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1964: Nasser and Khrushchev divert the Nile

President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev have marked the first stage in the building of the Aswan High Dam.

At a dramatic ceremony in southern Egypt, the two heads of state together, along with President Arif of Iraq and President Sallal of Yemen, pressed a button to blow up a huge sand barrage and divert the ancient River Nile into a canal, allowing the next stage of the Dam to begin.

The dam has been financed and built with Russian help and thousands of cheering Egyptian and Russian construction workers witnessed great columns of sand shoot up into the air, followed by a cascade of muddy Nile water swirl through a manmade channel.

Standing alongside the presidents of Egypt, Iraq and Yemen on a platform above the 300-foot gorge, Mr Khrushchev said the dam should be called "the eighth wonder of the world".

Referring to the United States' refusal to fund the dam back in 1956, President Nasser said "reactionary powers" had conspired to prevent the building of the dam but that Egyptian and Russian solidarity had overcome all obstacles.

Mr Khrushchev also condemned "imperialist powers and their agents" and reiterated Soviet plans to strengthen ties with Arab nations.

In a barely veiled attack on Britain, France and the United States, he said all traces of imperialism should be wiped out from the region by getting rid of military bases, multinational companies and foreign missionaries.

He also announced President Nasser would receive Russia's highest honour - Hero of the Soviet Union.

The project, due to be completed in four years' time, will increase arable land in Egypt by one third, more than double its current power resources, add 200m to the national income and create the world's largest man-made lake - Lake Nasser.

In Context
The dam was a huge propaganda coup for President Nasser, still reeling from the United States' refusal back in 1956 to finance the project because of his links with the USSR.

But in October 1964 Egypt did accept 4.3m from the United States - along with Unesco's 5m grant - to save the Ancient Nubian monuments of Abu Simbel and the Philae temples, under threat from the rising waters created by the dam.

In 1968, they were painstakingly removed and reassembled on higher ground.

The Aswan High Dam was inaugurated in 1971, the year after the death of President Nasser, regarded by his countrymen as a hero of Arab nationalism.

Building the dam


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