Temple of Philae

Aswan in a Day

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It was early in the morning; the chillness was in the air. Cairo was still sleeping. I did not want to leave my bed, however; I had a flight to catch to Aswan from Cairo.

Today is only my third day in Egypt. I spent one day in Giza and one day in Cairo. As crazy as it might sound to you, I am heading towards this southernmost city of Egypt.

Since my childhood, I read a lot about the river Nile, the longest river of the world. Aswan is the place to go if I want to see the river Nile – that’s what I learned!

I took a taxi from the front gate of my hotel in Cairo. A staff of the hotel was kind enough to assist me.

When I approached towards my fleet, my tiredness disappeared. I witnessed an amazing colourful sky.

The sky was full of colour in the morning in Cairo Airport

In one hour and twenty minutes, I arrived at the Aswan airport. 

Aswan is divided by the river Nile into two parts. One is called the west bank, and the other is the east bank.

The East bank is busier and has more establishments. Most of the luxurious hotels are in the east bank.

On the other hand, the west bank is relatively remote and more of a village. 

I stayed in the West bank as I always try to avoid crowds.

Having landed at the airport, I had to take a taxi to go to the city center as Uber was not working there. The driver welcomed me with a smile and started having a conversation with me. After a while, I realized that the driver was trying to sell me different types of package tours. As I was backpacking, I did not need any of them. However, he was persistent, and I started feeling uncomfortable.

I mentioned earlier that my hotel was in the West Bank, the road which came to the town from the airport was in the East bank. I needed to cross the river to go to the other side. There is a public boat service that takes people from one side to another. Unfortunately, my driver did not drop me to that place. He tried to hand me over to a private jetty who demanded $20 to cross a narrow band of water. I learned (!) from them that there is no other way to cross the river. In utter disappointment, I got out of the taxi and walked.

It was a terrible start of the day. At last, after speaking to several people, I could find the right place. I spent $0.15 to cross the river instead of $25.

This is how the Nile river looked like from the boat

All my fatigue and bitter memories disappeared when my boat started its journey – a gusty wind along with the blueness of the Nile. My long-cherished dream of seeing the Nile came true.

I liked the calmness of the West Bank. It seemed to me, there were hardly any people out there.

First sight of West bank in Aswan

Most of the people in Aswan were black in complexion and had thick lips which were a change from the people of Capital. Later, I learned that the border of Sudan is nearby and it had an influence because of that.

I stayed in Nubian Holiday House Aswan. I got an enjoyable view of the other side (East Bank) from my room. There was a rooftop, too, at my perusal.

View from the rooftop of my hotel – that side is the East Bank

Now I know the tricks of crossing the river, I went to the East Bank to roam around. I had my lunch in a restaurant named “El Masry”

My lunch!

It was already evening, so I strolled around in the East Bank. There is a nice paved way from where I enjoyed the beautiful sunset overlooking the sand dunes of the West Bank.

Sunset in the river Nile was remarkable

After the sunset, I came to my hotel and ordered my dinner. The restaurant was at the rooftop; it was a homely setting with a cushion. The East bank was colorful. The moon was glittering, and the food was tasty (as always in Egypt).

I was taking dinner overlooking the East Bank from the rooftop of my hotel

The next morning, my plan was to visit the Temple of Philae. The problem was the cost. The cost which I saw for crossing the river was out of my budget. This left me disappointed and sad. However, I wanted to take a chance.

To go to the temple of Philae, one needs to go to Marina Philae Temple. This is a pier where the official boat waits. Fortunately enough for me, I found a wonderful driver who asked for a reasonable price for taking me to the ferry pier. I requested him to wait for an hour or two for me as I did not want to lose him.

Having reached the pier, I waited for a while. Suddenly, I saw a group of people were about to cross the river – they were on a guided tour. I went to them and requested to take me with them. Skeptical at first, the leader of the group gave me a nod. And I was so happy and relieved – I wanted to yell out loud in joy! I later found that the group came from Iran.

These two Iranian gentlemen allowed me to hitchhike to Temple of Philae

Philae was said to be one of the burial places of Osiris, the God of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation.

Complex of temple of Philae
A close up look of the complex

In two hours, I was done with seeing the complex and its intricacies. I came back to my taxi with the group.

Intricacies!

I came back to the hotel to take my bag. A train was waiting for me to take me further – to the city of Luxor.

I said goodbye to the river Nile in Aswan and started walking to the train station.

Summary of a day in Aswan

Hotel in Aswan/ Where to stay

I stayed in Nubian Holiday House Aswan hotel in Cairo.

What I liked about this hotel?

  • It was a boutique hotel, more of a house than a hotel
  • The room was spacious and well ventilated
  • You can eat homemade food
  • You will get a pleasant view of the East Bank from the rooftop
  • The boat pier for going to the East Bank was very near
  • Good for backpackers as it is not very expensive

What I didn’t like about this hotel?

  • It was more of a house than a hotel, so expect fewer amenities
  • If you don’t like calmness and prefer city nightlife, find a hotel in the East Bank

Didn’t like the hotel mentioned above? Don’t worry. From this link, you will find some other recommendations to stay in Aswan.

Places to visit

  • River Nile
  • Temple of Philae
  • Aswan city center
  • Unfinished obelisk (I didn’t get a chance to go there)
  • Abu Simbel (If you have an extra day in hand, it’s a long day trip)

Where to eat

El Masry was my favourite – both for the food and cost

Tips

  • There are public boats to cross the river, don’t take an expensive boat
  • River Nile looks beautiful during sunset. You can take a short cruise if your budget allows. If you are backpacking, hop into a public boat during sunset, you will get a feeling of how it tastes.
  • You can go to Luxor from Aswan by train. Go to the train station directly to buy a ticket, you need not do it through any agency.

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