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Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city is often missed out on travels along the Nile. However this Nubian city is set in beautiful landscape near the First Cataract where the Nile is now controlled by the High Dam.The desert is close to the river and the fast moving water is busy with felucca, motor boats and dahabiyas. The modern Coptic Cathedral stands proud looking out over the city. There are many wonderful sites to be explored. Most tours take in the High Dam, The Unfinished Obelisk, Philae Temple and the Nubian Museum but there is so much more. We had a wonderful afternoon wandering around the Fatimid Cemetery with its domes and tombs many dating to Tulunid times and unique in design to Upper Egypt. The Northern Quarry offers the chance to investigate the huge Unfinished Obelisk a famous tourist spot but further south in an unmarked quarry I found the neglected Osiris statue still half buried in the sand and rock where it had been left in antiquity. Sehel Island with its view of the First Cataract is most famous for the inscriptions left here from the Middle Kingdom through to Ptolemaic times, mostly notes of expeditions heading south and their gratitude for safe return. However most famous on the island is the Famine Stele, or, as a guide explained to me, 'the Hungry Stone'.
The southern end of Elephantine Island is packed with the ruins of the ancient town of Yebu. Still being excavated, there are wooden walkways to take you over this vast site with its Nilometres, temples and sanctuaries. On the West Bank there are the Tombs of the Nobles, the Monastery of St Simeon and of course the Aga Khan's Mausoleum. Further afield a day trip to the sandstone quarries at Silsilah is a must for those interested in temple building. At this rarely visited site you can see the marks and inscriptions left by the ancient workmen as they cut blocks for transferring to the great Luxor temples.
Philae Temple can be extremely busy, but linger a while as the groups leave and you are free to roam the site at will. Many hours can be spent admiring the reliefs of the courts, kiosks and colonnades, all the while under the brilliant blue skies set in this wonderful location amidst shimmering lake waters and volcanic outcrops.
Aswan, with its kind and friendly inhabitants, is a jewel.
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