Aswan is now famous for its high dam but it is much more than that. It is the place of the first cataract and has one of best views of the Nile from the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel; go at sunset to really enjoy the view. Also take a felucca ride round the small islands that litter the Nile here. The Aga Khan is also buried here and well worth seeing is Kitchener Island & Elephantine Island
Aswan can also be used as a base from which visits to Abu Simbel, Philae, The Unfinished Obelisk & The High Dam can be made.
Abu Simbel is one of the most impressive sights that you can see in Egypt. More so, because it was moved from its original site, to prevent it being lost under the waters of the Aswan High Dam. It was built by Ramesses II to look out over his Nubian lands and only on 2 days of year does the morning sun shine into the inner sanctuary, 13th February and 13th October - one of which is supposedly the birthday of Ramesses II. It used to penetrate on the 12th but this changed after the dam was moved!
However the sun never shines on the far left statue, as that is the god of darkness and therefore should never see the sun. The sheer size if this monument is impressive and it was carved straight into the mountain.
Beside the main monument is a smaller on dedicated to Nefatari, his main wife.
This temple is built on an island and was another temple that was saved by UNESCO from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. Therefore you take a boat to get here. Due to the rising silt levels the lower parts have been naturally cleaned. It takes about an hour to walk round this temple and there is a sound and light show here some evenings.
The temple itself is dedicated to the Goddess Isis and it was built over 6 centuries from the times of the Pharaohs up to the Roman emperors.
The Unfinished Obelisk
This proves that obelisks were built in one piece and transported afterwards to their final sites. The reason why this is famous is that whilst being cut from the granite there was a flaw in the stone and it cracked; there are theories that this obelisk was being cut for Hatshepsut. After you have seen the obelisk have a look round the site and you can see evidence of the way in which the stone was cut. This site doesn't take too long to see and can be fitted into an afternoon along with the High Dam and Philae.
Aswan High Dam
This dam created the biggest man made lake on earth; Lake Nasser which stretches for 500kms. The dam was built to provide hydro-electric power for Egypt and to prevent flooding of the Nile, therefore allowing all year round irrigation and three growing seasons a year. However, due to the rising salt levels some damage has been done to other temples in the whole of Egypt and silt has already begun to build up and the Egyptian Government has begun a dredging program to prevent the build up.
Its sheer size is impressive and it can apparently withstand a direct nuclear attack, also during the troubles with Israel it was one of the most heavily defending places on earth!
Cairo is frenetic to say the least. It is noisy, busy, polluted and in my mind one of the great cities of the world, and not just for the normal tourist traps. It is the biggest city on the whole of the African continent with in excess of 14 million inhabitants. The first thing that gets you about Cairo is its traffic! Drivers ignore all traffic signs and you take your life in your hands when in taxis but that adds to the fun. Do not go round Cairo in a coach; you will miss out on the smells, noise, people, congestion and most of all the whole experience.
Personally I love the place - the noise from your hotel room if you stay in central Cairo is wonderful. Even crossing the road is an experience you will never forget, if you ever get to the other side! I also like the fact that you can walk around feeling totally safe and you are never more than 30 seconds from a taxi.
Cairo is also extremely dusty but that also adds to its atmosphere.
I could go on but words cannot do Cairo justice. It's a place that you must see to believe. Go there!!!!!!
The Great Pyramids
The only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still intact the Pyramids at Giza are a must for any visitor to Egypt! Their sheer size leaves you wondering how they were built. There are actually nine pyramids on this site along with the Sphinx; which was used by Napolean for target practice. The largest Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khufu, Cheops is the name given to it by the Greeks, is 455ft tall, however the smaller Pyramid nearby looks taller but that is because it was built on a higher plateau, it is actually 11ft shorter. The Sphinx looks east towards the Nile and it is rumoured that it precedes the Pyramids by 1600 years.
These ancient monuments were for over 3000 years the tallest structures on earth and in order to really appreciate their awesome power you must see them at sunrise and sunset. The Son et Lumiere is also a must, get a cab from your hotel rather than going on an organised tour as it allows you to get there and see the sunset before the show.
For an alternate view dine in The Mena House Hotel's garden restaurant where you can dine with the backdrop of the Pyramids in the background; absolutely wonderful!!!
For bargain hunters this place is a must and it's best to visit during the evening as the heat of the day has worn off. It has been here for nearly 1000 years and its reputation for being unsafe for tourists is unfounded. There are hawkers who will try and sell you everything, but once inside it gets better and you don't get as much hassle here as you would in other places such as Luxor. The prices here are also lower than other places in Egypt. But, as always, remember to barter and never pay the first price, please remember though only begin to barter if you want to buy an item, you can always walk away if you don't get the price you feel is fair but Egyptians do not like people bartering for goods they have no intention of buying!
Although not on any organised tours if you can pay a visit to the Cairo Tower; it has a revolving restaurant and all round views of the city. However do not expect to see clear blue skies as Cairo's skies are never clear, apparently walking round Cairo is the equivalent of smoking 30 cigarettes a day!. However you can see, if you look hard enough the Mohamed Ali Mosque, The step Pyramid of Saqqara and the Pyramids of Giza.
It is rumoured that if you spent 30 seconds looking at each exhibit in this museum it would take over 3 months to see them all! That said whilst there the "must see" has to be the collection of Tutankhamun's treasures, including the world famous death mask. If you can do this museum alone and take at least an afternoon to do so. Located in central Cairo you can take a taxi or a shuttle bus from some hotels, afterwards have a tea at one of nearby hotels; personally I like the Seraramis which is about 5 minute walk away and has wonderful views of the Nile form its terrace.
On the banks of the Nile this is actually a double temple dedicated to Sobek and Horus. There are also mummified crocodiles here and there are reliefs that indicate that this temple was also used as a hospital. However as some of the stones have been used over the centuries for other purposes only certain parts of the inscriptions can be read.
Edfu is dedicated to the god Horus and took the Ptolemies over 100 years to build using much of the masonry from an earlier temple and the carvings depict ritual ceremonies. It is better preserved than some temples as it slightly away from the Nile and therefore you will need to take a coach or caleche to get there, about 5 minutes.
Although not one of the best looking temples go inside to see some of the most awesome, beautiful reliefs in the whole of Egypt. The workmanship is stunning and some look as though they were only completed yesterday.
The temple is dedicated to Seti I, the father of Ramesses II. It also fairly complete, due to being away from the banks of the Nile. In order to get here you will have to come in convoy but it is wonderful; I was nearly in tears!!!.
Up until recently you could walk on the roof of this temple dedicated to Hathor. Being away from the banks of Nile it is extremely well preserved and you can see a copy of the original zodiac; the original is in France. Whilst there if you have tour guide ask them to show you the hieroglyphic inscription that appears to have a helicopter and tank within it!. On the outside of this temple is the only relief of Cleopatra in the whole of Upper Egypt!
Whilst here go into the Crypt which has some well preserved inscriptions.
Luxor has two distinct parts, the east and west bank. On the east bank you will find the Temples of Luxor and Karnak along with the hotels, most of which could be anywhere unless you have a Nile View! The bazaars are OK but not as good as the Khan el-Khahili and prices are dearer than in Cairo. However some good bargains can be found, especially cotton and gold. Beware anyone who says they will take you to an Egyptian market; you will land up in a tourist shop.
Take a felucca at sunset to really appreciate the beauty of the West bank. Also The Winter Palace is like stepping back in time into the 30's and the '1886' restaurant serves excellent food; although for Egypt is it pricey and shirt and tie must be worn. If you want good cheap food try the Amoun restaurant near the police station & Egyptian Exchange, they serve local dishes and with the present rate of exchange you can eat for about £3.
The West Bank of Luxor contains the Theban Necropolis, The Valley of Kings, Queens & Nobles, The Colossi of Memnon, The Ramesseum, The Temple of Hatshepsut among others. It can also be explored by Horse, well worth doing at either sunrise or sunset. It is also more traditional than the East bank where all the hotels are located. You will need to pay several visits to the West Bank to fully appreciate it and I would recommend that you take either an organised tour or recognised tour guide to see the temples, otherwise you will miss out on the history of the places seen.
To get a brilliant alternate perspective of the Theban Necropolis go on hot air balloon trip. It is an amazing experience and one that must be done. You can see for miles and the views are spectacular. Trips are normally carried out early morning so as to catch the thermals. Words cannot really describe the views that you see but you can see all the monuments from one place and as the sun gets higher they change colour and it is really nice to see the line between irrigated land and desert.
You also hear the sounds from the ground and feel totally free. You also get to see the sunrise over the Nile which is wonderful and must be seen as most people only see the sunset over the west bank.
You must take a camera or two and plenty of film!
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Egypt 2004Images of Egypt 2004
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