When we arrived in Aswan we had spent the prior night sleeping on the deck of the ferry and both nights before that sleeping in the desert. We did manage to change our undies but having a shower in the middle of the Sahara was out of the question. We smelled, our skin was dry and cracked, and we wanted nothing other than ice cream, Doritos, running water, and maybe some air conditioning. I know that sounds pathetic, but truly we needed a “break”.
We found all of this and a good bit more as well. Ahh, welcome to Egypt.
Once our basic needs were seen to (which took a solid 24 hours to accomplish) we began to play tourist again. Any trip to Aswan will instantly inundate you with the loss of ancient Nubia. Nubia is the region that stretches from upper Egypt all the way to Khartoum. When the Aswan High Dam was built, creating Lake Nasser, much of the area was flooded and it took a rather substantial international effort to literally lift and remove the archaeological wonders of Nubia, like temples and tombs, to higher ground. The most amazing part to me was that this all took place in the middle of the Cold War with assistance coming from both halves of that equation.
One of those saved temples was the Temple of Isis, which easily dwarfed any site we had visited in The Sudan right off the bat. We decided to go to the sound and light show at Philie (the temple’s other name) and although the ‘show’ was extremely cheesy we enjoyed seeing the grandeur of the temple. All through The Sudan, sites were basically left as they had been found a couple hundred years ago with walls missing and collapsed columns, seeing this temple completely restored and covered in lights was really impressive. It was also nice to learn why we experienced blackouts in the cities of northern Sudan around 8pm from time to time.
Aswan overall was a complete breath of fresh air for us. There were modern comforts, a beautiful Nile view from our hotel room. A pool to swim in on our roof instead of the river itself. Wifi, Doritos, ice cream, running water, and souvenirs for sale all made us feel quite happy to be back in civilization a but also quite disappointed to be through with The Sudan, most likely for good.
IF YOU GO: Plenty of cheap accommodation along the waterfront as most people visit Aswan as part of a cruise from Luxor. Street food is cheaper than eating in the restaurants along the river but if you want a beer you have no choice. The Nubian Museum and Isis Temple are the two main attractions in town but many go to Aswan to be whisked away further south to see the gigantic Abu Simbel very near to the Sudanese border. These trips often leave as early as 3am and as we’d seen Abu Simbel from our ferry as we crossed into Egypt we opted for some sleep instead.