The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Sights & Travel

Cairo to Aswan: Everything You Need to Know

Cairo to Aswan: Everything You Need to Know
    written by
    Kate Dannies

    Any mention of Aswan brings a smile to the faces of Cairo locals longing for
    a relaxing holiday. This cheerful city is home to the vibrant Nubian culture
    with a simpler lifestyle and a more relaxed pace of life. Aswan is also a
    popular winter destination for many Egyptians, where you can escape the crowds
    and noise while taking in some local culture and soaking up the sun.

    Getting There:

    Aswan is famously accessible by overnight train. Sleeping cars are available
    for around 550LE, but roughing it out in normal first-class seats for around
    250LE will save you considerable cash. Foreigners beware: you might be asked to
    pay the fare in US dollars, no excuses accepted. Why not skip all this hassle
    and catch one of the moderately priced roundtrip flights from Cairo to Aswan?
    Plane fares on Egypt Air currently
    average at 800LE and will get you there in a mere 45 minutes, leaving much more
    time for exploring Aswan. If you do take the train; bring snacks, drinks and
    water for the long haul and enough foreign currency to buy your return ticket
    so that you don’t get stuck.

    Where to Stay:

    Aswan has a variety of hotels in every price range. Built in 1899, the
    famous Cataract
    is currently under renovation and will reopen in 2011. The newly
    opened Moevenpick
    is a great option for five-star luxury at reasonable prices. Some
    four-star hotels such as the Pyramisa
    Isis Island
    and the Iberotel
    are available, but Aswan also offers homey three-star hotels at great
    value. Try the Isis
    Corniche Hotel
    in the heart of the city or the Sara Hotel, which sits on a
    mountain above the city with a pool and sweeping views of the Nile.  

    Dining Out:

    Gourmet dining is not Aswan’s forte. For this reason it pays to check out
    restaurants in the nicer hotels. The Orangerie Restaurant at the Moevenpick
    serves Indian food and European classic fare; it’s a great choice for an
    elegant evening out. Some basic restaurants in town serve kabab and kofta,
    pasta and Arabic salads at reasonable prices. An exception is Chef
    Khalil Restaurant
    off the souk in town. This place is touristy but has
    character, and the menu choices get a bit more creative than other similar
    places. Make sure to try out the local karkadeh: freshly made, delicious and
    refreshing. Sample the drink at the Nubian
    House Restaurant
    in the hills to catch a great breeze and lovely Nile
    views. Another great way to enjoy a meal in Aswan is to take a picnic on a
    felucca; ask your hotel if they offer picnic lunches for sale or drop by a
    local market for snacks, drinks and sandwich supplies.

    Things to Do:

    Of course, most people visit Aswan for its ancient monuments. Don’t miss Elephantine
    , the Philae and Kalabsha temples, the St. Simon
    or the Mausoleum of Aga Khan. If you have extra time, a
    day trip to Abu Simbel can offer even more ancient ruins for exploration.
    Aswan’s monuments are amazing, but it’s worth checking out the more
    contemporary sites. Head to the Nubian Museum; a gem among Egyptian
    museums with its modern architecture and labelled displays. This world-class
    attraction is full of interesting information on Aswan’s native population and
    the impact of the High Dam on their culture.

    With this context in mind, pay a visit to the High Dam, the most
    controversial and symbolic of President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s projects. For
    obligatory shopping, head to Aswan’s vibrant souk, where all manner of
    souvenirs can be found, in addition to the city’s famous spices, dried karkadeh
    and colourful local embroidery. Aswan’s small size makes it easy to see a lot
    of things in a short time, but make sure to leave some hours for relaxation by
    the Nile or by your hotel pool: leisure with a dash of culture is what this
    unique city is all about.

    Aswan is a city that merits a visit by tourists and Egyptians alike. So,
    consider skipping one weekend in Sahel or Ein Sokhna and jet down to Aswan for
    an alternative weekend experience.