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Aswan Dam Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The Aswan Dam is the world's largest dam, stopping up the Nile River in Egypt. Learn about the construction of the dam, its role in history, and its importance to the people of Egypt in this lesson.

Desert Lake

If you think about traveling through Egypt, you probably think about riding on the back of a camel to get from place to place. While almost all of Egypt is a desert, it's not just sand and pyramids. There's also a huge lake called Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made reservoirs, or sources of water, in the entire world. Lake Nasser exists because Egypt built a huge dam on the Nile River, called the Aswan Dam, about fifty years ago. Since then, the Aswan Dam has changed the lives of Egyptians.

Satellite photo of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River
Aswan Dam photo

A Big, Big River

If you're going to build a dam anywhere, the Nile River is a pretty good choice. It's the longest river in the entire world, running through eleven different countries in eastern Africa before it drains into the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Egyptians relied on the Nile to bring water for themselves as well as their crops and animals. However, when a river is as big as the Nile, it can become dangerous when it floods, when too much water spills over. In fact, sometimes Egyptians had to move their ancient monuments to keep them from being swept away by a flood!

Ancient Egyptians could build the pyramids and modern Egyptians can live in big cities because of the water of the Nile River
Cairo and the Nile in Egypt

In order to control the flooding and to get electricity from the flow of the river, Egypt's president Gamal Nasser decided to build a big dam on the Nile River in 1952. However, it wasn't finished until 1970 due to the difficulty of such a big challenge, costing Egypt about one billion dollars to complete.

Benefits

The biggest advantage of the Aswan Dam is that it keeps the flow of the Nile River steady so that everyone living around the river stays safe. Since 95% of all Egyptians live within just a dozen miles of the Nile River, this was a huge advantage. At nearly 12,000 feet long and over 350 feet high, there's enough rock in the Aswan Dam to build over seventeen great pyramids! It has created a huge lake called Lake Nasser (named after Egypt's president), which has nearly six trillion cubic feet of water, five times as much water as the reservoir at the Hoover Dam in Nevada in the United States.

Photo of Lake Nasser, created by the Aswan Dam
Lake Nasser

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