Published: October 1963

Threatened Treasures of the Nile

Abu Simbel

Threatened Treasures of the Nile

The Aswân High Dam brings hope for hungry millions, but its rising waters will imperil Nubia's ancient way of life and a priceless heritage of antiquities

By Georg Gerster, Ph.D.
Photograph by Georg Gerster, Ph.D.

This article was published in the October 1963 National Geographic. We've retained the originally used names and spellings here.

"What else is left to us," Hassan exclaimed, "but to drown the past in order to save the future?" Beauty must perish, my friend was saying, so that life itself might be better.

For the moment his blunt words hung in the air. Hassan, a young Egyptian construction supervisor, seemed to be thinking of ancient temples and tombs, of fortresses, statues, and inscriptions—the heritage of thousands of years of human suffering and triumph in the Nile Valley. But quickly he returned to the present, the threshold of the future.

We stood on a cliff above the Nile, four miles south of the old Aswân Dam. Drills rattled against granite, and the dipper buckets of gigantic excavators made crunching noises. Below us, dump trucks poured rubble into the river.

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