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.

Sehel island was known in ancient times as Setet. It was described as the Sacred Island due to its connection with the goddess Anuket, considered to be a personification of the Nile and goddess of the Nile's cataracts. It was a place of refuge for many pilgrims and traders travelling along the river and many of the 200 inscriptions carved into the island's granite boulders were left by travellers marking either the start or end of their journey to Nubia.

There are several famous inscriptions that record ancient historical events. One is the Famine Stela which tells of a seven-year period of drought and famine during the reign of pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty. At the time of the first translation of the stela it was thought that the story of the seven-year-famine was connected to the biblical story of Joseph in Genesis, where a famine of seven years also occurs. More recent investigations have shown that a seven-year famine was a motif common to nearly all cultures of the Near East, including a Mesopotamian legend that speaks of a seven-year-famine.

However, an even more interesting feature of the stela is the section of text that deals with the building of monuments. In the instructions by the God Khnum on building his temple, Djoser is given a list of minerals and ores that "since former times nobody ever worked with (them) to build the temples of the gods..". Interestingly, no mention is made in this list of any contructional stone such as limestone, sandstone or granite blocks. Although many of the hieroglyphic names have not been translated, a new interpretation of the Stele suggests that Pharaoh Djoser, who built the earliest known pyramid in Egypt(2750 BC), was instructed to make "man-made stone" (concrete).

Sehel Island is about a 45 minute walk south from Aswan center following the main road past the Fatimid cemetery. After passing the stadium take the first road to the right and bear left as you walk through the village to reach the tiny ferry dock (5LE one way).

The Stela is located on the southernmost tip of the island.

Entrance 40LE (2020)

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