Aswan Dam


Completed in 1902, the Aswan Dam was a feat of engineering for its time and the largest dam in the world, measuring 2441m across, 50m high and 30m wide. Although not an attraction in itself, the road that runs across the top of the dam (which you'll take if heading to the airport or Abu Simbel) has excellent Nile views.

Plans for the Aswan Dam began at the end of the 19th century, when Egypt’s fast-growing population made it imperative to cultivate more agricultural land. This would only be possible by regulating the flow of the Nile, which would also ensure the river did not burst its banks during the flood. British engineer Sir William Willcocks started construction in 1898 above the First Cataract, with the dam structure made almost entirely of Aswan granite.

It was raised twice to meet demand, not only to increase the area of cultivable land but also to provide hydroelectric power. Today the old dam generates hydroelectricity only for a nearby factory producing fertilisers. With the opening of the High Dam 6km upstream in the 1960s, though, the original dam's use was usurped.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Aswan attractions

1. Nile Museum


A three-storey building on 146,000 sq metres of land, the Nile Museum exhibits antique items that tell of the waterway's history and photos that…

2. Temple of Isis

0.99 MILES

Built to honour the goddess Isis, this was the last temple built in the classical Egyptian style. Construction began around 690 BC, and it was one of the…

3. Seheyl

1.31 MILES

Situated just north of the old Aswan Dam, the island of Seheyl was sacred to the goddess Anukis. Before the dam’s construction, the Nile would rush…

4. Fekra

1.66 MILES

Fekra is a farm located on 40,000 sq m of land on the lake between the old dam and the High Dam, and overlooks Philae Island. The Fekra Cultural Centre –…

5. Gharb Seheyl


Gharb Seheyl, the village opposite Seheyl island, has become popular tourist attraction of late, both with excursions from Aswan and for those looking for…

6. Swimming Beach

2.78 MILES

This lovely beach on the Nile is safe for swimming, but you'll need a motor boat to get there, or walk or take a camel from Gharb Seheyl.

7. Fatimid Cemetery

3.12 MILES

Among the modern graves are some ruined mud-brick domed tombs, some of which go back to the Fatimid period (9th century). The domes are built on a drum…

8. Unfinished Obelisk

3.15 MILES

Aswan was the source of ancient Egypt’s finest granite, used to make statues and embellish temples, pyramids and obelisks. The large unfinished obelisk in…