Inaugurated by President Mubarak in 1997, the Toshka Project had the ambitious goals of cultivating 5700 square kilometres of desert northwest of Abu Simbel, and settling six million people there. To irrigate the land, $1 billion was spent on creating the world’s largest pumping station to extract five billion cubic metres of water from Lake Nasser annually, and digging the Sheikh Zayed Canal, named after the president of the United Arab Emirates (a big investor). The main canal (completed in 2002) is 50km long, 30m wide and 6m deep, with four branch canals totaling 159km in length, and a network of roads linking Toshka to another irrigation project at East Oweinat in the Western Desert, using aquifer water. However, settlers have been disillusioned by the lack of work opportunities and infrastructure, and foreign investors have pulled out since the 2011 Revolution, vindicating critics of both projects, who claimed from the start that they would prove to be white elephants.

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