Stretching south from Aswan nearly 350 miles (550 kilometers) beyond the southern border of Egypt and into northern Sudan, Lake Nasser is the huge fresh water reservoir formed by the construction of the High Dam at Aswan during the 1960’s. 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. Construction on the dam began in 1960 as part of a major development initiative under President Gamel Abdel Nasser after the 1954 Free Officers Revolution. 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 Simbel temples.
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 Egypt. 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. 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 day cruising the historic sites of Ancient Nubia.