ASWAN — The River & Islands

The promenade or Corniche where the large cruise ships dock and the feluccas tie up is busy all day and night. From here you can take a felucca for a sail around the river and its many islands to get a different perspective of this most beautiful of Egypt’s cities, Aswan.

The sights found here are:
Elephantine Island
Nubian Villages
Aswan Museum and the Ruins of Abu
Kitchener’s Island

Elephantine Island

Elephantine Island
Elephantine Island is the largest of the Aswan area islands and is one of the most ancient sites in Egypt. Its location at the first Cataract of the Nile provided a natural boundary between Egypt and Nubia and the ancient town located in the southern part of the island was also a fortress through much of its history. At one time there was a bridge from the mainland to the island. Elephantine is Greek for elephant and the island probably got its name because it was a major ivory trading centre as well as trading other goods. Another reason for the name could be that from a distance the large boulders in the river near the island resembled elephants bathing.
Elephantine Island is a beautiful place and there is a lot to see here. One of the main sights is the Nilometer, which is one of only three on the Nile. The Nilometer was used to measure the water level of the Nile until the 19th century. There has been an ongoing excavation here for many years by the German Archaeological Institute and some of the finds along with many other island remains can be found in the Elephantine Museum.

Traveller's Tip

At the northern end of the island is the Movenpick Hotel with its ugly ‘air-traffic control’ tower. If you can get over its appearance it is a nice place to stay with glorious views over the Nile.
Nubian Villages

Nubian Villages
The Nubian villages are a good place to wander around and spend some time exploring the colourful houses. The houses often have paintings or carvings 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 door knocker between the fish and the man. Others will have a sacred black cube of Mecca, with a painting showing the owner’s pilgrimage to Mecca.

Traveller's Tip

There are several cafes to be found in these villages where you can get a henna tattoo or find a guide to take you around the villages.

Aswan Museum and the Ruins of Abu
These are found at the southern end of Elephantine Island. The museum contains a collection of weapons, pottery, utensils, statues, mummies and sarcophagi dating from predynastic to late Roman times that were uncovered in excavations of the island. The best of these collections are found in the annexe of the museum. The Ruins of Abu are found throughout he garden at the side of the museum. Here you will find the ruins of the Temple of Khnum who was an important Egyptian god. The temple dates back to Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty but there has probably been a temple here from the 3rd Dynasty. There are also ruins of a Temple of Satet, Khnum’s female equivalent (the three local deities were Khnum, Satet and a local Nubian goddess Anqet). You will also find a 3rd Dynasty granite step pyramid which is now just visible and to the north a cemetery for the royal rams. On the south end of the island is a small one room Ptolemaic temple built from material from the Temple of Kalabsha (now near the High Dam) with decorations attributed to the Nubian Pharaoh Arkamani from the 3rd century BC and finished by the Romans.

Kitchener’s Island

Kitchener’s Island
This island is the other major one on the Nile near Aswan. It was given to Lord Kitchener as a reward for his services in the Sudan Campaign (1896-1898). He transformed the small island into a beautiful oasis of exotic trees and plants and carefully planned walkways. It was later used as a research station for examining different food and cash crops by the Egyptian government and today a biological research station can be found at the southern tip but this is closed to visitors.
The island now is a botanical garden and is popular among the local people and tourists as a spot for weekend picnics or for a quiet afternoon away from the noise of the city.

Traveller's Tip

You can hire a felucca or motorboat from various spots in Aswan to take you to this lovely spot where you can cool off in the shade of its trees. A good time to go is during the week in the morning when it is much less crowded.