Aswan: Ancient temples to modern dams

Aswan is one place in Egypt that is famous for more than just history: the famous Aswan High Dam.  Though a visit to this Dam features on most tourist itineraries, I wasn’t too impressed.  The dam may be larger that Hoover dam, but the views aren’t that great. After buying our entrance ticket, our driver parked the car close to what seemed like the viewing spot, judging by the number of tourist trying to take selfies.  Once we disembarked, we were pointed in the direction of a security office on the opposite side where we put our bags through and x-ray and walked through a metal detector.  The exit of this security office, funny enough spit us back out at where our car was parked… hmmm wonder how this security works !!

The Aswan Hight dam


The other reason a lot of tourists come here is the Felucca ride: a small vessel propelled by oars or sails used on the Nile as the traditional means of transport.  From what I could tell, the sails were just an added weight to the boat.  The ride typically lasts an hour.  Our Felucca captain first took the boat downstream, where he zig-zagged the boat from bank to bank explaining the purpose of doing so was to give us a longer ride.  Our return, however, was more of a challenge.  Having to go upstream, there was really no wind to propel the boat.  We waited.. and waited.. until it became apparent to  the boat captain that we were all going to fall asleep if something didn’t happen soon.   However, the boat captain had other plans;  having gained captive audience, he decided this would be a good time to make a sale for some wares that they are always prepared for to deal with these scenarios.  As he dug into his supplies, I realized why he wasn’t that excited to see us when we initially boarded  his felucca; all his wares were women’s jewelry items.  He might as well be trying to sell a calculator to a bushman !

A felucca on the nile

Finally we had to intervene and come up with a rescue plan… which involved abandoning the boat at the nearest shore instead of trying to make it back upstream.  This allowed us to make it in tine for our sound and light show at the Philae temple.

A little bit about the Philae temple: Its built on an island in what is now the reservoir of the original Aswan dam.  With the construction of the new Aswan high dam, it would have drowned due to the rerouting of the river, and so it was moved piece by piece to its new location.  The temple itself is relatively new (built around 200BC;  only in Egypt would I refer to a construction from BC as new !!).

The sound and light show at the temple take place every night starting 6:30pm.  Due to the lack of tourists, they had to cancel the 2nd and 3rd shows for the evening.  Our show only had a dozen or so tourists.  The ones that chose not to come did not miss much.  The Luxor temple (without the light show) and the sound and light show and Abu Simbel were of much better quality.

Temple of Philae lit up for the sound and light show


Tourist Tips

A great place to stay in town is the Old Cataract Hotel (Agatha Christie lived here for a while, and a portion of the novel “death on the nile” is also set here) .  They have some amazing restaurants too, and the hotel is right outside the Nubian Museum, which you can walk to.

The old cataract hotel, setting for Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile
Aswan at Night