Aswan

October 28, 2011 by

Best Of Lists, Hotels & Lodging, Suggested Itineraries

There is a ton to discover in Aswan

Aswan is the southernmost city in Egypt and not coincidentally the driest; rain is a freakishly rare occurrence here, any time of the year. But while we’re on the superlatives it’s also the hottest, which makes the (northern) winter the best time to visit, when daytime temperatures are mild enough to allow for sightseeing.

The recent reopening of the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan provides another incentive. If the money belt allows you should spend at least one night here, and if it doesn’t then go for afternoon tea. This grand 19th century institution occupies a commanding position on the Nile and was the setting for Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, also appearing in the subsequent film version.

The hotel overlooks the island of Elephantine Island which once represented the border between Egypt and Nubia. Try to ignore the Mövenpick resort, difficult though it is. At least its monstrously disproportionate tower provides a view of the island’s sights, which range from some of the oldest ruins in all of Egypt, and the atmospheric high-walled remains of the 7th century St Simeon’s Monastery.

While there are traces of Dynastic Egypt such as the Tomb of the Nobles, it’s worth slowing down to Aswan’s stately pace and enjoying the kind of attractions you won’t find anywhere else. The Nubian Museum preserves the fascinating culture of the Nubians through many exhibits which would otherwise have been lost in the construction of the High Dam. Speaking of which, that enormous feat of engineering lies to the south of Aswan and is well worth a look.

- James Conway

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