South of Egypt or Upper Egypt is the home of most of the ancient cities. Most of the cities in south Egypt hold high values in Egyptian history because, during the Pharaonic History (3500 – 332 BC), Upper and Lower Egypt had their own kings and the many cities in the south used to be the capital of Upper Egypt in multiple dynasties. Pharaonic history had 30 dynasties, with multiple kings in each dynasty. The ruins in Upper Egypt belong to 17th, 18th and 19th Dynasties, also referred as the New Kingdom. The Pharaohs during that time started building their own tombs the moment they took the throne because the beautification of the tomb used to take a lot of time and average reign of Pharaohs were not very high those days. So, whoever ruled the longest has most of the ruins all over because he had time to build them. Other than Luxor, one of the main strategic and commercial gateways of Upper Egypt was the city of Aswan.
I took the night train from Cairo to Aswan; it was a 12-hour long journey. The train was comfortable and 12 hours flew by. A 5-star cruise was waiting in Aswan for me for the next three days, as I was supposed to start my cruise over the Nile river all the way from Aswan to Luxor with a few stops in between. Before I got off the train, I went for some sightseeing in Aswan city as well. Compared to other cities that I visited later, there wasn’t much to do in Aswan. However, it was good to soak in the history slowly.
Aswan High Dam
Most of the cities in Upper Egypt are located on the banks of The Nile river. The reason is Upper Egypt doesn’t get any rain at all throughout the year. To solve the water crises, cities were built on the banks of the river. The ancient plumbing systems of the cities were designed with astounding complexity that could rival even modern plumbing systems. Every year the Nile had a flood that affected agriculture and cities were destroyed. After the Egyptian revolution in 1952, the government decided to build the Aswan dam on the river Nile to save the heritage cities from flooding. There is nothing historical about the dam; it’s just a normal dam but it’s just huge and stopping the water of the world’s largest river was not an easy task to achieve. The cost to go on the dam is 50 L.E.
For those who don’t know, an obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow, tapering monument that ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top.The Egyptian obelisk, known as the Taken in ancient Egypt, symbolised a petrified ray that penetrates the clouds and disperses negative forces that accumulate in the form of storms. There are many obelisks in different places in Egypt that are famous for either their creator or their historical importance. The unfinished obelisk is largest known ancient obelisk located in Aswan. It was ordered about 16th century BC and when the creators were carving, it the stone cracked so it was left unfinished. The unfinished workers marking and the process of carving an obelisk is clearly visible on the obelisk and it gives great insight into the ancient carving techniques. It costs 40 L.E to enter the perimeter.
Probably the most famous sight in Aswan and the sole reason why tourists visit the city is the Philae Temple. I missed it because my travel agent somehow decided that I will see many other temples and this one is not very important. Being new in the country and with no time to research its importance, I believed him but it was a mistake. If you are in Aswan, don’t miss this temple. This temple is on an island called Philae and devoted to the two goddesses Isis and Hathor of ancient Egypt. It was discovered around 380 BC, but it was constructed way before that. It is going to be your first encounter with the series of temples in Egypt, so fasten your seatbelts because there are a lot more history and so many temples on the way.
Cruise on The Nile
I will be writing a detailed post about the cruise over the Nile river, as it was one of the most exciting items on my bucket list. A lot of 4-star and 5-star cruises operate between Aswan and Luxor.Mostly, the duration is 2 nights and 3 days, and it’s enough. I chose the 3 nights and 4 days package, and I really enjoyed my time on the cruise. It is a little expensive in a normally affordable country like Egypt, but trust me it’s much cheaper compared to cruising in any other part of the world. The route of almost all the cruises is Aswan – Kom Ombo – Edfu – Luxor. Every stop has its own attractions. Luxor is the most famous city when ancient Egyptian history is mentioned because it was the capital during the long period of the New Kingdom. Most of the ruins discovered in Luxor are from the New Kingdom, so I will be writing two posts covering all about the Luxor East Bank tour and West Bank tour. Till then, keep exploring.