Aswan High Dam and the Temple of Isis


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Anna on the High Dam wall. Lake Nasser behind.

This morning started with a trip to the Aswan High Dam. Lake Nasser was created when the High Dam was built. Unfortunately it inundated hundreds of tombs and temples. Thankfully some of them were moved prior to the dams building. Of course these include Abu Simbel which we saw yesterday.

The High Dam is 3600m in length and 980m wide at its base. 451 workers

Russia/Egypt Friendship Monument

died during its construction. The lake it created increased cultivatable land in Egypt by 30% and doubled the county’s power supply. It is little wonder that it was heavily guarded. Armed soldiers with AK47’s were everywhere. I saw a machine gun post with what I think was a 30 calibre. I was not going to ask for details.

The dam has had negative effects as well. Aside from the loss of monuments, it has stopped the flow of silt down the Nile which has resulted in a large increase in the use of chemical fertiliser. Ground water has also risen, further damaging monuments close to the Nile. The now perennially filled irrigation canals house bilharzia parasite which has been a public health problem.

We visited the small pavilion on the dam wall. It showed how the dam was constructed and also stated that video and zoom lenses were prohibited. This did not seem to be policed.

Philae Shopping Centre

As we drove off the dam we entered the Russia/Egypt Friendship Monument. As with all things Egyptian and Soviet, this was huge. It was also well guarded.

We were the taken down behind the dam and to a small “shopping centre”. A collection of shops selling pap protecting a small jetty. Here we embarked on a motor boat for a short ride to Agilika Island where we saw the Temple of Isis. There were hieroglyphs that were as recent as AD 394. After the building of the original Aswan dam this temple was swamped for

Temple of Isis

six months each year. Travellers used boats to look down on the partially submerged sanctuaries.

The High Dam would have made the temple disappear completely had not Unesco intervened.  Between 1972 and 1980 the temple was moved, stone by stone, to Agilika Island which is 20 metres higher than the original site. The island was landscaped to resemble the original sacred Isle of Isis.

After our tour we met up in the island coffee shop. On our way, we saw several of the staff praying in the open air.  Here were more cats than I

Mariusz and the cats

have ever seen in one place. Some were in better nick than others. One poor boy had his ear and throat badly damaged with open wounds that might have been slowly healing. 

Mariusz created a cat feeding frenzy when he shared out a candy bar. I was tempted to take a free book on Islam but I resisted the urge. They were available in quite a wide range of languages.

From here we were taken back to our ship for lunch and then taken to

Train to Cairo

Aswan Station for our overnight train to Cairo.