Stretching south from Aswan nearly 350 miles (550 kilometers)
beyond the southern border of Egypt and into northern Sudan, Lake Nasser is the
huge freshwater reservoir formed by the construction of the High Dam at Aswan
during the 1960s.
The High Dam replaced a smaller dam completed by the British colonial
government in 1902, which proved too small to control the flow of the river.
The construction of the dam began in 1960 as part of a major development
initiative under President Gamal Abdel Nasser after the 1954 Free Officers
The dam was intended to increase agricultural production and provide flood
protection throughout the Nile Valley, as well as provide access to electricity
for many of Egypt’s villages.
The dam was controversial from the start because the rising waters of the lake
forced the displacement of over 100,000 Nubian people in Egypt and northern
Sudan and threatened to inundate many important monuments, including the Abu
Regardless of the costs or benefits of the High Dam project, the
dam stands today as an impressive engineering marvel and the huge reservoir
behind it provides a unique expanse of water in the arid climate of southern
Lake Nasser has created a new economy based around fishing in its vast waters
and it has helped the development of tourism in Egypt’s south. With the help of
international organizations, many of the monuments threatened by the rising
waters were relocated to high ground along the banks of the lake where tourists
can easily visit them today by boat.
Although the displacement of the Nubian people remains a controversial
political issue, many of these people now live in and around Aswan, managing to
keep their unique culture alive with extra income from tourism.
Lake Nasser provides a relaxing gateway to the south. Lake Nasser Nile Cruise ships carry
visitors from just south of Aswan to visit the monuments along its banks,
including Philae Temple, Abu Simbel, Kalabsha Temple, Qasr
Ibrim , and several others.
The waters of the lake are the only place in Egypt where one can still see the
infamous Nile crocodile since their populations have been depleted below the
dam and the starkly beautiful desert scenery along the banks provides a perfect
opportunity to relax during several days cruising the historic sites of Ancient
Fishing in Lake Nasser:
Since the construction of the dam, an entirely new attraction has developed in
the waters of Lake Nasser. The depth and size of the lake have allowed several
species of fish that live in the Nile system to thrive and grow to
As a result, a nascent sports fishing industry has evolved where
visitors come for the chance to catch some of the biggest freshwater fish in
the world. Outfitters take anglers out on day trips, but longer excursions are
more popular, allowing the boats to reach remote areas to fish privately.
Fishing is done from small boats, as well as from the shore.
Located within view of the High Dam, Kalabsha Temple is often
the first stop for any cruise on Lake Nasser. It was moved to this spot from
its original location 30 miles to the south after the construction of the dam.
Construction of the temple began at the end of the Ptolemaic
Dynasty and actually completed under the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus.
The result is an interesting combination of imagery that includes Egyptian and
Roman themes with images of Roman emperors and pharaohs worshipping the Egyptian
Gods. The temple was dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis.
It has a large pylon, which is connected to the rest of the
complex by a wall, creating a closed space. There are stairs to the roof,
offering a great view of the lake and back up to the High Dam.
Temple of Amada:
About 110 miles south of the High Dam, the Temple of Amada is
the oldest of the monuments around Lake Nasser. Dating back to the 18th dynasty
of the New Kingdom, the temple predates Ramses II and Abu Simbel by around two
hundred years; however, as is typical of the great pharaoh of Egypt, Ramses’s
mark and that of his son Merenptah can be found inside.
It is a rocky island in the middle of Lake Nasser. This is the only monument
around the lake to have remained in its original location. Qasr Ibrim used to
guard over a thriving city, but the lake submerged most of the ruins. During
the middle ages, this area rose to prominence such that the most noticeable
ruins visible on the island are actually what remains of a great cathedral that
once stood here. The area was inhabited until the mid-19th century when it fell
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