Yasser Metwally

My life…and the world

The High Dam of Egypt

The author: Professor Yasser Metwally


Located near Aswan, the world famous High Dam was an engineering miracle when it was built in the 1960s. It contains 18 times the material used in the Great Pyramid of Cheops.  The Dam is 11,811 feet long, 3215 feet thick at the base and and 364 feet tall. Today it provides irrigation and electricity for the whole of Egypt and, together with the old Aswan Dam built by the British between 1898 and 1902`, 6km down river, wonderful views for visitors. From the top of the two Mile long High Dam you can gaze across Lake Nassar, the huge reservoir created when it was built, to Kalabsha temple in the south and the huge power station to the north.

The High Dam created a 30% increase in the cultivatable land in Egypt, and raised the water table for the Shara as far away as Algeria.  The electricity producing capability of the Dam doubled Egypt’s available supply.

The High Dam added an whole new aspect to Egypt, and a new environment as well.  The lake is some 500 miles long and at the time it was built, if not now, was the world’s largest artificial lake.

Aswan high dam ...Click to enlarge

Figure 1. Aswan high dam

  • The Importance of the Aswan High Dam

What is the Aswan Dam, why is it needed and why is it one of the must-see sites in Egypt? The dam is named after Aswan, the city on the first cataract of the Nile River in Egypt. There are actually two dams in Aswan, the newer Aswan High Dam and the older Aswan Low Dam.

  • The Flooding of the Nile River

Understand that both dams exist because of the Nile River. The purpose of the dam is to prevent the Nile River from flooding, to harvest water for agricultural purposes and to generate electricity.

Even if you took water and electricity out of the equation, the Nile River would flood every year during summer months because of waters from East Africa steadily flowing down. This has been a natural phenomenon ever since ancient times. Back then, floods were nothing to be concerned of. They actually brought more nutrients and minerals to soil, which made land around the Nile River fertile for farmers.

However, as the population grew, mankind saw the need to control these heavy waters, otherwise, the overflow would start to damage the fields. The results of flooding today are devastating. In a year with very high waters, an entire crop might be completely destroyed. Even in a year with low waters, there are many instances of drought and famine.

Location of Aswan high dam ...Click to enlarge

Figure 2. Location of Aswan high dam

  • The Size of the High Dam

The Aswan High Dam is 3,830 meters in length, 980 meters wide at the base, and 111 meters tall. The dam contains 43 million cubic meters of material and moves 11,000 cubic meters of water every second.

There are also emergency spillways built in, as well as a canal (Toshka) that links the reservoir to the Toshka Depression. This gives you some idea of the power of the Nile River. Imagine that power uncontrolled! Now you see why the British people began planning for dam construction as far back as 1889.

Ever since 1967, power generators have been producing hydroelectric output. Today, twelve generators powered by the dam produce about 2.1 gigawatts each.

Aswan high dam ...Click to enlarge

Figure 3. Aswan high dam

When the dam reached its peak performance it produced about half of the entire country’s electricity needs. (Though in recent times it has fallen to less than 15%) Egyptian residents can thank the dam for introducing electricity to many of its poor villages.

The Aswan High Dam is such a massive creation and it has also become a tourist attraction and is included in most Aswan tours.

Slide show 1. The high dam (a satellite view)


November 26, 2009 - Posted by | Modern Egyptian panorama

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: