Lake Nasser
View from Abu Simbel
Location of Lake Nasser in Egypt.
Location of Lake Nasser in Egypt.
Lake Nasser
Map showing the location of the lake
Coordinates22°30′N 31°52′E / 22.50°N 31.86°E / 22.50; 31.86
Lake typeReservoir
Primary inflows
Primary outflows
Basin countriesEgypt, Sudan
Max. length550 km (340 mi)
Max. width35 km (22 mi)
Surface area5,250 km2 (2,030 sq mi)
Average depth25.2 m (83 ft)
Max. depth130 m (430 ft)
Water volume132 km3 (32 cu mi)
Shore length17,844 km (25,735,000 ft)
Surface elevation183 m (600 ft)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Nasser (Arabic: بحيرة ناصر Boħēret Nāṣer, Egyptian Arabic: [boˈħeːɾet ˈnɑːsˤeɾ]) is a vast reservoir in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. It is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.[1] Before its creation, the project faced opposition from Sudan as it would encroach on land in the northern part of the country, where many Nubian people lived who would have to be resettled.[2][3] In the end Sudan's land near the area of Lake Nasser was mostly flooded by the lake.[4] The lake has become an important economic resource in Egypt, improving agriculture and touting robust fishing and tourism industries.

Strictly speaking, "Lake Nasser" refers only to the much larger portion of the lake that is in Egyptian territory (83% of the total), with the Sudanese preferring to call their smaller body of water Lake Nubia (Egyptian Arabic: بحيرة النوبة Boħēret Nubeyya, [boˈħeːɾet nʊˈbejjæ]).[5]

Physical characteristics

Satellite image of Lake Nasser

The lake is some 479 km (298 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) across at its widest point, which is near the Tropic of Cancer. It covers a total surface area of 5,250 km2 (2,030 sq mi) and has a storage capacity of some 132 km3 (32 cu mi) of water.[6]


Before the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser

Before the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent creation of the Lake Nasser, the area that the lake now occupies was a significant part of the region of Nubia, home to several pharoahs of Egypt and empires such as that of the Kush.[7]

Construction of the Aswan High Dam 1960-1970

The construction of the Aswan High Dam began in 1960 at the behest of Lake Nasser's namesake and the second president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser. It was President Anwar Sadat who inaugurated the lake and dam in 1971.[8] Finished in 1970, the Aswan High Dam across the Nile was built to replace the insufficient Aswan Low Dam built in 1902. The goals of the High Dam and the reservoir it created, Lake Nasser, were to create a more stable source of water, to increase agricultural production, and to produce electricity for Egypt.[9]


The construction of the Aswan High Dam and Nasser Lake was host to several controversies related to its effects on the environment and those living in the effected area.

Displacement of Nubians

As a result of the construction and Aswan High Dam and the subsequent filling of Nasser Lake, tens of thousands of native Nubians were forced to relocate from their homes and migrate elsewhere.[10] Though some have been able to resettle on the shores of the new lake, their original homes have been flooded and lost to the lake.

Flooding of ancient ruins and monuments

The construction of the Aswan High Dam and Nasser Lake sparked an international movement to preserve the history of the region. Due to the filling of the new Lake Nasser, much of the region would be flooded and as such, the ancient monuments and artifacts that lay there would have been lost. Due to this, an international effort was made to rescue and relocate many of the ancient sites and artifacts that were threatened which culminated in the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia led by UNESCO.[11] Though a great many sites were saved and relocated such as the temples of Kalabsha, Wadi es-Sebua, and Amada, some sites such as the fortress of Buhen were unable to be rescued and now rest underwater in the lake.[12] The most famous of those that were rescued were temples at Abu Simbel which were broken down and relocated safely off the coast of Lake Nasser.[13][14]

Ecological ramifications

The damming of the Nile has come with several ecological consequences as the natural flow and processes of the river have been interrupted. One effect has been the interruption of the flow nutrient-rich sediments down stream of the Nile which provided much of the needed nutrients for agriculture along Nile. As a result of this interruption, many Egyptian farmers have been forced to resort to chemical fertilizers to maintain arable land for growing crops. The habitats of animals past Lake Nasser and the Aswan High Dam such as those of the Nile crocodile have also been greatly affected as the reduction of water levels that came with the construction of the dam rendered these habitats uninhabitable for several native species.[15]

Economic impacts

By providing a reliable source of water for irrigation and agriculture year-round instead of the seasonal and unpredictable floods of the Nile River, Nasser Lake has provided a large boon to the agricultural industry of the Egyptian economy. The agricultural industry employs about 25% of Egypt's population and is a vital sector of the Egyptian economy. With the creation of a more stable water supply in Lake Nasser, the agricultural productivity of farmers in Egypt has increased in existing arable land. In the years immediately following the filling of the lake, Egypt's arable land also increased by about 30%.[16]

Being home to 52 different species of fish which are dominated by several different species of tilapia which make up the vast majority of catches[17], as well as the popular Nile perch, Lake Nasser has developed a robust fishing industry with thousands of fishing boats sailing the lake and fish processing facilities dotting its shores.[18] In addition to commercial fishing, the rich aquatic life of the lake has attracted many recreational fishers to the lake as well.

Lake Nasser has become a popular tourist destination for recreational fishing as well sightseeing cruises on the lake itself. The many relocated monuments saved from the initial filling of Lake Nasser have become a major tourist attraction for the region, especially examples such as the Abu Simbel temples.[19]

The Aswan High Dam which holds Lake Nasser produces about 2.1 gigawatts of hydroelectricity, providing a significant percentage of Egypt's electricity needs (up to half when it was completed in 1970).[20]

Current and future issues

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

With the beginning of construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011, Egypt faces the threat of water shortage as the new upstream dam would reduce the amount of water flowing downstream to Lake Nasser. As this flow of water from the Nile into Egypt and Sudan constitutes a major part in their economy, its reduction due to the construction of the GERD could potentially be devastating for the nations. Though not yet completed, the GERD has already begun affecting Egypt as it has reduced the flow of water down the Nile River and decreased available agricultural land for the country.[21] If Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are unable to come together to work out possible solutions or compromises for this water problem, The GERD could possibly pose an existential threat to Lake Nasser and could have a great destabilizing effect on Egypt and Sudan who rely on it so greatly in many sectors of the economy.[22]


Further reading

See also


  1. ^ "Aswan High Dam, River Nile, Sudan, Egypt". Water Technology. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  2. ^ Scudder, Thayer (2 September 2016). Aswan High Dam Resettlement of Egyptian Nubians. Springer. ISBN 9789811019357. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  3. ^ Sofer, Amon (1999). Rivers of Fire: The Conflict Over Water in the Middle East. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 36. ISBN 9780847685110.
  4. ^ "Governorates of Egypt". Statoids Administrative Divisions of Countries ("Statoids"). Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  5. ^ Roest, F.C.; Crul, R. C. M. (1995). Current Status of Fisheries and Fish Stocks of the Four Largest African Reservoirs: Kainji, Kariba, Nasser/Nubia and Volta. Food & Agriculture Org. p. 81. ISBN 9789251036839.
  6. ^ Muala, Eric; Mohamed, Yasir A.; Duan, Zheng; van der Zaag, Pieter (13 August 2014). "Estimation of Reservoir Discharges from Lake Nasser and Roseires Reservoir in the Nile Basin Using Satellite Altimetry and Imagery Data". Remote Sensing. 6 (8): 7526. Bibcode:2014RemS....6.7522M. doi:10.3390/rs6087522.
  7. ^ "About Nubia". Nubian Foundation. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of Architectural and Engineering Feats. ABC-CLIO. 2001. p. 23. ISBN 9781576071120. president nasser, high dam project.
  9. ^ "Aswan Dam Completed". Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  10. ^ Beddis, R. A. (1963). "The Aswan High Dam and the Resettlement of the Nubian People". Geography. 48 (1): 77–80. ISSN 0016-7487.
  11. ^ Hassan, Fekri A. (2007). "The Aswan High Dam and the International Rescue Nubia Campaign". The African Archaeological Review. 24 (3/4): 73–94. ISSN 0263-0338.
  12. ^ Gohary, Jocelyn (1998). Guide to the Nubian Monuments on Lake Nasser. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 978-977-424-462-9.
  13. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Working Together: Abu Simbel". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  14. ^ "Rescuing Abu Simbel". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  15. ^ "The Egyptian Nile: human transformation of an ancient river". 2023. doi:10.54677/mdjn3102. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  16. ^ "Fueled by the Nile". 8 July 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  17. ^ Crul, R. C. M.; Roest, F. C. (1995). Current Status of Fisheries and Fish Stocks of the Four Largest African Reservoirs: Kainji, Kariba, Nasser/Nubia and Volta. Food & Agriculture Org. p. 81. ISBN 978-92-5-103683-9.
  18. ^ Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture, ed. (2011). Review of tropical reservoirs and their fisheries: the cases of Lake Nasser, Lake Volta and Indo-Gangetic Basin reservoir (PDF). FAO fisheries and aquaculture technical paper. Rome: FAO. pp. 39–84. ISBN 978-92-5-106741-3.((cite book)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  19. ^ "Restored Abu Simbel Keeps Ancient Grandeur". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  20. ^ "Aswan High Dam". 8 June 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  21. ^ MENAFN. "Egyptian agriculture crisis worsens, mainly due to lack of water". Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  22. ^ Attia, Hana; Saleh, Mona (2021). The Political Deadlock on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Report). German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA).