Bob Marley: Nubian Guesthouse in Aswan, Egypt

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After a hectic few days in Luxor, I finally arrived in Aswan, ready to meet the Nubians!

I had heard that Aswan offered more of a relaxed vibe, especially on Elephantine Island, which is home to many Nubian families, and some highly rated guesthouses. It was definitely going to be a different experience to the hostel in Cairo, and the hotel on the East Bank of Luxor.

Elephantine Island sign.
Elephantine Island sign in Aswan Egypt

The Nubian people have lived in Southern Egypt for thousands of years, and are one of the world’s oldest known civilisations, so I couldn’t wait to meet some of the locals, even after several dodgy interactions at the pyramids, and in Luxor.

When booking my accommodation in Aswan, I considered several of the fun sounding guesthouses, but settled for Bob Marley as I like the legend, and my hotel in Luxor was also named after him.

I guess the Egyptians just love Bob Marley!

The story behind Bob Marley Guesthouse

Ali Jamaica owns Bob Marley Guest House, along with its terraced restaurant.

He offers International guests a taste of Nubia through authentic dinners, live entertainment and a glimpse into the colourful world of the unique culture.

Building of Bob Marley Guest House.
Bob Marley Guesthouse lit up at night on Elephantine Island

The tranquil setting of the guest house is compounded through the offerings of professional massages, quiet drinks, and candle lit meals in an evening.

Crossing the River Nile

After arriving at Aswan station after catching the train from Luxor, my first task was to find the crossing point on the river Nile to Elephantine Island. It is located halfway down the main corniche, around 1 km from the train station, which was an interesting walk. As with other parts of Egypt, there is a sensory attack on every corner.

Sailing across the Nile.
Sailing across the Nile Elephanitine Island Aswan

Next thing I know, I have arrived at the crossing point, and I have two options, the cheap ferry, or a slightly more expensive felucca ride. I opted for the first felucca ride of my Egypt trip, to tick one off my bucket list.

On all my other crossings to the mainland in Aswan, I used the ferry which is only 5 EGP each way, and it operates all night, as I had to use it when I was heading to the airport at dawn.

As I got closer to the island, I could see the Bob Marley terrace in the distance, which was going to be home to some very nice Nubian meals and sunset views over the next couple of days.

Just like that, I had arrived onto Elephantine Island, after a train ride, felucca ride and some walking in very hot temperatures. I could finally relax, knowing that I had reached my destination.

Meeting the locals in the Guesthouse

Colorful entrance to Bob Marley Guesthouse.
Entrance to Bob Marley Guesthouse Aswan

As soon as I entered the Bob Marley Guest House, I was greeted by a Nubian smile, and some pleasantries by Ali (the owner). He is the head of the family which runs the Bob Marley Guesthouse. He was saying that there are four main families who own the majority of the guest houses on the Island.

Throughout my time at Bob Marley, Ali went above and beyond to help me to plan my Aswan adventure. This was definitely something I was not used to in Egypt earlier in my trip.

I enjoyed a welcome tea from Ali while I checked and he explained the rules of the accommodation.

A colourful room

I was shown to my room, which was bright with pink and blue decor, including the walls, wardrobes and lampshade.

Colorful room a Bob Marley Guesthouse.
Colorful room a Bob Marley Guesthouse Aswan

And of course, there was a picture of Bob Marley hung on the wall!

I found the room to be very comfortable for my whole stay, as it included a fan, air conditioning and black out curtains. The only downside was the dodgy lock, which I had to battle with several times.

Nomatic

I actually got locked in the room at one point, until one of the Nubians came to my rescue. This is all part of the travel experience though!

The area was really quiet, through the day and night, and my room was located on the bottom floor of the guesthouse, so I didn’t get disturbed throughout my stay.

One thing which the Bob Marley Guesthouse gave me, along with other parts of Aswan, was a deep sense of gratitude. I noticed a room next to mine where there were multiple workers who slept on the floor each night.

Many of the Nubian people live in poverty, yet still smile and seem happy. This is one aspect of travel which I fully appreciate.

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An awesome tour Organized by the Guest House owner.

Welcome to Nubia sign.
Welcome to Nubia sign

Aswan is full of many highlights, including one of the most picturesque temples in Egypt. When planning my travel itinerary for my Egypt trip, the Island Temple of Philae was one of the first landmarks on my list, and Ali sorted an awesome tour out, which included the famous temple, unfinished obelisk, and Nubian Museum.

I was taken on another felucca ride, before heading to the Philae Marina to catch a taxi boat to the island. The local tour guide waited for me, before driving to the unfinished obelisk, and Museum to finish the day.

Ali sorted all of the logistics out, which made it a nice relaxing day trip, before enjoying sunset on the terrace awaiting my Nubian dinner.

An authentic Nubian feast on the terrace

Bob Markley terrace overlooking the River Nile Aswan
Bob Marley terrace overlooking the River Nile Aswan

I can’t think of many better settings than overlooking the famous river Nile as the Egyptian sun sets in the distance. Bob Marleys’ terraced restaurant boasts incredible views, and even better food.

The signature dishes in the restaurant are the tagines, which include chicken, fish, vegetables, or camel meat. I didn’t try the camel, but Ali said it’s a guest favourite.

For my first meal in the restaurant, I ordered the chicken, which was served with rice, bread, and vegetables.

An absolute feast!

I found it to be very reasonable at 200 EGP for my food, made extra special by the views from the terrace.

Authentic Nubian cuisine served on a table
Authentic Nubian cuisine in Bob Marley Guesthouse in Aswan

I also tried the Nubian style pizza on one of the other days I stayed in the guesthouse. At 150 EGP, it was also very cheap, despite being big and very filling.

You can also grab a traditional Nubian breakfast and coffee if you head up to the terrace in the morning. I can think of worse ways to spend my morning. There is something about the Nile in the morning that is magical!

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Exploring Elephantine Island

As mentioned earlier, Elephantine Island is poverty stricken, compared to other parts of Egypt which I visited. It is run down in some spots, however, in other places on the island, the natural beauty is awesome to explore. I walked around the island, through its backstreets, greenery sections and the Ruins of Khnum Temple.

Ali was saying that the ruins date back thousands of years, back when Elephantine Island was an important area of trade. I recommend you grab a coffee and take a morning stroll form Bob Marley, as it only takes around 15 minutes to walk there.

Nubian smiles and colourful architecture

As I left Aswan and headed back to Cairo, I was fully appreciative of the hospitality of Ali and his lovely staff. I was looked after well from the moment I arrived, until I left, when I was offered help to carry my backpack to the ferry port.
The hand painted walls in the guest house epitomised the character of the local Nubian families. Bright, positive and happy, despite living in circumstances, which many would struggle in.

I have no doubt that all the Nubian Guest Houses on Elephantine Island would have made my trip extra special, however, the Bob Marley one, and especially Ali, will always have a place in my heart.

Bio: Tom Henty of Tom Henty’s Travel

Tom Henty from Tom Henty's Travel
Tom Henty from Tom Henty’s Travel

Tom Henty is a UK based travel blogger who has a curiosity for all things travel. He is on a mission to visit over 100 countries, and his next destination is Costa Rica, which will be his 43rd country. You can keep up to date with his travels at Tom Henty’s Travel. Follow Tom on Instagram and Pinterest.

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Pinterest images of Entrance of Aswan Elephantine island and Bob Marley guest House.
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