Egypt (- 2600 BC)

Published on 30 January 2008
Sadd El Kafara, a structure from around 3,000 years ago!

Egypt: the beginnings of the art of dams

Dams are one of the very first structures that mankind built from the time that he wanted to tame his natural environment. You can find examples in all civilisations, no matter how far they are from each other, and though they had no means of communicating with each other.

The structure whose ruins can be seen hereup was found at Sadd El Kafara on the Garawi wadi 30 km South of Cairo. It was built more than 2,600 years ago, doubtless to protect the valley downstream of flooding that was rare but severe in the region.
The Saad El Kafara dam was 12 metres high and 108 metres long. It was made of 2 masonry work walls, 24 metres thick at the bottom, encircling an earth core of 36 metres in thickness. In the absence of a floodwater spillway, it was destroyed by becoming submerged during its construction.

For a long time, this accident dissuaded the Egyptians from building other dams. It was not until the reign of Sethi I that another structure was built, this time from rockfill, on the Nahr El Asi near Homs. 6 metres high and 2 km long, it is still in service nowadays.