Top 5 Must Do's in Aswan

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Most people visit Egypt to see the Pyramids of Giza without ever realizing the gems that lie throughout the rest of the country. Aswan is home to some of the most remarkable temples of Egypt, as well as amazing natural sights. Here are five that you shouldn't miss.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is an immense, impressive sight to behold. The temple was hewn straight out of a natural mountain with four colossal statues of Rameses II to guard its entrance and strike fear into the enemies of pharaoh who might be contemplating attack from the south. With the rising of Lake Nasser, the temple was moved to a higher elevation and a 'fake' mountain was erected to house the temple. One of the statues was broken in the process and now lies at the feet of the four statues. The temple is truly awe-inspiring. Arrive at sunrise for some fabulous views, and don't forget to check out the lesser temple of Nefertari as well.

Philae Temple

Philae Temple is another well-known sight of Aswan. The temple is devoted to Isis, with a lesser temple for Hathor also located on the island. Admire the carvings, noting that the right side is intact from having been buried in sand in its original location (the temple was moved when Nasser rose) while the left side carvings have been destroyed by Christians who took refuge in the temple thousands of years ago. Arrive in mid-afternoon and stay for sundown for some fabulous photographs and the light show.

The Botanical Gardens and Elephant Island

Hop onto a felucca boat for a trip down the Nile to see these two natural sights of Upper Egypt. The Botanical Gardens are located on Kitchener's Island and create a lush, almost tropical oasis in the middle of the desert. You can roam around the paths to see the varieties of trees and flowers that are found in Africa. If you're an animal lover, be sure to bring a bit of something to feed to the cats that roam around. You can then continue via boat to Elephant Island, named for the giant boulders that resemble elephants that make up the face of the island. Here you can disembark to go through the mummification museum, where they have examples of mummies of every age, as well as a few animals.

The Nubian Museum

In order to get a full picture of Aswan you should make time for the Nubian Museum. It showcases the earliest Nubian settlements in the area straight up to present day. The Nubian culture extends from Aswan to Khartoum in the Sudan, and is wonderfully different from traditional Egyptian culture. Bring a flashlight to help you read some of the dimly lit exhibits.

August 12, 2009 new by tiffanymparker

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