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The Aga Khan Mausoleum, Aswan

The Aga Khan Mausoleum, Aswan

Aswan lies on the east bank of the Nile. A leisurely ride on a felucca, a traditional sailboat, on the river is an exciting experience. The one-hour ride takes the visitor to places of interest such as the mausoleum of the Aga Khan, tombs of the Nobles cut into the high cliffs, Kitchener’s island, with its exotic botanical gardens and the rocky Elephantine island.


Great love stories reserve a place in every culture and every nation across time. From the Nubian Museum to the Fatimid necropolis, from the rescued Temple of Philae to the symbol of eternal love -- the Mausoleum of Aga Khan. Some wither and die as their civilisation descends to oblivion. Other stories engrave their letters on the plate of immortality. Romeo and Juliet; Pharaoh Queen Cleopatra, who committed suicide for no other reason but love; the unmatched fidelity of Shah Jahan to his wife Mumtaz Mahal -- after all, he built her one of the greatest mausoleums ever -- the Taj Mahal. These are all stories of love, great love.

Take a felucca to the Mausoleum, atop a hill at the southern end of the west bank. The Aga Khan spent every winter in Aswan and was buried here in this magnificent mausoleum, modeled on the Fatimid tombs in Cairo.

Take a boat across to Elephantine Island and walk through the village where women sat on their doorsteps sifting rice and gossip. On the other side of the island take another boat to ferry across to the west bank of the river. You will be landed near the walled compound of the villa of the former Aga Khan. With the whole world to choose from, the Aga Khan chose to spend his winters in Aswan. When he died in 1957, he was buried in the beautiful mausoleum that stands above the house. A fresh rose was placed on his grave every day by the Begum until her death in 2000, when she joined him in his tomb.

The beautiful Fatimid-style stone mausoleum of the Aga Khan, then, which stands on a hill above Aswan, impresses as much by its simplicity as its grandeur, calling upon all who gaze on it to ponder the greatness of Allah (Arabic for: God) .
Nile and Aga Khan Mausoleum, Aswan - on the east bank of the Nile
Historic sites in southern Egypt's Aswan are everywhere, though many, like the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, are closed to the public. The botanical gardens on what used to be Kitchener's Island are still accessible, as are the ruins on the West Bank.

Standing tall above the Nile like many an ancient Pharaonic temple, the mausoleum is the chosen resting place of His Highness Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, the 48th Imam of the Isma`ili Muslims, who died in 1957.

Having wintered in Aswan for many years because of its beauty and warm temperate climate, the Aga Khan wished to be buried there. He chose the site for his tomb, and his wife, the Begum Aga Khan, spent 16 months preparing the mausoleum. Its architect, Farid El-Shafei, chose to model it on the simple beauty of the many Fatimid tombs in Cairo's City of the Dead and in Aswan's own Fatimid cemetery.

From the landing stage at the foot of the sand-covered hill, the exterior of the mausoleum resembles as much a fortress as a burial place, with its high, stark walls of honey-colored sandstone standing right on the edge of the desert.

The small dome, atop the mausoleum, is the only clue that gives away the purpose of the building. The interior is more gentle, with a tomb of Carrara marble and a most beautiful mihrab, pointing out the direction of Makkah. The effect of the whole is calm and dignified, a suitable resting place for one so dignified.

Remember Death On the Nile, one of Agatha Christie's most famous novels made into a film filled with celebrities? Much of that novel was written while Agatha Christie stayed in the Old Cataract Hotel on the Nile in Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city.

Built in 1899, the hotel has hosted everyone from Winston Churchill to King Farouk to the late Aga Khan III who honeymooned there. Though having few followers in Egypt, this leader of the Shia Imami Ismailis loved Aswan so much, he chose to be buried in a domed Fatimid-style mausoleum on the arid hillside.

For More Information Visit: Aswan Tourism and Tourist Information

Last Updated on Sunday 5th December 2010