– SEPTEMBER 04, 2015
All obelisks from ancient times were cut from red granite in the middle of Aswan. Yes, every obelisk was cut here in one monolithic piece, finished with all carvings and polishing, then transported down the Nile River to the final location. The red granite quarry in Aswan is the only location with a red granite supply in large enough blocks to make the obelisks…and no other material would work as effectively (or display as much wealth) for the pharaohs of the ancient times.
Red Granite is an extremely hard material and of course there were no modern tools or saws back then to extract the monolithic masses. The people of Egypt were quite clever though, so they realized that diorite (an intrusive igneous rock that is harder than red granite) in a ball shape could be used to repeatedly score the red granite until you could carve away into the shape you desire. Then the monolithic stone is extracted by ropes and animals, then the red granite mass is carved into for the symbols and hieroglyphics and finally polished.
Egypt had assistance from Russia in building the Aswan Dam, better known as the Aswan High Dam. It has both positive and negative aspects to its presence.
The need for the dam was due to the Nile River flooding every year and for the high demand for electricity in the area. The high dam resulted in the prevention of the annual flooding, thus keeping people safe from rising water levels and making the water level consistent year round (on the north side of the dam).
The electricity now generated from the High Dam can power approximately 75% of Egypt, so that’s a huge benefit.
The amount of water stored at the dam is enough water for all of Egypt for more than 7 years if a crazy drought ever took place.
Unfortunately it also meant that the reservoir expanded Lake Nasser much beyond its previous water levels (on the south side of the dam). Lake Nasser then flooded multiple Egyptian sites, but some of them were moved prior to the dam opening (Abu Simbel and Philae Temple for example were relocated in the same manner they were originally built and in the same solar orientation). Not all historic sites were saved though, plus the sites at that level that were yet to be discovered will now never be found.
The flooding south of the dam also forced the Nubian people of Egypt to move away from the river banks. There is a difference between the Northern Egyptian people and the Southern Nubian people. They speak in vastly different dialects (people from Cairo can’t understand anything said by authentic Nubian people), so there has always been a sense of tension between those two groups. With the dam being built, the Nubian people had to relocate (the Egyptian government paid to build them new homes in the desert away from the Nile). The Nubian people (more associated with African people of Sudan) then reluctantly moved into the desert as their homes were engulfed by Lake Nasser. Some Nubian people have caused problems in Aswan with violence and intimidation in the years to pass (and even still today).
The Aswan Dam is an embankment damn built across the Nile at Aswan, Egypt between 1898 and 1902. Since the 1960s, the name commonly refers to the Aswan High Dam. Construction of the High Dam became a key objective of the Egyptian Government following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, as the ability to control floods, provide water for irrigation, and generate hydroelectricity were seen as pivotal to Egypt’s industrialization. The High Dam was constructed between 1960 and 1970, and has had a significant effect on the economy and culture of Egypt.
Before the dams were built, the Nile flooded every year during late summer, when water flowed down the valley from its East African drainage basin. These floods brought high water and natural nutrients and minerals that annually enriched the fertile soil along the floodplain and delta; this had made the Nile valley ideal for farming since ancient times. Because floods vary, in high-water years the whole crop might be wiped out, while in low-water years widespread drought and famine occasionally occurred. As Egypt’s population grew and conditions changed, both a desire and ability developed to control the floods, and thus both protect and support farmland and the economically important cotton crop. With the reservoir storage provided by the Aswan dams, the floods could be lessened and the water stored for later release.
Next we were driven to the docks to rent a boat for a quick ride to the island containing Philae Temple.
Philae Temple was carefully moved to the current location (around 500m from the original site) when the construction of the High Dam caused surrounding Nile waters to rise. Dedicated to the goddess Isis, Philae Temple has a beautiful setting on an island in the river which has been landscaped to match its original site. Its various shrines and sanctuaries celebrate the deities involved in the myth of Isis and Osiris.
With the wrapping up of Philae Temple, we headed to our Nile River cruise ship to sleep for the evening. At 4am the ship left the Aswan docks and sailed down the Nile River towards the unusual dual Kom Ombo Temple.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.