And then we were in Aswan! This city marks the border of ‘lower Egypt’: the deep south of the country. We so enjoyed the setting of Aswan. Strolling along the boulevard without hassle day and night we took in all the different views. During the past years many restaurants closed down. The past year, some really nice riverside and floating restaurants opened their doors again now that tourists are coming back! The Nile here is dominated by large sand dunes and rocky and green islands. So what to do in Aswan: explore the mysteries of its westbank.
We admired Qubbet el Hawa, the tomb of the wind, from the river. This massive dune overlooks Aswan from the Westbank. For the fit, and when temperatures go down at the end of the day, this is a great viewing point! Below, the hill is honeycombed with the ‘tombs of the nobles’. We have to come back to Aswan to visit them!
One of the mysteries of Aswan’s westbank is its monasteries: one alive and kicking and one historical in ruins. When we visited the ruins of the monastery of St Simeon they were building a temporary festive hall in the ancient church for Christmas! Outside there was going to be a market or fair at the next door monastery where monks still live.
After coming up to the monastery on camels (uhhh, what? Yes on camels, there is no other access!), we were taken around by a local guide who told us about daily life of the early Christians back in times. Interesting stories about how the monks would string up their hair to the ceiling so as not to fall a sleep while praying. Meanwhile his phone kept calling him to prayer ‘Allah’u Akbar….’ .
Inside the monastery ruins of St Simeon you can almost feel that the monks can come out of their cells (on the left here) and wander the corridors. Everywhere windows open out to the desert landscape. Many windows and wall decorations still hold the Coptic christian cross.
Just behind Elephantine island we got back on a boat after having visited the ruins of St Simeon monastery. It was late afternoon by then. At this landing you can arrange a camel to go up as well. On the westbank of Aswan camels and donkeys are a major form of transport in between Nubian villages for locals as well.
We recommend to arrange the camels to pick you up just a bit further north and then come back at the regular landing north of Elephantine island. This way, you get great views across the dunes, villages and the river! One of the beautiful things about the Nile here is that it feels very natural. The yellow-orange of the dunes contrasts with the green fringing the river and the islands.