July 21, 2013

Aswan and Early sightseers

Early sightseers
Greeks, Macedonians, Carians, Romans, and Egyptians travelled to Aswan. All fell under the spell of its beauty. Strabo the Roman geographer, Ibn Khaldun the historian-diplomat of mediaeval times, Shelley and Keates the nineteenth-century romantics and countless others succumbed to the legendary river, its fabled ruins, and the healthy climate and breathtaking sunsets of Aswan.

Aswan and Early sightseers
Among the people who left their mark at Aswan were Sir F. Grenfell who, before starting his campaign in the Sudan, took time to clear many of the rock tombs at Kubbet el Hawa (1885-86), Lady Cecil, the wife of a diplomat, who also cleared a tomb, and Lord Kitchener, who imported and planted a large variety of African and Indian plants on one of the islands.

Lady Duff Gordon set a fashion when she travelled to Upper Egypt to seek a cure for tuberculosis. After her, came many of Europe’s notables who sought a retreat from Europe’s cruel winter. They journeyed slowly up the Nile in plush-fitted river vessels that were not much different from those used by the ancient pharaohs and successive Roman, Arab and Ottoman visitors before them. The pink and purple hills in the distance, pierced by a honeycomb of tombs, were yet unexplored. The temples of the pharaohs, their colonnades lying broken or askew, where half-buried in the sand. Luxor had yielded but a small part of its great treasure. Aswan languished in its depot-like tradition. The island of Philae had not yet been engulfed by the waters behind the Aswan Dam. Elephantine and ‘Kitchener Island’ were so fertile that, according to tradition, grapes grew on them all the year round.

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