How can we better capture and disseminate stories from communities outside of the mainstream narrative in the context of infrastructure megaprojects*? What can we learn from the relocation of people and monuments due to the construction of the Nile’s High Aswan Dam in Egypt? 

While river megaprojects sometimes create opportunities, they inevitably come with serious social and environmental impacts. The construction of the Nile’s Aswan High Dam in Egypt in the 60s led to the displacement of communities and monuments. The reservoir flooded more than 30 Nubian villages, forcing around 50,000 people to leave their homes and migrate to territories north of the dam. The new water levels also triggered an unprecedented international campaign coordinated by UNESCO to collect hundreds of artifacts and relocate several important temples to higher ground. Egypt gifted temples to the countries that contributed most to the archeological campaign, the Netherlands being one of them.

Jose Torcal learns about the impacts of the Aswan High Dam during his stay at a Nubian camp in early 2020. Back in the Netherlands, he commits himself to trace back both journeys, of people and buildings, through interviews with organizations that work on the realm of water management, environmental justice and art collection in the MENA region: Both ENDS, Netherlands Water Partnership, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and National Museum of Antiquities- the host of the Egyptian temple.

Through a short video that includes materials from his own interviews, academic research and online resources, Jose invites us to reflect on the relocation of the Taffeh temple to Leiden and of the Nubians to remote areas with no access to the Nile. Which stories have we preserved and what do they tell us about our relationship to water, to heritage and to each other?

*Megaprojects are large-scale, complex ventures that typically cost $1 billion (USD) or more, take many years to develop and build, involve multiple public and private stakeholders, are transformational, and impact millions of people” (The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management, 2017)