Best things to do in Aswan
Find out more about those top places in Aswan
Marking ancient Egypt’s southern frontier and today within striking distance of the Sudanese border, Aswan has always stood apart from Egypt’s other major cities. While the city was a garrison town used by the pharaohs to put down rebellions in Nubia, Aswan today is proud of its Nubian heritage. At the Nubia Museum artifacts of the ancient Nubian civilization are displayed, many of which were saved from destruction when Lake Nasser was created. Beyond this, the ruins of Abu on Elphantine Island showcase how developed a civilization Nubia was while the nearby Nile island of Seheyl has a number of traditional Nubian villages. What is more, while Aswan does not have the blockbuster attractions of Egypt’s other cities, it is the perfect opportunity to relax with the nearby village of Gharb Sehyel offering a chance to swim in the Nile and soak up the sun on riverside beaches.
Aswan was the source of ancient Egypt’s finest marble and nowhere is that more apparent than the quarry that houses the iconic unfinished obelisk. Still partially attached to the bedrock, the obelisk would have been Egypt’s largest had it been completed and today is one of Aswan’s most enigmatic attractions.
Established in 1997 with the assistance of UNESCO, the Nubian Museum houses artifacts that would otherwise have been engulfed by the rising waters of Lake Nasser following the damming of the Nile. For the best experience, tour guides can take you through Nubia’s history from its glory days as one of the world’s most advanced ancient civilizations to the Egyptian conquest and the arrival of Islam.
The perfectly symmetrical Temple of Kom Ombo is likely ancient Egypt’s most beautifully situated place of worship. Jutting out into the sacred Nile, the temple was uniquely dedicated to two different gods, Horus and Sobek, a local crocodile god, and was constructed in the 2nd century BC during the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
Perched nearly the colossal Lake Nasser, the 13th century BC temples of Abu Simbel are southern Egypt’s star attraction. Discovered in the early 1800s when they were near completely buried by sand dunes, the Temple of Ramses II and Queen Nefertari have been well-preserved by the dry desert climate and today offer a remarkable glimpse into the ancient Egyptian world.
Located in the ruins of the ancient Nubian city of Abu, the Elephantine Pyramid is one of the first pyramidal structures ever constructed. The basic stepped construction is thought to date from around 2600 BC and can be visited as part of a romantic felucca boat tour from nearby Aswan.