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Aswan is a busy market and tourist centre located just north of the Aswan Dams on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract. The modern city has expanded and includes the formerly separate community on the island of Elephantine. Aswan is small enough to walk around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Days can be spent strolling up and down alongside the Nile.
In Aswan the Nile is at its most beautiful, flowing through the desert and granite rocks, round
islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants. Enjoy exploring the local market “Souk”, full of the scent and color of spices, perfumes, scarves and baskets. View the spectacular sunsets while having tea on the terrace. Aswan has been a favorite winter resort since the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The city proper lies on the east bank of the Nile. The bazaar runs along the Corniche, which continues
past the Ferial Gardens and the Nubian Museum, and continues on to the Cemetery, with its forest of
cupolas surmounted tombs from the Fatimid period. Just east of the cemetery in the famous area quarries
is the gigantic Unfinished Obelisk. Just to the south of this, two Graeco-Roman sarcophagi and an
unfinished colossus remain half buried in the sand.
Aswan is the ancient city of Swenet, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. Swenet is supposed to have derived its name from an Egyptian goddess with the same name. Because the Ancient Egyptians oriented toward the origin of the life-giving waters of the Nile in the south, Swenet was the first town in the country, and Egypt always was conceived to begin at Swenet. The city stood upon a peninsula on the right (east) bank of the Nile, immediately below (and north of) the first cataract of the flowing waters, which extend to it from Philae. Navigation to the delta was possible from this location without encountering a barrier. The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granite rock called Syenite. They furnished the colossal statues, obelisks, and shrines that are found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids; and the traces of the quarrymen who wrought in these 3,000 years ago are still visible in the native rock.
One of the most important islands is Elephantine Island, which is timeless with artifacts dating from
pre-Dynastic times onward. It is the largest island in the area. Just beyond Elephantine is Kitchener’s
Island (Geziret el-Nabatat). It was named after the British general Haratio Kitchener (185–1916) and
came to Egypt in 1883 to reorganize the Egyptian army, which he then led against the Sudanese Mahdi.
But the island is known for its garden and the exotic plants the Kitchener planted there, and which
continue to flourish today.