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Elephantine Island

Key Highlights of Elephantine Island

•  What is it? A small island on the River Nile close to Aswan
•  Why is it famous for? Serene environment and ancient ruins
•  Must visit places: Aswan Museum, Ancient sites on elephantine, Koti and Siou villages
•  How to reach? Ferry from Aswan
•  Entry time: Open 24 hours
•  Best time to visit: From November to February
•  Ideal for Group, Solo, Family trips
•  Accommodation: Resorts, budget hotels, and homestays available

Jazīrat Aswān or the Elephantine Island is a small rustic island on the First Cataract of the Nile across Aswan. Once an important center for ivory trade, the island now is a quite retreat for tourists looking for some peaceful time amidst the sightseeing rush. The tiny Nubian hamlets, Koti and Siou, offer the visitors an excellent escape from the noises of the city – offering you a chance to know more about the Nubian heritage of Egypt.

The island is covered in ancient Egyptian ruins, retelling the story of the island and its people. The ancient Egyptians had built a massive temple dedicated to the ram-headed god, Khnum, and his consort. Currently, a team of German archeologists have discovered ancient temples built during the reign of Alexander the Great. Further excavations have showed potential to uncover more information in the area.

History of the Island and How It Got Its Name

Elephantine comes from the Greek word for Pharaonic Abu or Yebu meaning from elephant or ivory. The ancient island was an important trading ivory trading town, and might have gotten its name for the same reason.

In the later part of the Old Dynasty, the pharaohs built a massive temple dedicated to Khnum and his consort close to the cataract of the river Nile. Being an important metropolis on the Egyptian borders, the place served as a military garrison and an administrative headquarters of Nubia.

Places to visit on Elephantine Island

1. Ruins of Abu

Address: Sheyakhah Oula, Qism Aswan, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
Entry fee: EGP35 for Adults and EGP15 for children
Opening time: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm

Also referred to as the Ruins of Yebu, the place is an active site of excavation. Once a thriving city, well-known for its ivory trade, the place was important to the Egyptian economy. Located on the borders of Egypt and Nubian Empire, the metropolis was an important military town as well. The remains of a 1st century built military base have been uncovered in the area to support the claims.

Other important ruins of Elephantine Island include the temple dedicated to Khnum (the ram-headed god of Nile. The temple was built during the reigns of the Pharaohs, and reconstructed during the Ptolemaic Era.

The temple complex is usually bereft of tourists, giving you the chance to explore the region at your own pace.

2. Aswan Museum

Address: Sheyakhah Oula, Qism Aswan, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
Entry fee: EGP70 for adults, EGP35 for children
Opening time: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm

Founded in 1912, the museum houses some of the rare artifacts from the traditional Nubian society. The main wing of the museum, located in the villa of Sir William Willcocks, showcases some of the rare finds of the nearby area. In the late 90s, new annexes were inaugurated to preserve antique weapons, utensils, mummies, and pottery collected from the nearby excavation site. The exhibits are labeled in English and Arabic, making it easier for the tourists to learn about the objects on display.

3. Nubian Village

Opening time: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm

The quintessential Nubian Villages like Koti and Siou showcases the beautiful culture and heritage of the local tribes inhabiting here. Colorful painted villages and hospitable villagers often attract the attention of the tourists. One can sample the traditional Nubian delicacies at the local eateries. The spice infused treats can surely leave a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth.

Read more about Nubian Museum

4. Aswan Botanical Garden

Address: Sheyakhah Oula, Qism Aswan, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
Opening time: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry fee:  EGP30

Although traditionally not located on the Elephantine Island, the place is just a boat ride away from the heart of the city. The island belonged to Lord Horatio Kitchener, the chief officer of the Egyptian platoons, who turned the island into a green haven. Kitchener brought in several exotic plants and tree shrubs from as far as India filling the space with greenery. The place is ideal for relaxation, especially during the golden hours of sunset. Photography enthusiasts can have a gala time here. Usually, the roundabout trip from Elephantine Isle can cost around EGP60 on boat. The boatman can charge a highly inflated price for the trip, haggling for a good deal is recommended.

Accommodation at Elephantine Island

The island is often visited by tired and weary tourists who are looking for some peace and quiet after hectic sightseeing schedule. There are some good resorts and homestays available within the islands, suitable for visitors on every budget.

Read more about 10 Best Hotels in Aswan