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1. Old quarters

2. Banana Island

3. Holy Virgin convent


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Bustling of modern and old

Assyut, Egypt

Assyut was for long considered the most alien place for a foreigner to visit in Egypt, being an Islamist stronghold. Not that anything ever happened, but police and the military was high on alert when a Westerner came passing by.
Having visited Assyut three times since the difficult period, I saw the changes. In 1999 my travel company of two had 8 armed soldiers walking with us anywhere we went. I found this really cool, but it was quite too much for other peoples' taste. In 2004, the regulations had slackened. Although the police at the train station tried to convince me from visiting even the street in its front, I ended up with a young Anglophile, happy to walk anywhere I wanted chatting with me. Only a year later, foreigners could move freely around town, you were only expected to notify where you went. But even then, moving around the countryside necessitated a soldier following you.
Assyut is worth the stop. The town is a busy, friendly thing, and every once in a while, there is an architectural attraction squeezed in between ugly modern, urban Egyptian architecture. A trip out to the Banana Island is a must, visiting Christian churches and the two nearby monasteries are both very interesting, one is next to Assyut, the other is at El-Qusiya 50 km northwest.


Eat and Sleep
Good on hotels, but note that some hotels still try to avoid accepting Western tourists, like by asking for payment in cash. Western tourists bring the police to the hotel area (to secure your protection, of course), and many hotel owners could do well without just this.
Eating is a bit boring in Assyut, what attempts to be nice restaurants are inside the hotels only, and my personal experience was one of great disappointment. You may well have greater culinary experiences from one of the cheap joints spread around town.

Being a central Nile city, Assyut has first class connections going both ways along the river. Assyut is the also the southernmost town with open connections to the oases in the west, like Kharga Oasis and Dakhla Oasis.

Going Next
50 km northwest: El-Qusiya
80 km northwest: Tell el-Amarna
90 km northwest: Hermopolis
90 km northwest: Tuna el-Gebel
135 km northwest: Minya
100 km southeast: Sohag
105 km southeast: Akhmim
300 km southeast: Luxor
400 km north: Cairo

By Tore Kjeilen