ASWAN — Around Aswan

There are several places to visit that are close to Aswan that you can get to either on a tour that you can arrange through your hotel or the various tour agencies around town or you can make your own way by taxi or by hiring a felucca or motor boat.

The sights found around Aswan are:
Aswan Dam
High Dam
Seheyl Island
Philae Temple Complex

Aswan Dam
You will find this dam about 5km south of Aswan. When it was built between 1898 and 1912 it was the longest dam across a valley in the world. It was built to stop the annual Nile River from flooding and make the water more available throughout the year. This dam made the area much more sustainable for crops as well as providing the country with most of its hydroelectricity. It has now been superseded in this function by the High Dam but is still worth a visit because of its picturesque location.

High Dam

High Dam
This dam found about 13km south of Aswan was built between 1960 and 1971 after much political controversy. The benefits of building this dam have helped increase the amount of land available for agriculture and also it is capable of providing power to many more people than the original dam. Unfortunately the dam has caused a few problems as well such as preventing the flow of silt which is needed for the fertility of the Nile Valley which increases the need to use fertilisers which in turn causes other problems. Most people get here as part of an organised tour but you can organise your own taxi and you will have to pay an entrance fee of about 5LE.

Traveller's Tip

The High Dam is not a particularly spectacular sight but you will probably want to visit because of its fame.

Seheyl Island
This island is found just north of the old Aswan Dam and it was sacred to the goddess Anukis. You will find huge granite boulders at the southern end of this island with their innumerable inscriptions depicting a number of historical occurrences, such as the well-documented Famine Stele dating from the Ptolemaic period. Next to these boulders there is a Nubain village with its highly coloured houses. The handmade beaded jewellery which you can buy here is a very popular souvenir.You can reach this island by hiring a felucca.

Temple of Philae

Philae Temple Complex
A trip to the Philae Temple Complex is probably a ‘must do’ on most tourist’s visits to Aswan. Until the construction of the High Dam this was considered one of Egypt’s most beautiful spots but it lost its attraction when it was flooded most of the year. It got so bad that UNESCO had to rescue the monuments by taking them away and rebuilding them on nearby Agilkia Island between 1972 and 1980 and this is where you now visit it. The oldest part of the Philae temple complex is the part that you see when you get off the boat dock — the Vestibule of Nectanebos I which is the entrance to the island. This is followed by the Outer Temple Court with its colonnades on either side. The entrance to the Temple of Isis are 18m high towers of the First Pylon with its reliefs of Ptolemy X11. Next is the central courtyard with its Birth House dedicated to Horus. The second pylon leads to the Inner Sanctuary of Isis. The stone shrine containing the gold statue of Isis that once stood here is now housed in the British Museum (London) but the stone base holding her barque can still be found here. A stairway inside this sanctuary leads to the Osiri Chambers decorated with reliefs showing the myth of the murder of Orisis. Other monuments found on the island are the Temple of Augustus, the Gate of Diocletian, Temple of Hathor and the Kiosk of Trajan. There are cafes, toilet facilities and souvenir shops found on the island. The best way to get here is to organise a tour through your hotel or travel agency but if this is not what you want to do you can catch a taxi to Shellal where the boat quay is and then take a motor boat to the island. The taxi will cost around 30LE (depending on your bargaining skills) but this can be shared by up to 5 or 6 people. The boat costs around 20LE and this amount can be shared by up to 8 people but if there are more than 8 people you will pay about 2.50LE each.

Traveller's Tip

Each evening there is a Sound and Light Show, where the floodlit buildings are silhouetted against the dark rocks and water surrounding them. The times and prices vary so it is worth checking at the tourist office for information.
The number for this can be found on the website at http://www.touregypt.net/tourinfo.htm