Designed in 1956 and built between 1959 and 1970, the Aswan Dam is one of the most important hydraulicmega constructions in the world. It was designed to put an end to flooding in the lower Nile area as a result of the sudden increase in the river’s flow.


The work was carried out under the mandate of Gamal Abdel Nasser, a president who made a coup d’état in the middle of the Cold War and whose main objective was to finish the dam. The United States had promised to finance the construction, but at the last minute backed out, forcing the president to knock on the Soviet door. Finally, the USSR paid one third of the total cost of the project and provided technical assistance and labor for the dam.

The city of Aswan, on the right bank of the Nile next to the first cataract, is home to the new Aswan High Dam and also to the otherThe Aswan Low Dam is an older and smaller dam, called the Aswan Low Dam, built by the British during the years of occupation in Egypt. This dam, completed in 1902, could only store water for one year and was overflowing more and more easily, forcing the construction of another one.

The population and technology in Egypt grew at the same time as the floods, so the need arose to completely control the Nile floods and protect the agricultural area, especially the cotton crops, so important for the Egyptian economy. By significantly increasing storage capacity with the new dam, flooding is now controlled and water can be stored in the reservoir for release when the fields need it.

The materials used to build the new Aswan Dam amount to 43 million cubic meters, which is 17 times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza (or Pyramid of Cheops). President Nasser himself used to say that “in ancient times, we built pyramids for the dead; now we will build new pyramids for the living”.

The effects of the Aswan High Dam

The benefits brought by the new Aswan Dam have been many and in different areas: agriculture, hydropower production and river flow control. In this way, the country has seen its economic development grow because, with one of the largest reservoirs in the world, it has managed to significantly increase agricultural production.

In addition, the positive effects of the Aswan Dam were also noted in the increase in the area of arable land, something of vital importance for a country where most of its territory is desert. It is believed that by 1975, a few years after the inauguration of the new dam, up to three harvests a year were being produced, whereas in the years prior to the Aswan Dam there was only one a year.

Transfer of archaeological heritage

The mega work of the Aswan Dam brought with it the implementation of another mega work: the transfer of the archaeological treasures of Ancient Egypt, since the creation of the new reservoir implied the flooding of a very large territory where there were temples of vital importance to the wealth of Egypt and some of the oldest in the world.

The relocation of the Abu Simbel temples is one of the most notorious results of this ambitious archaeological rescue project.

UNESCO supported the plan with a worldwide fundraising campaign. Twenty-four of these monuments and temples were located, excavated and moved to safer areas and can now be visited by tourists.

Lake Nasser

Another result of the construction of the Aswan Dam was the creation of Lake Nasser, an artificial lake located in the middle basin of the Nile River in southern Egypt and whose extension follows and crosses the border with Sudan. The name Lake Nasser covers only the part that belongs to Egypt, 83% of its total area, as the Sudanese call its sector Lake Nubia.

Lake Nasser is about 550 km long and 35 km wide, occupying a total area of 5250 km². And its name is a tribute to the Egyptian president who made possible the construction of this great engineering work that changed the life of Egypt forever.

How to get to Lake Nasser and Aswan Dam

If you go on your own, the Aswan Dam can be toured by road through its upper part and you can park your car in a parking lot that is located in the middle of the construction. We recommend stopping there and getting off to see both sides of the dam and the difference in water level. Tourist visits to the interior of the dam and the turbine hall are not permitted.

Some excursions include a guided tour of Lake Nasser and the Aswan Dam complemented by the Temple of Philae and the Unfinished Obelisk. And they are usually done before boarding the Nile cruise, in case you start it in Aswan, or at the end of the cruise, in case you started it from Luxor.

Visit prices

The general entrance fee for the Aswan High Dam is 30 EGP for both adults and accredited students. In case you decide to make this guided tour in a pack with the Temple of Philae and the Unfinished Obelisk, the prices will be between 50 and 60 €. There are also options for cruises on Lake Nasser for one day, or three to five days, with visits to different monuments and historical sites (check prices with your tour operator or travel agency).

Photos of Lake Nasser

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