Aswan, Egypt

Photo: Citadelite at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Citadelite at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
An ancient city, the first in the current country, once stood here. Descendants of one of the earliest civilizations still live here. Pink granite, used to build the area’s famous sites, was mined here. Dusty temples, tombs, and camels still stand in the desert. Then there’s the heat. This is one of the sunniest, hottest, and driest places in the world. But you’ve spent the entire day on the water.

Aswan sits along the Nile River in Nubia, the southern region of Egypt. The ancient city, called Swenett, became an important military and trade center. It was a rich city, whose wealth came from ebony and gold, incense and ivory. It was known as the border between African and Arab culture. While many considered it the most beautiful spot in Egypt. It still is.

Photo: Anakato
Photo: Anakato

You cruised along the Nile in a felucca, a traditional wooden sailboat. Other white sails ahead of you looked as though they were racing toward High Dam, which brought sustainable electricity to the area, farther upstream. Golden sand sloped steeply into the sparkling blue water on either side of the river. Brightly colored mud-brick houses, with their sand floors and pet crocodiles, overlooked the water. Palm tree plantations, grazing sheep, and temple ruins filled Elephantine Island. You learned that another island, Seheyl, is famous for its beaded jewelry. While the souqs were overflowing with everything from baskets and swords to spices and hookah pipes. You sipped karkade, a tea made with hibiscus flowers, as everything passed by.

As sunset started to approach, so many boats took to the water that the longest river in the world started to feel crowded. So you disembarked at Gharb Soheil, a small village that sits on the west bank across from Aswan. Three Nubian houses—decorated with vibrant shades of green, orange, and pink—have been turned into a little hotel. AnaKato is a relaxing spot away from Aswan’s tourists and busy markets. The rooms are simple, but the living space extends well beyond the walls. Striped rugs, low tables, and wooden chairs fill the terraces. The water, the dunes, and lots of feluccas are in front of you. Plus a beat, featuring a tar and a lyre, is infectious enough to make you start clapping your hands. Add a Sakara Gold beer for the beginning of a beautiful night in Egypt.

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