Water History

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 297–314 | Cite as

“We are the ones who made this dam ‘High’!” A builders’ history of the Aswan High Dam

  • Alia MossallamEmail author


This article explores a workers’ history of the Aswan High Dam. The workers who built the Dam refer to themselves as builders—a title that includes workers, technicians and engineers, laden with the pride of having worked on the Dam and the kind of classless society it promised to create. Builders demanded that I understand the ‘language of the Dam’ in order to be able to grasp its experience. The language of the Dam included idioms that encapsulated the glory of the Dam building experience as well as bitter experiences that rupture that glory completely. The building of the Aswan High Dam becomes metaphoric for the nation building process of the time, drenched in rhetoric and the promise of an ideal society, whilst equally exposed to its failures. I explore these contradictory experiences and argue that forms of intimate language such as idioms, sayings and poetry that emanate from a communal experience at a particular point in time reveal the politics, emotions and intricacies of that experience in a way that a constructed narrative of the experience may not. Thus, I unravel the politics of Dam building through the politics of a promised future, in a contradictory present; all now a past that workers grapple with as they compare a dream they made many sacrifices for, to a reality they are living in.


Egypt Aswan Dam Politics of memory Workers’ history 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The American University in CairoNew CairoEgypt

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