Aswan Dam the name of two dams on the Nile River in Egypt. The first dam at Aswan, designed for irrigation and flood control, was completed in 1902. The second, called the Aswan High Dam, was built a short distance upstream from the first dam and was completed in 1970. It is considered one of the world's largest power-irrigation projects.
At its completion, the first Aswan Dam was 1 1/2 miles (2 km) long and 130 feet (40 m) thick. The height of the dam was increased in 1912 and again in 1933, when it reached 176 1/2 feet (58.3 m).
The Aswan High Dam is 365 feet (111 m) high and more than 2 miles (3.2 km) long. The dam's reservoir, called Lake Nasser, is one of the world's largest man-made lakes, and water from the reservoir is used to reclaim vast areas of barren land and to power turbines with an installed capacity of 2,100,000 kilowatts of electricity.
Construction of the Aswan High Dam was a source of both international tension and international cooperation. When Egypt announced in 1953 that it would build a new dam at Aswan, both the United States and Great Britain pledged financial aid for the project. However, in 1956 both nations withdrew their offers as a protest against Egypt's negotiations to purchase weapons from Communist Czechoslovakia. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser then seized control of the British-owned Suez Canal, announcing that he would use the revenues from the canal to build the dam. He also accepted the Soviet Union's offer of extensive financial and technical assistance. Construction work on the dam began in 1960.
Building the dam and creating its reservoir meant permanently flooding the Nile Valley in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. This area contained a great number of priceless art treasures from ancient Egypt, most notably the temples of Abu Simbel, built in the 13th century B.C. by Ramses II. Under the sponsorship of the United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, international teams of archeologists removed as many of these relics as they could before they were covered by the waters of the reservoir.
The Abu Simbel temples were cut into blocks, which were moved up the cliff and reassembled above the water line. Some of the relics were given to foreign nations in exchange for aiding Egypt in saving the art treasures of the area.