Ancient treasures, Nubian culture and the mighty Nile await you in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan.
Day 1: Central Aswan
Aswan has been a trading city for millennia, so a visit to the excellent souk is a fitting start. Then head for the Nubia Museum, a compelling site which records Nubian art and culture which would otherwise have been lost under Lake Nasser when the High Dam was constructed. The modern structure is intended to evoke a Nubian village, set in a handsome landscaped garden. Afterward take a walk in nearby Fatimid Cemetery where domed tombs form an eerie, atmospheric village. Finally, see the crack in the enormous Unfinished Obelisk (which is exactly why it remained unfinished).
Day 2: Elephantine Island and Western Shoreline
Cross to Elephantine Island, a fascinating ancient site which once formed the boundary between Egypt and Nubia, to see the villages of Siou and Koti. On the island’s southern tip, visit the ruins of Abu, among Egypt’s oldest antiquities. Then see how the life-giving waters of the Nile have worked their magic in Aswan’s Botanic Gardens, a lovingly landscaped oasis whose towering palms attract a wealth of birdlife. On the western shore, do a circuit of the Aga Khan Mausoleum, an imposing stone structure which belies its recent age. If time allows and you still want to explore Dynastic Egypt, the Tombs of the Nobles abound in wall paintings and hieroglyphs. Finally, visit the ruins of the 7th century St. Simeon’s Monastery, where graceful arches cast lengthening shadows in the late afternoon sun.
Day 3: Dam and Lake
The Nubian villages of Soheil Island are a handy stopover on your way to the engineering marvel of the High Dam. On Lake Nasser, you’ll see the dramatic, jagged shoreline formed by this artificially created body of water. See ancient structures which were moved from lower ground during the dam's construction, including the Roman Kalabsha Temple with its traces of later Christian use. Philae Temple is even older; you might want to come back in the evening to see the sound and light show.