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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **