The Aswan High Dam is an embankment dam in Aswan, Egypt, that spans the Nile River. When the Dam was built between 1960 and 1970, it was a marvel of engineering that significantly impacted Egypt's economy and culture. It is now considered A significant tourist attraction in Egypt. But, like any invention, it had benefits and disadvantages, which we will discuss in detail later in this article.
Nile River Ancient Egypt Definition
Egypt…” the gift of the Nile,” as the Greek historian Herodotus called it. Egypt owes the start of its great civilization to the Nile River. It is the longest river in the world, the father of African rivers; it is about 4,160 miles long. The Nile is the only river that flowed from south northwards, it also flooded at the warmest times of the year for about six months, and it was an unsolved mystery to ancient Egyptians and Greeks.
Construction of The Aswan High Dam
The dark side of the Nile:” Nile river flooding”
Ancient Egyptians studied the Nile a lot, but they didn’t know that the reason behind the flooding was the heavy rains in the African highlands that were thousands of miles away but made the Nile overflow. As much as the Nile was a blessing to Egypt, it had some disadvantages like the floods resulted in drowning the people and destroying the crops; it also left the farmers unemployed in the months of the flood. Living by the Nile was also dangerous, as crocodiles live in it, and it was a threat to the lives of the Egyptians; moreover, it is deep enough to drown whoever falls in it.
Where Does The Nile River Start?
One of the things that the explorers wanted to unleash about the Nile is its source. It was believed till some point of time that Lake Victoria in Uganda was the source of the Nile, but then it was discovered that several rivers fed Lake Victoria. It is not certain yet where exactly the source is, but we do know that the two main tributaries of the Nile are the White and the Blue Nile.
The Nile starts from the middle of Africa, from Uganda passing through 11 countries and ending in Egypt that it empties in the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is considered to be about 10% of Africa; however, the Blue Nile is the source with most water, about 80% of the water and silt that ends in the Nile.
Why is The Nile River Important?
The Nile is considered to be the primary source of water to Egypt and Sudan, especially; unlike the other African countries that have other main sources. In Egypt, the Nile affected the people the most; it allowed life to thrive. It provided them with many sources of food; even the flood that was a bit disastrous, but it had its own advantage. When the Nile receded, it left a layer of slit full of nutrition that helped a lot in farming. They also built irrigation canals that created agriculture in Egypt and the rise of civilization.
Aswan High Dam History & Facts
Aswan Dam “The First One“
As much as the Nile is beneficial to Egypt on so many levels, something had to be done to control the flooding of it. They decided to build a dam at Aswan in 1889, but it was insufficient; it couldn’t hold all the water as it started to peak near the top of the dam by 1946. That’s when they realized that they needed to build a higher dam to keep the water from the precious Nile and to save Egypt from the consequences of the floods.
What Was The Purpose of Building The New Aswan High Dam?
The decision to build the High Dam of Aswan was made in 1952, but it took years to put the decision into action, as Egypt faced obstacles to make it happen. In 1961 they started building the dam with help from the Soviet Union, but they had to deal with the consequences of building it first. Over 90,000 Nubians had to move and relocate away from their homes, some ancient temples had to be moved as well, and they also had to dig for any artifacts before they drown after building the dam.
Aswan High Dam Advantages and Disadvantages
It might seem that there was a lot of trouble and consequences from building the high dam of Aswan, but the benefits were worth it. Aswan High Dam controls the annual flooding of the Nile River; therefore, it prevents the damage that was done from the floods. It also provides half of Egypt’s power supply; it resulted in giving some villages in Egypt electricity for the first time as well as keeping the flow of the Nile consistent that resulted in easier navigation in the river.
One of The Advantage of Aswan High Dam is Lake Nasser
The Result of building the High Dam of Aswan was Lake Nasser that was formed behind the dam from the vast reservoir from the Nile. Lake Nasser is one of the largest artificial lakes in the world; it was named after President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the one responsible for building the dam. The Lake is shared between Egypt and Sudan, the part that is in Sudan is called Lake Nubia, as the Nubian land was submerged after the Lake was formed.
Aswan High Dam Problems - Abu Simbel, Philae temple, Wadi el Seboua
One of the consequences of building the High Dam was that it was going to submerge plenty of archeological sites, but most of them were saved. The famous Abu Simbel Temple was one of the temples that got rescued by the campaign made by UNESCO. For 3,000 years, it sat on the West Bank of the River Nile; it had to be relocated to a higher hill to make way for the High Dam of Aswan. Abu Simbel is one of the most recognized temples from ancient Egypt, it was built by the Great Ramses II, and it’s famous for the phenomenon of the sun rays that shine twice a year on Ramses II statue.
Abu Simbel wasn’t the only temple that got moved and rebuilt on a higher place due to the High Dam of Aswan, Philae temple, and Wadi el-Seboua had to be moved as well. The process of relocating the temples was massive; the stones had to be cut and assembled in its exact place. Abu Simbel took about five years to relocate, and about 3,000 workers were in the process.
As much as Egypt cherishes the Nile for making its civilization and thriving life in Egypt, it also cherishes its history and would do anything to save it, because as Marcus Garvey said: “ A people without a knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”