Island sights in Nile Valley
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Elephantine Island is the site of ancient Abu (meaning both elephant and ivory in ancient Egyptian), both names a reminder of the island's once important ivory trade. At the beginning of the 1st dynasty (about 3000 BC) a fortress was built on the island to establish Egypt's southern frontier. Abu soon became an important customs point and trading centre.
It remained strategically significant throughout the Pharaonic period as a departure point for the military and commercial expeditions into Nubia and the south. During the 6th dynasty (2345-2181 BC) Abu grew strong as a political and economic centre and, despite periodic ups and downs, the island retained its importance…
Sandwiched between the ruins of Abu and the Mövenpick are two colourful Nubian Villages, Siou and Koti. Strolling through their shady alleys and gardens is a wonderful way to experience life on modern Elephantines.
A north-south path across the middle of the island links the two villages and about halfway along is the Nubian Café, with a shady garden beside a traditional Nubian house. The wonderful Hamdi, who often hangs out here, loves to tell people about his culture. Beware that several readers have warned about locals pretending to be Hamdi and trying to sell excursions or souvenirs. Some of these people have turned aggressive when visitors declined their services.
Banana Island, at the end of Sharia Salah Salem, is a shady, pleasant place to picnic. You'll have to bargain with a felucca captain for the ride.