Aswan, Egypt's sunniest southern city and ancient frontier town located about 81 miles south of Luxor, has a distinctively African atmosphere. Aswan is the third biggest town in Egypt today and is a major stop for most the cruises. Its ancient Egyptian name was Syene. Small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Days can be spent strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the sailboats etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish
The city lies on the east bank of the Nile. Relax here, visit a few mosques, but then prepare for an adventure. The bazaar runs along the Corniche, which continues past the Ferial Gardens and the Nubian Museum, and continues on to the Cemetery, with its forest of cupolas surmounted tombs from the Fatimid period. Just east of the cemetery in the famous area quarries is the gigantic Unfinished Obelisk. Just to the south of this, two Greco-Roman sarcophagi and an unfinished colossus remain half buried in the sand.
The most obvious is Elephantine Island, which is timeless with artifacts dating from pre-Dynastic times onward. It is the largest island in the area. Just beyond Elephantine is Kitchener's Island (Gaiter el-Nabatat). It was named for the British general Haritos Kitchener (185--1916) and was sent to Egypt in 1883 to reorganize the Egyptian army, which he then led against the Sudanese Mahdi. But the island is known for its garden and the exotic plants the Kitchener planted there, and which continue to flourish today.
On the opposite shore (west bank), the cliffs are surmounted by the tomb of a mar abut, Qubbet el-Hawwa, who was a local saint. Upriver a bit is the tomb of Mohammed Shah Aga Khan who died in 1957. Known as the Tomb of the Aga Khan, it is beautiful in its simplicity. A road from there leads back to the Coptic Monastery of St Simeon, which was built in the sixth century in honor of Amba Hadra, a local saint.