Image by Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Getty Images

Aswan

On the northern end of the First Cataract, marking ancient Egypt's southern frontier, Aswan has always been of great strategic importance. In ancient times it was a garrison town for the military campaigns against Nubia; its quarries provided the granite used for so many sculptures and obelisks.

There are plenty of things to see, but it is not a place to hurry. The river is wide, languorous and beautiful here, flowing gently down from Lake Nasser around dramatic black-granite boulders and palm-studded islands. Colorful Nubian villages run down to the water and stand out against the backdrop of the west bank's desert escarpment.

The large island of Seheyl and the village of Gharb Seheyl, situated just north of the old Aswan Dam, have various laid-back guesthouses and offer an opportunity to swim in the river. These are perfect places to linger for a few days and recover from the rigours of traveling and temple-viewing.

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