Hello, I feel like this post doesn’t really qualify as a “guide” but hope it’s somewhat useful nonetheless.

 

So, we arrived in Aswan about four hours later after a very chaotic drive from Luxor, where the driver was on the phone throughout the entire four hours and we were fearing for our lives. Anyway, we made it to our hotel called Helnan. I am going to be honest with you: Please book a different hotel if you travel to Aswan. The only other decent hotel in the city was fully booked so we couldn’t move out. Helnan’s reviews online are deceiving, and let’s just leave it there.

Day 1

  • A walk-through the city (unsuccessful)

Day 2

  • Abu Simbel Temples in Nubia (Must)
  • Aswan High Dam (Maybe)
  • Unfinished Obelisk (No)

Day 1

 

As soon as we stepped out of the hotel, we got swarmed by locals who offered us horse cart rides and taxis to the point of suffocation when all we wanted to do was walk up the street and check out the town. Two of these horse cart drivers even started fighting over who will get to take the tourists (again, because they set their own prices for tourists). This was a huge contrast from peaceful and beautiful Luxor. We just ended up retreating to the hotel for the rest of the night. I would also suggest wearing conservative clothing while in Aswan, which I found to be more traditional than the other cities.

Fortunately, we were off to Nubia the next morning at 4AM which was another four-hour drive to see the Abu Simbel temples. We drove through the Sahara Desert, and I remember opening my eyes at dawn and capturing a very blurry photo of the sun rising over the large expanse of sand that stretched as far as the eyes could see. I didn’t add the picture because it was pretty much a blob but it was a nice scene. Below are some better quality ones taken in the desert.

Somewhere in between those four hours, we stopped at a café in the middle of the Sahara, a very convenient pit stop, where I had a delicious coffee and two international versions of Twinkies for somewhat of a breakfast to refuel for the rest of the journey. I also met a really cool cat and two puppies that are worth including in this blog.

We arrived in Abu Simbel and it was a treat for the eyes and soul. The phenomenal temples are a part of the UNESCO Heritage Site and are situated around the man-made Lake Nasser.

While we were there, we heard a super interesting story from the tour-guide. King Ramesses the II, who openly proclaimed himself as God, had these larger than life statues made of himself, as pictured. There were four of them, because symbolically the number four is sacred and represents God in ancient Egypt. Following an earthquake, his head fell, facing downward, in the same position as the “sujood” (prostration). What’s more is that it happened to be in the direction facing Mecca. Quite remarkable, right?

We also went inside the temples which was fascinating.

After our journey back to Aswan, we saw the High Dam and the Unfinished Obelisk. If you are interested in water storage and hydroelectricity, do check out the High Dam as it had a big impact on the Egyptian economy. If it doesn’t interest you, then you should skip this part of the tour.

The Unfinished Obelisk was quite anticlimactic essentially. We hiked up a stony quarry, dodged stray dogs and a very dirty body of water to get to the top, only to see an obelisk lying flat on the ground and not much else. I would recommend checking out finished obelisks in Luxor at the temples instead and skipping this part of the tour in Aswan.

(The cute dog is sleeping, don’t be alarmed)


To wrap it up, Aswan was not the greatest, but it was a fun challenge. Think video game again. I also have probably never laughed as much as I did in Aswan. Something about being in any uncomfortable situation just cracks me up and there were plenty of those. The city is too crowded and the locals are too aggressive towards tourists when trying to sell something which can come across as very invasive.

For those tourists seeking an enjoyable stay and not necessarily just an eye-opener, my recommendation for you would be to go to Luxor and then to Abu Simbel to see the fantastic temples. Allocate days from Aswan towards another city in Egypt like Alexandria or Cairo where there is more to see. Following the Unfinished Obelisk, we got home and packed for our next destination the following morning: Cairo.