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Welcome to the Aswan city guide – our roving sonic reporter Rafael Diogo presents the definitive guide for what the curious tourist should listen out for from this famous Egyptian city. 

This is part of our ongoing series of city sound guides, highlighting the sounds that characterise some of the most beautiful cities on Earth.

Aswan city guide

Aswan is a city located in southern Egypt, where the Nile is at its most beautiful, cutting through golden deserts and flowing around emerald islands.

It’s known for the desert landscapes, its markets and stunning temples, including the Temple of Philae, which was dedicated to the goddess Isis. The area is also home to Nubian communities, and travellers can experience Nubian culture through visits to traditional Nubian villages in the surrounding islands in the Nile, such as Elephantine Island and Kitchener’s Island, local destinations for their lush gardens and scenic views.

It should be noted that Aswan is a city with a rich history and culture, thus, it may be quiet during the day due to the hot temperatures and a bit noisy during the night, as the city tends to wake up, so the sounds you might hear in Aswan can vary depending on the location and the time of day.

1. A boat trip down the Nile

You can’t visit Aswan without doing a Nile River cruise. Here you can enjoy dinner on a traditional felucca boat and watch the city lights twinkle along the riverbank.

The Nile River is an iconic feature of Aswan and the nighttime cruise offers a unique perspective on the city and its surrounding islands. On a boat trip to a Nubian village in Aswan, you might hear the sound of the boat’s engine or oars as you travel along the Nile river and the gentle sound of water lapping against the boat.

2. Nubian Village, Elephantine Island

You would likely hear a variety of sounds in a Nubian village. Once you arrive at the Nubian village, you may hear the sounds of people going about their daily activities, such as children playing, animals, and possibly music or singing coming from the village.

However, the most intricate sound on my trip to a Nubian Village was the sound of old aircons. They would produce a low, steady hum or buzz as it operates. This sound is created by the vibration of the compressor and fan motors as they work to cool the air. The sound of an air conditioner is generally considered to be unobtrusive and is not typically perceived as disruptive to daily activities.

3. Shopping at the Old Souks night market

The sounds you might hear at a night market in Aswan, Egypt, would depend on the specific location and the time of day. Some possible sounds you might hear include:

  • The sound of cars and other vehicles passing by on the nearby streets
  • The sound of vendors calling out to attract customers and promoting their goods the sound of bargaining and haggling as customers negotiate prices
  • The sound of people moving around and browsing the market and the sound of goods being handled and examined.

4. An Aswan train soundscape

The national trains around Aswan, Egypt are part of the country’s railway system and connect the city of Aswan with other parts of the country. Aswan is a popular tourist destination, known for its ancient temples, monuments, and beautiful Nile River, so trains serve as an important mode of transportation for visitors and locals alike. National trains around Aswan provide an opportunity to experience the local culture and see the natural beauty of Egypt while traveling in comfort.

The sounds of trains in Egypt would depend on the specific location and type of train. Some possible sounds you might hear include:

  • The sound of the train’s horn or whistle, which is used to alert people and vehicles that the train is approaching.
  • The sound of the wheels on the tracks as the train moves and sound of the engine as it powers the train.
  • The sound of doors opening and closing as passengers board or exit the train
  • The sound of people talking and moving around inside the train.

5. Growling Saharan camels

Camels are known to make a variety of sounds, including growling, which is a low, guttural sound that is often associated with aggression or discomfort. Camels may growl when they feel threatened or when they are trying to assert dominance over other camels. They may also growl when they are in pain or when they are experiencing other forms of distress. In the context of a Nubian village, you might hear camels growling if they are being led through the village, if they are being loaded or unloaded from a vehicle, or if they are being groomed or cared for in some way.

6. Life in an old neighbourhood

A typical old neighborhood in Aswan would be filled with a variety of sounds that reflect the bustling, lively atmosphere of daily life. Some of the sounds you might hear include:

  • Children playing and laughing in the streets or the sounds of animals, such as chickens, goats, and donkeys, roaming the streets
  • The call to prayer from local mosques, echoing through the neighborhood several times a day, and people chatting and socializing in the open air, as many homes have large courtyards that serve as gathering places
  • Vendors selling their goods at the market, shouting out to attract customers.

Together, these sounds create a unique and lively atmosphere that is characteristic of the traditional Nubian culture of Aswan.