The Story of the Great High Dam in Egypt

Updated On: September 14, 2023

High Dam

On the Nile River in Egypt, a vast building holds the enormous freshwater mass in the Arab countries, with the High Dam behind it. The High Dam is one of the essential giant projects of the modern era and perhaps the most critical project in Egyptians’ lives. And it is the third-largest aquifer in the world.

Before the construction of the dam, the Nile used to flood and submerge Egypt every year. In some years, the level of the flood increased and destroyed most of the crops, and in other years, its level decreased, the water was insufficient, and the agricultural lands were destroyed.

The dam’s construction helped retain the flood water and release it when necessary. The Nile flood has come under human control. The Building of the High Dam began in 1960 and was completed in 1968, and then it was officially opened in 1971.

The dam was built during the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser with the help of the Soviet Union. The dam was initially constructed to prevent flooding and as a source of electrical power generation.

The High Dam consists of 180 water drainage gates that control and regulate water flow and achieve complete control over floods. It contains 12 turbines to generate electricity, equivalent to 2,100 megawatts. Its construction required about 44 million square metres of building materials and 34,000 labour forces. The height of the dam is approximately 111 metres; its length is 3830 metres; the width of its base is 980 metres, and the drainage channel can drain about 11,000 square metres per second.

The Story Behind The Construction

High Dam

The idea was initiated with the Revolution of July 1952. The Egyptian Greek engineer Adrian Daninos presented a project to build a massive dam at Aswan, to block the flood of the Nile, store its water and use it to generate electric power.

The studies began in the same year by the Egyptian Ministry of Public Works, and the final design of the dam, specifications, and conditions for its implementation was approved in 1954. In 1958 an agreement was signed between Russia and Egypt to lend Egypt 400 million roubles to implement the first phase of the dam. In the following year, 1959, an agreement was signed to distribute the dam’s water reservoir between Egypt and Sudan.

The work began on 9 January 1960 and included:

  • Digging the diversion channel and tunnels.
  • Linking them with reinforced concrete.
  • Pouring the foundations of the power station.
  • Building the dam to a level of 130 metres.

On 15 May 1964, the river’s water was diverted to the diversion channel and tunnels, the Nile stream was closed, and the water began to be stored in the lake.

In the second phase, the dam’s body construction was continued until its end, and the structure of the power station, installation, and operation of turbines was completed, with the building of the transformer stations and power transmission lines. The first spark was set off from the High Dam power station in October 1967, and water storage began entirely in 1968.

On 15 January 1971, the opening of the High Dam was celebrated during the era of the late Egyptian President Mohamed Anwar El Sadat. The total cost of the High Dam project was estimated at 450 million Egyptian pounds or about $1 billion at the time.

Naser Lake Formation

High Dam

Nasser Lake was formed due to water accumulation in front of the High Dam. The reason for naming the lake as such goes back to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who established the Aswan High Dam project.

The lake is divided into two sections, part of it is in the south of Egypt in the Upper region, and the other part is in the north of Sudan. It is considered one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. Its length is about 479 kilometres, its width of about 16 kilometres, and its depth of 83 feet. The total area surrounding it is approximately 5,250 square kilometres. The storage capacity of water inside the lake is about 132 cubic kilometres.

The lake’s formation resulted in the transfer of 18 Egyptian archaeological sites and the Abu Simbel temple. As for Sudan, the river port and Wadi Halfa were moved. In addition to moving the city to an elevated area and the displacement of several Nuba residents due to drowning in the lake.

The lake is characterised by its environmental conditions suitable for breeding many types of fish and crocodiles, which encouraged hunting in the area.

Advantages of Building the High Dam

High Dam

The first year of building the dam contributed about 15% of the total electricity supply available to the state. When this project was first operated, nearly half of the general electric energy was generated through the dam. The electricity generated by the dam through water is considered simple and environmentally friendly.

The risk of flooding ended ultimately after the construction of the High Dam, which worked to protect Egypt from flooding and drought, and Lake Nasser, which reduced the rush of flood waters and stored it permanently for use in drought years. The dam protected Egypt from the disasters of drought and famine in the years of scarce floods, such as the period from 1979 to 1987, when nearly 70 billion cubic metres were withdrawn from Lake Nasser’s reservoir to compensate for the annual deficit in the natural revenue of the Nile River.

It provides electric energy used to run factories and illuminate cities and villages. It led to an increase in fisheries through Lake Nasser and improved river navigation throughout the year. The dam increased the agricultural land area in Egypt from 5.5 to 7.9 million acres and helped grow more water-intensive crops such as rice and sugar cane.


It can be shocking how beneficial the High Dam is in Egypt, not only because it is home to thousands of families but also because it protects their crops from the yearly flood that ruined their lands and turns the extra amount of water into the blessing, they needed for watering their crops from rice, sugarcanes, wheat and cotton not to mention the electricity supply provided.

One comment on “The Story of the Great High Dam in Egypt

  1. This was Naser’s vision for the future we live now. I think all should respect his leadership with great appreciation.

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