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Aswan now and 16 years ago

Elephantine Island in the Nile River at Aswan

Elephantine Island in the Nile River

I flew into Aswan in Egypt on Friday 13th, with many of my friends and family thinking neither the date nor the destination a good idea. It was only a few days after the tragic plane crash in the Sinai but 16 years since my last visit to this laid back town on the Nile. I arrived without incident (and without my luggage which hadn’t made the short connection in Cairo) and was soon enjoying both Aswan’s warm climate and warm welcome. Time didn’t allow me to visit the sites usually at the top of the sightseeing list such as Philae Temple, the High Dam and Elephantine Island hover I did get to wander the souk, enjoy a High Tea at the swanky Old Cataract Hotel and stroll around the beautiful and peaceful Botanical Gardens.

A rather dusty souvenir shop in Aswan

A rather dusty souvenir shop in Aswan

16 years ago was well before the Arab Spring and I certainly noticed some differences. The lack of tourists and tourist shops was extremely apparent.
Walking through the souk, the dozens of souvenir shops had been turned over to selling every day goods. The owner of one existing tiny ground floor shop opened up his upstairs area for me. It was like a treasure trove, stored souvenirs, carpets, clothing and various trinkets stacked on shelves and gathering dust.


High Tea on the Banks of the Nile in Aswan

I found prices more expensive but the pressure to buy less. In fact the attention paid to tourists seemed to be less altogether, still calls of ‘come into my shop!’ but not the insistence there used to be and no apparent attention paid to some western female tourists I saw who before would have had a lot of unwanted attention for showing rather too much bare skin.

Sunset over the River Nile at Aswan

Sunset over the River Nile at Aswan

Other things had not changed at all since I last came here.

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