Aswan, Egypt's sunniest southern city and ancient frontier town located about 81 miles south of Luxor, has a distinctively African atmosphere. Its ancient Egyptian name was Syene. 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 the broad Corniche watching the sailboats etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly caught fish.
In Aswan the Nile is at its most beautiful, flowing through amber desert and granite rocks, round emerald islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants. Explore the souk, full of the scent and color of spices, perfumes, scarves and baskets.
The city proper lies on the east bank of the Nile. Relax here, visit a few mosques, but then prepare for an adventure. 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.
The most obvious is Elephantine Island, which is timeless with artifacts dating from pre-Dynastic times onward. It is the largest island in the area.
Just up river a bit, there is also the old Aswan dam, built by the British, which was enlarged, expanded, but unable to control the Nile for irrigation.