Best Things to Do in Aswan, Egypt

Best Things to Do in Aswan - Egypt

Welcome to our guide on the best things to do in Aswan, Egypt! Aswan is a charming city located in southern Egypt, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and Nubian culture.

From ancient temples and tombs to scenic boat rides and bustling markets, Aswan offers a unique blend of experiences that will leave you with unforgettable memories. In this article, we’ll take you through the top attractions and activities that you should not miss on your visit to Aswan.

Magnificent Ancient Temples and Monuments

Magnificent Ancient Temples and Monuments
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Aswan boasts an impressive collection of ancient temples and monuments that showcase Egypt’s rich architectural heritage.

The Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel

The Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel is an architectural marvel that never fails to amaze. This colossal temple, carved into a sandstone cliff, features four massive statues of Ramses II seated on his throne.

The interior of the temple is equally impressive, with intricately decorated halls and chambers that tell the story of Ramses II’s reign and his devotion to the gods.

The Island Temple of Philae

The Island Temple of Philae, dedicated to the goddess Isis, is a beautiful example of ancient Egyptian architecture.

The temple complex was carefully relocated to its current location on Agilkia Island after the construction of the Aswan High Dam threatened to submerge it.

You will appreciate the temple’s colonnaded halls, the intricate reliefs, and the mythology surrounding the goddess Isis.

The Riverside Temple of Kom Ombo

The Temple of Kom Ombo, perched on a hilltop overlooking the Nile, is unique in that it is dedicated to two gods: Horus the Elder and Sobek, the crocodile god.

The temple is divided symmetrically, with each half devoted to one of the gods. You can explore the temple’s fascinating reliefs, which depict surgical instruments, indicating that the temple may have also served as a medical center.

Nature and Leisure Activities

Nature and Leisure Activities
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Experience the Charm of a Felucca Ride

A felucca ride on the Nile is synonymous with a visit to Aswan. These traditional sailboats offer a tranquil way to see the city from a different vantage point, gliding past palm-fringed banks and under the vibrant Aswan skies.

For those seeking a more extensive exploration, boat trips to Elephantine Island or the Nubian villages reveal the natural beauty and cultural richness of the region.

Island Exploration

Elephantine Island is a jewel in the Nile, rich with archaeological sites and surrounded by myths and legends. The Aswan Museum on the island offers intriguing insights into the area’s ancient history, while the ruins of Abu invite contemplation on the lives of those who once inhabited this strategic trade and military outpost.

Visit the Charming Nubian Villages

The picturesque Nubian villages, with their colorful mud-brick houses and lush greenery, offer a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of the Nubian people.

You can stroll through the narrow alleys, admire the intricate patterns and designs on the houses, and learn about the Nubian way of life. Many Nubian villages also offer traditional meals and handicrafts, providing an authentic cultural experience.

Discover the Nubian Museum

The Nubian Museum, curated in collaboration with UNESCO, is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about Nubian culture and history.

The museum’s extensive collection includes artifacts, photographs, and multimedia displays that showcase the rich heritage of the Nubian people.

From ancient Nubian kingdoms to the modern-day Nubian community, the museum offers a comprehensive understanding of this unique culture.

Camel Trek

For an adventure that combines the thrill of exploration with a touch of the timeless, a camel trek on the West Bank of Aswan reveals desert landscapes and views of ancient tombs and monasteries.

This journey not only offers stunning scenery but also a connection to the caravan routes that once crossed this desert.

Discover the Ancient Monasteries

During your camel trek, you’ll have the opportunity to visit several ancient monasteries that dot the West Bank landscape.

These monasteries, some of which date back to the early Christian era, offer a fascinating glimpse into the region’s religious history.

The most famous of these is the Monastery of St. Simeon, a 7th-century complex that features well-preserved frescoes and architecture.

Experience the Desert Landscape

A camel trek also allows you to fully immerse yourself in the stark beauty of the desert landscape. As you traverse the dunes and rocky terrain, you’ll be struck by the vastness and silence of the desert.

Your Nubian guide will share stories and insights about the area’s history and ecology, making the experience both educational and entertaining.

Architectural and Engineering Marvels

Architectural and Engineering Marvels
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Unfinished Obelisk

The Unfinished Obelisk in the ancient quarries of Aswan provides a fascinating glimpse into the stone-cutting techniques of ancient Egyptians.

Had it been completed, it would have been the largest piece of stone ever fashioned by humans. Today, it tells a story of ambition, skill, and the challenges faced by ancient builders.

Aswan High Dam

The Aswan High Dam is a feat of modern engineering that reshaped the geography and economy of Egypt. While its construction created Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, it also necessitated the monumental task of relocating ancient temples, including Abu Simbel, to save them from flooding.

Culinary and Social Experiences

Culinary and Social Experiences
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No visit to Aswan is complete without sampling the delicious flavors of Nubian cuisine. Nubian food is known for its unique spices, fresh ingredients, and hearty portions.


High Tea at the Old Cataract Hotel, once frequented by guests such as Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie, offers an opulent setting with breathtaking views of the Nile, blending luxurious hospitality with historical allure.

For those seeking an unforgettable dining experience, the 1902 Restaurant and Panorama Restaurant provide not only exquisite meals but also stunning vistas that elevate the dining experience to art.

Must-Try Nubian Dishes

Some of the must-try Nubian dishes include:

  • Ful Medames: A staple dish made with fava beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices.
  • Okra Stew: A flavorful stew made with okra, tomatoes, and spices, often served with bread or rice.
  • Kissra: A thin, spongy bread made from sorghum flour, often served with stews and dips.
  • Spiced Fish: Fresh fish from the Nile, marinated in a blend of spices and grilled to perfection.

Nubian Spices and Teas

Nubian cuisine is also known for its unique spices and teas. Don’t miss the opportunity to try Nubian spice blends, such as the aromatic dukka, which is made with roasted herbs, nuts, and spices.

Nubian tea, made with a blend of herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, is another must-try beverage that perfectly complements the flavors of Nubian food.

Traditional Crafts and Souvenirs

Traditional Crafts and Souvenirs
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The Aswan Souq is a vibrant marketplace where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and shop for traditional crafts, spices, and souvenirs. The souq is a maze of narrow alleys and stalls, each offering a unique array of goods.

The Souq is famous for its traditional crafts, including:

  • Nubian Baskets: Colorful, handwoven baskets made from natural materials like palm fronds and grass.
  • Spices and Perfumes: A wide variety of aromatic spices, essential oils, and perfumes, including the famous Nubian musk.
  • Aswan Shawls: Soft, lightweight shawls made from cotton or silk, often featuring intricate patterns and designs.
  • Alabaster Figurines: Delicately carved alabaster figurines depicting ancient Egyptian gods, animals, and symbols.

Unique Experiences

Unique Experiences
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Western Quarry (Gebel Simaan)

The Western Quarry, also known as Gebel Simaan, offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure to see the source of the stone used in many of ancient Egypt’s monumental structures.

The sense of standing where workers carved out massive blocks of stone centuries ago connects visitors directly to the ingenuity and determination of the ancient Egyptians.

Wadi al-Subua

For those with an appetite for exploration, Wadi al-Subua, a less frequented archaeological site, offers a chance to discover ruins that tell tales of Egypt’s expansive history, far from the crowds of more famous sites.


Aswan transcends its role as just another Egyptian city to become a profound exploration of history, culture, and nature. The diverse attractions, encompassing both the grandiose and the serene, demand more than passive observation; they invite active participation and reflection.

From ancient temples to Nubian villages, and from felucca rides to camel treks, Aswan offers an unforgettable experience that will leave you with lasting memories of your Egyptian adventure.

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