Exploring Aswan and Abu Simbel

The numerous majestic ancient temples that still line the Nile River’s shores for hundreds of miles are what make Southern Egypt, also known as Upper Egypt, the most famous destination. Aswan is the largest town and village in the far south of Egypt and a popular starting point from which tourists have traveled for thousands of years to visit and explore these ruins. Abu Simbel is the largest and most well-known of all the temple ruins that can be reached from Aswan.
Even though Aswan and Abu Simbel are almost as far apart as Luxor and Aswan, they are almost always connected because it is rare for a visitor to visit one without also visiting the other. In point of fact, whether traveling by air or road, it is virtually impossible to visit Abu Simbel without first passing through Aswan. Not only is Aswan a convenient location from which to explore Egypt’s far south, Indeed, it serves as a crucial entry point into this region.
Along the Nile, Aswan is a tiny, very laid-back town that is even smaller and more laid-back than Luxor. The Temple of Philae, the Nubian Village, and the Aswan High Dam are Aswan’s most important landmarks. Even though Egyptians are very proud of the damn, I personally don’t like it very much, and I think you can skip it and not miss anything. It is not a historical or ancient site, and the only thing that makes it notable is that it has finally taken control of the Nile’s annual flooding. However, you would be better served if someone spoke to you about that. To get to this point, you don’t have to visit the Aswan High Damn, which isn’t even that high compared to the major dams in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Therefore, unless you only have a few days in Aswan and run out of things to do, follow my advice and spend more time exploring the Nubian Village rather than taking the dam tour. This site, which is about halfway between downtown Aswan and the dam site, is a collection of traditional Nubian houses and buildings along the Nile that are incredibly colorful, fun, and whimsical. There are a number of places in Aswan that claim to be a “Nubian Village,” but when everyone talks about this location, there is only one true Nubian Village—the larger one 30 minutes south of Aswan by boat on the western bank of the river.
You can easily spend a few hours in the Nubian Village taking photos of yourself and the colorful walls, doors, and vistas, both inside and outside, if you’re into photography or just like finding Instagram able scenes. If the doors to a place are open, don’t be afraid to enter. There are nooks, stairways, and terraces in a lot of restaurants and cafes that make some of the best photos. It’s nice to plan a lunch there as well, but if you’re going to be there for more than three hours, you should tell the boat driver when you expect to be ready to leave. If you have only arranged for one-way transportation to the village from Aswan’s downtown, it may be challenging to locate a boat back.
If you want to visit another museum, the Nubian Museum in that city is small but, by Egyptian museum standards, quite nice. It is evident that it places a greater emphasis on the Nubian heritage of southern Egypt, but you will also find a lot of artifacts that appear to be identical to those in other Egyptian museums. If you don’t make it there, you won’t be missing much, but if you have extra time, it might be worth your while to spend an hour or so there.
The Temple of Philae is the final important site in Aswan proper that is worth mentioning. This entire temple was moved to its current location on a small island in the middle of the Nile in Aswan from its original location, which was partially submerged in water after the first Aswan dam was built in the early 20th century.
The more recent Aswan High Dam threatened to submerge and destroy many more ancient sites, whereas the original Aswan dam threatened the integrity and preservation of several ancient sites along the Nile in southern Egypt. The two massive structures that were carved into a mountain and were dedicated to Ramses II and his favorite queen Nefertari were the most magnificent of these temples that were in danger of being destroyed by the High Dam Project.
The world was so horrified by the possibility of losing these incredible ancient monuments that UNESCO and a group of donors from around the world came together to start a project to remove the massive temples from their original location on a mountain and move them to a higher location on the side of another mountain. These impressive temples are now preserved for all to admire at their new location in Abu Simbel because of their determination to preserve Egypt’s endangered history and their unprecedented engineering feats.
Even further south than Aswan, Abu Simbel is about a three-hour drive from the Sudanese border on the shores of Lake Nasser, the reservoir created by the Aswan High Dam. Egypt Air offers a short flight to Abu Simbel from Aswan; however, most visitors to this location wake up very early in order to join the mandatory convoy that carries large tourist groups to and from Abu Simbel every morning at 5 a.m. There is currently only one convoy that travels to Abu Simbel each day, and no other vehicles are permitted to travel there. The Egyptian State Security Service strictly enforces this rule, so it’s important to plan ahead for how to get to Abu Simbel.
Depending on whether you go with a large group in a tourist coach or take a private car and private guide with just a few others in the convoy, Abu Simbel excursions typically cost between $50 and $120 per person. Regardless, if you want to include Abu Simbel in your itinerary, you will need to set aside two additional days for the trip. The journey to and from the site will take all day, and one of those will be for getting to Aswan. Keep in mind that the journey from Aswan to Abu Simbel and back takes three hours. You will have a few hours to spend there and look around, but the nine-hour excursion will really wear you out.
As for Abu Simbel and Aswan, that’s all there is to it. Send me an email if you have any additional inquiries, and I will be happy to assist travelers in planning and answering any questions they may have.

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