Travelstick Aswan


The town of Aswan lies on the east bank of the Nile river. It is a small town with most things within easy walking distance of each other. Most of the best budget accommodation in Aswan is found on Elephantine Island. This quiet, laid-back island lies directly opposite central Aswan. The public ferry to the island leaves from beside the KFC and costs 5LE each way. In the town center on the mainland there are plenty of local shops and markets selling cheap food.

The train station is located towards the north of the town about 200m from the river. It is about a 2 km walk from the train station to the Elephantine Island ferry. Trains run north from Aswan to Cairo. The journey takes around 15 hours and costs 235LE (15USD in 2020) for a 1st class seat. Trains to Luxor cost 51LE (3USD in 2020) and take 3 and a half hours.

The Nubian culture, as old as that of Ancient Egypt, existed along the banks of the Nile in the areas that we now call southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The name Nubia is said to be derived from "nbu", the ancient Egyptian word for gold, referring to the mines of gold that Nubia was famous for. The museum is well laid-out and well labelled with an interesting collection of artifacts showing the development of civilization in the southern Nile Valley from prehistory all the way through the pharaonic ages, the arrival of Christianity and Islam, and the construction of the dam in the 1960’s, when over 100,000 Nubian people had to be relocated from their land.

The exhibits continue outside in the museum garden including a replica of the interesting Nabta Playa stone circle. The original is located in the desert about 100 km west of Abu Simbel and could be evidence of the first Egyptian civilization to use astronomy, over 7000 years ago. The circle is made up of four gateways, two aligned North-South, and two pointing East-West. These alignments were likely used to track the summer and winter solstices, as well as spring and autumnal equinoxes. This would have been of extreme importance to the inhabitants of Nabta Playa at the time as the agricultural year would be based on when the wet season was approaching.

More interestingly though, Nabta Playa also shows knowledge of the precession of the equinox, a much larger cycle of the star constellations. In the middle of the circle are six stones that do not align to any of the four cardinal points. Just before the sun rose on the summer solstice around 5000BC, three of these stones would have lined up perfectly with the belt stars of the constellation of Orion. This time marks when the precession cycle is at one extreme. The opposite extreme would have occured 12,000 years earlier, and the other three stones line up precisely with the shoulder stars of Orion. In other words the stone circle is an accurate astronomical map tracking time back to around 16,500BC.

The museum is located at the southern end of the main road that runs along the east bank of the Nile.

Entrance 140LE (2020)

(Plus 50LE for photo camera)

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