Most visitors come to Esna, 64km south of Luxor on the west bank of the Nile, for the Temple of Khnum, but the busy little farming town has its own charms. Along the waterfront near the temple are several examples of 19th-century houses with elaborate mashrabiyya (wooden lattice screens). Immediately north of the temple is a beautiful but run-down Ottoman caravanserai, the Wikalat Al Gedawi, once the commercial centre of Esna.
Esna was previously an important stop on the camel-caravan route between Sudan and Cairo, and between the oases and the Nile Valley, and the merchants stayed here. Opposite the temple is the Fatimid-era Emari minaret, one of the oldest in Egypt. An old oil mill, in the covered souq south of the temple, presses lettuce-seed into oil, considered an aphrodisiac since ancient times. The town makes for a pleasant morning excursion from Luxor, or a stop between Luxor and Aswan.