IntroductionAswan or Assuan (both: äswänˈ, ăswănˈ) [key], city (1986 pop. 190,579), capital of Aswan governorate, S Egypt, on the Nile River at the First Cataract. It is one of the driest cities in the world. Long famous as a winter resort and commercial center, the city has become an important industrial center since the start nearby of hydroelectricity production in 1960. A chemical fertilizer plant is the largest of the new industries. Iron ore and hematite are mined in the vicinity.
The city was called Syene or Seveneh in the Bible and is described as the southern limit of Egypt. It was a trade center, serving as the gateway to Sudan and Ethiopia, and was the place where the annual Nile flood was first sighted in Egypt. From the syenite quarries nearby came stone for the temples and statuary of the Pharaohs. On Elephantine island, in the Nile opposite Aswan, and Philae island (submerged by the Aswan High Dam complex), south of the city, are found ancient Egyptian and Roman ruins. Aga Khan III (1877–1957), leader of the Muslim Ismailis, is buried in Aswan.
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