs of the Nobles
The northern hills of the west bank (Qubbet el-Hawwa or Qubbet el-Hawa meaning windy dome) are filled with the rock-hewn tombs of princes from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. The 6th Dynasty tombs, some of which form linked family complexes, contain important biographical texts. Inside, the tombs are decorated with vivid wall paintings showing scenes of everyday life, hieroglyphic biographies and inscriptions telling of the noblemen's journeys into Africa. The 12th Dynasty tombs of Sarenput I (#36) and Sarenput II (#31) have the finest art, and it is said that some work in the number 31 tomb rivals that of Memphis. The Tombs there are numbered. At night they are illuminated with hidden spotlights and can be clearly seen from Aswan.
Mausoleum of the Aga Khan 

This is the Mausoleum of the spiritual leader of the Shiite, based principally in India but with followers around the world. It is a very elegant pink granite structure of late 1950 origin, which also resembles the Fatimid tombs in Cairo. The Mausoleum has an excellent view, including Aga Khan's white villa below, and is near the Monastery of St. Simeons on the west bank at Aswan.

The Aga Khan was extremely wealthy. On his birthday in 1945, he was weighed in diamonds, which he then distributed to his followers. It should be noted, also, that he was a large man. Every day that his widow was at the Villa, she places a Red Rose on his white Carrara marble tomb. His widow, Omme Habibeh, popularly referred to as "The Begum" died on July 1st, 2000. Mohammed Shah Aga Khan was educated in Europe and succeeded his father in 1885 to become the 48th imam. His grandson, Karim AGa Khan upon his death in 1957, succeeded him. The Mausoleum is no longer open to the public.

The Monastery of St. Simeon
(Deir Amba Samaan)

This abandoned monastery near the Aga Khan Mausoleum on the west bank at Aswan is considered to be notably typical of early Christian Monasteries, and was one of the largest Coptic Monasteries in Egypt, with perhaps thousands of residents. It was first dedicated to Amba Hadra, a bishop of Aswan and saint of the late 4th century. It was said that just after his wedding, he encountered a funeral procession, which inspired him to live the remainder of his life as a hermit.

This fortress Christian monastery originally had walls ten meters tall, with towers used as lookout posts against enemies. The lower level of the tower was made out of stone is mostly intact, but the upper level of mud-brick was vanished. The monastery was rebuilt in the 10th century, but destroyed in 1173 by Saladin, who feared that it might serve as a refuge of marauding Christian Nubians who made forays into southern Egypt.

In the lower level there is some remains of early Coptic paintings on the walls. The arches in it demonstrates an early form of ventilation.
Elephantine Island Museum 

The Elephantine Museum is located on Elephantine Island and has artifacts primarily related to that area. The white clapboard house where the museum is located also has the distinction of being the former villa of Sr. William Willcocks, the designer of the first Aswan dam. The museum includes a mummified Ram of Khnum, a golden bust of Khnum, statues of Amenhotep III with goddesses and prehistoric schist basins.

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