Aswan beckons with age-old temples, medieval ruins, lush gardens, and colorful Nubian villages, all set against a stunning River Nile backdrop. While there’s much to see, with careful planning you can cover the city’s ancient history and rich culture in one day. Check out our tips for squeezing the most from a 24-hour stay.
Begin with a roundup of Aswan’s three highest-profile sights. Set out on a half-day tour to the Aswan High Dam, built in the 1960s to prevent the Nile’s annual floods, before heading for the ancient granite quarry that still holds the Unfinished Obelisk. Marvel at this enormous pillar, still half-hewn from the rock but abandoned 3,500 years ago due to a large crack in its stone. Next, ride a boat to the island Temple of Philae, an exquisite complex dating from 690 BC and dedicated to the goddess Isis.
With Aswan’s top sights in the bag, this afternoon is ideal for casting your sightseeing net wider. Perhaps take a felucca boat cruise to Kitchener’s Island and stroll around its shady botanical gardens, or ride a camel to the 7th-century St. Simeon’s Monastery. Alternatively, head to Lake Nasser to roam the water’s-edge Kalabsha Temple. Other options include the Nubian Museum and its repository of household artifacts and monuments dating from the seventh century BC, or motorboat trips to Nubian villages on the banks of the Nile or Soheil Island to learn about this ancient ethnic community.
Come dusk, it’s time to relax and focus on Aswan’s scenery and cuisine. The Sound and Light Show at Philae Temple is an evening showstopper, so book an admission ticket that includes convenient round-trip hotel transfers. Marvel at the illuminations as you walk through the temple, and admire the lights reflected in the island’s waters. For something gentler, take a horse-and-carriage ride through Aswan, trotting along its Nile-side boulevards as the sun sets. Otherwise, sit down for a home-cooked dinner at a local Nubian family home, relaxing in the courtyard and learning about their way of life over staples such as Nile perch and roast chicken.