Empress of the Nile

Lynne Olson

Empress of the Nile
Scribe Publications
28 February 2023

Empress of the Nile

Lynne Olson

The fascinating story of the feisty French archaeologist who led the international effort to save ancient Egyptian temples from the floodwaters of the Aswan Dam.

In the 1960s, the world’s attention was focused on a nail-biting race against time: fifty countries contributed nearly a billion dollars to save a dozen ancient Egyptian temples from drowning in the floodwaters of the gigantic new Aswan High Dam. But the massive press coverage of this unprecedented rescue effort completely overlooked the gutsy French archaeologist who made it all happen. Without the intervention of Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, the temples would now be at the bottom of a gigantic reservoir. It was a project of unimaginable size and complexity that required the fragile sandstone temples to be dismantled, stone by stone, and rebuilt on higher ground.

Desroches-Noblecourt refused to be cowed by anyone or anything. As a brave member of the French Resistance in World War II, she had survived imprisonment by the Nazis; in her fight to save the temples, she had to face down two of the most daunting leaders of the postwar world, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and French president Charles de Gaulle.

After a century and a half of Western plunder of Egypt’s ancient monuments, Desroches-Noblecourt helped preserve a crucial part of its cultural heritage, and, just as importantly, made sure it remained in its homeland.

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