A Visit to the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser

In this destination trip report we visit the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile and the giant Lake Nasser reservoir.

Reaching the dam

After the fantastic Philae visit there was one more stop left on my private tour of Aswan: The Aswan High Dam.

If you are not on a tour it is easy enough to organise transport to the dam by haggling with one of the many taxi drivers in Aswan for a drive out there including some 15 minutes of waiting time, which should be enough for most people.

There are some police/army checkpoints on the access road to the Aswan High Dam, which is rather unsurprising given its strategic value.

Although it’s best to take your passport with you, an experienced driver or tour guide should be able to negotiate these checkpoints rather quickly if you fit the standard tourist profile.

philae temple aswan
A trip to the Aswan High Dam is typically combined with a visit to the amazing temple of Isis at Philae. ©Paliparan
philae temple aswan
The impressive outer court of Philae Temple with colonnades on both sides. ©Paliparan

River Nile

There are two dams on the River Nile in Luxor: The Aswan Low Dam which was completed in 1902, and the High Dam which was completed in 1970.

The Egyptian Government decided to build the High Dam in order to control the water level of the Nile.

The River Nile is Egypt’s lifeline as its annual floods make the crops grow and turn the riverbanks into some of the most fertile farmland in the world.

However, in years of extremely high water levels, the crops could as easily be destroyed as well. In times of drought, the water level would be too low to irrigate all the farmland in the valley of the Nile.

It is therefore not surprising that Egypt planned to build a dam and a large water reservoir behind it. They could simply fill up the reservoir in times of a water surplus, and use up bits of the capacity in times of drought.

Another benefit was of course the hydropower, as the 12 generators inside the Aswan High Dam generate 2.1 gigawatts of energy.

aswan high damn energy generator
The Aswan High Dam is an important source of energy for Egypt. ©Paliparan

Dam construction

The Aswan High Dam was designed by the Moscow-based Hydroproject Institute and jointly constructed by Egyptian and Soviet engineers.

When Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev visited the ceremony in which the course of the Nile was temporarily diverted to allow for the start of the construction works, he called the Aswan High Dam “the eight wonder of the world”.

To this date, the Aswan High Dam and the artificial reservoir of Lake Nasser which was created by the dam’s construction are still among the largest in the world.

lake nasser
Looking out over the gigantic Lake Nasser reservoir from the top of the Aswan High Dam. ©Paliparan

Visiting the dam

Although the Aswan High Dam is certainly an impressive feat of engineering, there isn’t an actual great deal to see at the dam.

As I wrote before, you can easily get a good impression of the entire project and the surroundings in 15 minutes.

Apart from the views over Lake Nasser and the Nile, you can admire the decidedly communist-looking Monument of Arab-Soviet Friendship, which was built in the shape of a lotus flower.

At the main tourist stop and parking place halfway up the dam, you can find some information signs with some background info and history about the Aswan High Dam.

aswan high dam
Aswan High Dam. ©Paliparan
aswan high dam soviet monument
The impressive Aswan High Dam, with the Monument of Arab-Soviet friendship being visible in the background. ©Paliparan
reservoir nile visit
The reservoir between the Aswan High Dam and the Lower Dam. ©Paliparan

Conclusion

Although I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the Aswan High Dam, it is certainly a nice stop to include in your Aswan itinerary.

Due to its proximity to the city of Aswan proper and other sights such as Philae, it is an easy addition to your trip. Given that you don’t need more than 15-20 minutes to get a feeling of the place, a visit to the Aswan High Dam won’t eat up a lot of time.

The Aswan High Dam is certainly an impressive engineering feat and you can get a good grasp of the sheer size of the dam and the artificial reservoir of Lake Nasser if you visit it.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Walk Like an Egyptian: A Grand Tour of Egypt‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Red-Eye Ramblings of a Late Night Flight to Cairo
2. A Visit to the Pyramids of Giza by Camel
3. Review: Sofitel Nile El Gezirah, Zamalek, Cairo
4. Exploring the Medieval Old Town and Islamic History of Cairo
5. Visiting the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo
6. Mar Girgis: The Churches of Christian Old Cairo
7. Review: Ernst Watania Sleeping Train Cairo to Aswan
8. The Ancient Quarry of Aswan and the Unfinished Obelisk
9. A Boat Ride From Aswan to the Temple of Isis at Philae
10. A Visit to the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser (current chapter)
11. A Visit to the Nubian Village on Aswan’s Elephantine Island
12. Aswan Guide: A Visit to Egypt’s Most Stunningly Located City
13. A Half Day Trip From Aswan to Amazing Abu Simbel
14. Nile River Cruise Guide: All Info for Your Egypt Boat Trip
15. Review: M/S Princess Sarah Nile River Cruise Ship
16. Nile Cruise: Sailing From Aswan to Kom Ombo

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

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Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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