The Nile is a majestic river that flows northwards through Northeastern Africa. This beautiful River snakes through various countries and covers 6,650 km. Most importantly, the Nile River covers the drainage basins of Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya. Also, it covers the basins of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. Above all, this River is the primary water source for Egypt and Sudan. The Nile River system begins on the East African Plateau and flows to the Mediterranean Sea. Even though the River is very long, it is more Egyptian. Naturally, 20% of the total watercourse goes through the Egyptian territories.
With a length of 6650 km, the Nile River is widely recognised as the longest River in the world. The River flows through multiple countries from Lake Victoria, including Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Burundi, Sudan, and South Sudan. The Nile River comprises two main tributaries, the Blue and the White Nile. However, while most people consider the Nile the undisputed winner of the title of the longest River in the world, some scholars argue that the Amazon River deserves the crown. Calculating the actual length of a river like the Nile or Amazon can be challenging, as these massive bodies of water have multiple sources and tributaries, some located in remote and inaccessible locations. As a result, discovering the furthest source of a river can be arduous.
- Course Of The Nile River
- Nile River basin
- Historical Significance
- Economic Importance
- Religious Importance
- Reasons to visit the Magnificent River
- Contribution to Egyptian Civilisation
- Celebration of the Nile Flood Day
- Comparison between the Nile and the other Rivers
Course Of The Nile River
Great minds have tried to find where the Nile River originates from the most distant times. However, no one could give an exact answer, including famous travellers. In our time, it became known that it was created on the East African Plateau and is directly related to the waters of the Kagera; the River flows into Lake Victoria. In this regard, we can explain the symbolic depiction of the Nile in the guise of a deity with a draped head.
The Nile River courses south of the Equator and flows northward to the Mediterranean Sea. This grand River boasts 4,132 miles and drains an area of 1,293,000 square miles. Accordingly, the title of the longest River globally belongs to the River Nile. Now, it is the second-longest, after the Amazon.
The Blue Nile and the White Nile are the tributaries composing the Nile River. As it Begins at Lake Victoria in Tanzania, the White Nile flows north until it reaches Khartoum, Sudan. Over here, the longer White Nile merges with the Blue Nile from Ethiopia.
The Nile splits into two distributaries, the Rosetta Branch and the Damietta, to the west and east. This split forms the famous Nile Delta. Finally, The Nile River travels through North Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.
Nile River basin
The vital Nile River basin includes parts of several historical places. Mediterranean borders the inlet north, the Ethiopian Plateau on the east, Lake Victoria on the south, and a watershed between the Nile, Chad, and the Congo basins on the west. Lake Tana, also known as Tsana, is the largest lake in Ethiopia and serves as the source of the Blue Nile. This lake is in the northwestern Ethiopian Highlands, specifically within the Amhara Region.
It boasts an impressive size, measuring approximately 84 kilometres in length and 66 kilometres in width. The lake’s maximum depth is around 15 meters, with an elevation of 1,788 meters. The lake’s primary water sources are the Gilgel Abay, Reb, and Gumara rivers. Depending on rainfall and season, its surface area ranges from 3,000 to 3,500 square kilometres. The flow to the Blue Nile Falls (Tis Abbai) and hydro-power station is regulated through a control weir constructed where the lake discharges into the Blue Nile. 2015, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve nominated the Lake Tana region, recognising its national and international natural and cultural significance.
The Nile River basin spreads about one-tenth of the continent’s area. Thus, it has played a crucial role in advancing and evolving civilisations in the ancient world. Hence forming the historically rich river basin of the Nile.
The Nile is famous for its peculiarity: it does not dry up but only overflows its banks in very intense heat. At the same time, the waters went red, and the flooded shores got purple colour. This unusual feature explains that the red minerals fall into the River of their glaciers, which have already melted and coloured.
The Nile is a river that has considerably impacted the history of our civilisation. Additionally, this River is the longest globally and has left a significant mark in our history books. Early on, children learn about the significance of the Nile in school.
Mention in World History
The mention of the Nile River starts from ancient scrolls as old as time to make its presence known in today’s modern pop culture. It is easy to say that the Nile River is timeless.
Historically, the ancient poem Odyssey mentions Aigyptos as the name of the Nile and the country of Egypt through which the River flows. Ancient Egypt, one of the most extraordinary civilisations, was born along the Nile River’s fertile banks around 3000 BC.
The Nile has not only provided a source of life to ancient Egyptians, but it has continued doing so for most people residing along its banks. Travelling back in time, we can say that the Nile is at the heart of Ancient Egypt.
The ancient civilisation was called the River Aur or Black. This name denotes the colour of the River’s sediment when it floods. The thick black silt played a significant role in making the Nile River crucial for the thriving lives of the civilisation.
Often referred to as the “Father of life”, the Nile has provided unending sustenance to the development of Egyptian civilisation. The River often generously overflows its banks and deposits new layers of silt. Subsequently, the banks along the River’s length provided people with a fertile oasis for agriculture.
It points back to the heavy rains every summer that fill up the Blue Nile and send down extra water to overflow the banks of the dry Egyptian land. The rich and fertile silt left behind would thus create a perfect piece of fertile land. Subsequently, this would allow people to plant crops and build a healthy community. It led to the ancient Egyptians being among the first to master agriculture and cultivate the plough.
Developments on Nile Banks
They began to develop the River in Egypt about 20 thousand years ago and completed the development by the sixth millennium BC. The fertile soils that passed near the banks of the Nile attracted people to settle. Undoubtedly, the settling of river silt formed these fertile lands. Every year at the same time, the water level in the River rose.
The Egyptians used primal tools to cultivate these lands with ease. The tremendous amount of fish attracted new settlers. Gradually, a great civilisation began to form along the river banks. Thanks to this River, Egypt owes its history. If there were no life-giving floods of this River, then the territory of Egypt would have long ago turned into a desert.
“Egypt” is the gift of the Nile, as the ancient Greek writers claimed. The Nile is the only River that flows through the Sahara and carries its waters to the Mediterranean Sea. Based on this, we can safely say that the Nile is the source of life in the waterless desert. The entire Nile Valley is a vast oasis. The most important feature of the River is its annual floods. The water arrived mid-July, reaching its highest level by autumn, filling vast coastal spaces.
Due to annual spills, it became necessary to create an irrigation system. It was essential to distribute excess moisture from the earth’s surface evenly and in time to eliminate waterlessness and soil waterlogging. Thanks to this, it became possible to accumulate food in large quantities to feed all workers. It influenced the accumulation of wealth and the stratification of society. All the events that took place led to the emergence of a state in the Nile Valley.
Papyrus was of great wealth. A large number of it grew in the territory of Lower Egypt, in the Nile Delta. Lower Egypt is a land of marsh thickets; thus, ancients designated it by papyrus bush. Ancient Egyptians made paper from papyrus and created clothes, sails, mattresses, ropes and shoes from the inner rind. Egyptians made juice from the softest parts of the papyrus, which was very sweet. People ate its young shoots rawly and fried the bottom piece. Thanks to papyrus, writing became widely available, and as it spread, writing signs began to diminish and simplify.
It is safe to say that the fertile lands of the Nile contributed to the development of writing. Due to the abundant and large harvests, keeping records on large farms is necessary. In addition, the annual spills have influenced the development of astronomy and the ancient calendar. After all, knowing the dates of the River’s flooding was essential. The well-being and economy of the country depended on it.
Moreover, the Nile has an intricate connection to the theories of Ancient Egypt. The Nile was associated with powerful gods and goddesses who provided boons and curses of the land, climate and culture. Besides, tales of the river Nile talk about the goddess of the River or ‘Giver of life’ imparted the crucial knowledge of agriculture to the people.
The Nile played a vital role in the life of the whole country. The prosperity of the country depended on this river. Many gods and myths have associations with the Nile. The Egyptians believed the Nile flowed on earth and through people, the underworld, and heaven. The inhabitants correlated the Nile River with the god Hapi, who was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile and the saturation of the earth with fertile silt.
Another deity of the Nile was Sobek – his living personification was a crocodile. He was the god of water and spills, protecting people and deities. Even though his appearance was intimidating, Sobek was not cruel. Together with Osiris, the ancients revered him as the god of fertility. He was also the lord of fresh water and all living things in the River. Anglers and hunters prayed to Sebek, who fished among the thickets of the Nile. No wonder Sobek was the inventor of fishing nets.
God Osiris was a symbol of the productive forces of nature. When they planted grain in the soil, it was a symbol of the death of Osiris, and the resurrection of this god was the germination of plants from the ground. Also, many fertility deities had strong associations with the Nile.
The greatest god, Ra, was the father and king of the gods and the sun god. He made a barge journey along the heavenly Nile to illuminate the earth daily. Late in the evening, Ra moved to the barque Mesekset, and already in it, he made his way through the underworld. After defeating the serpent Apop in the morning, Ra was again visible on the horizon. Based on this, the Egyptians represented the underground and heavenly Nile, changing day and night. The River greatly influenced their life in general. The mythology of ancient Egypt is pervasive and suggests that the Egyptians considered the Nile superior and thanked it for its influence.
Reasons to visit the Magnificent River
The mention of Egypt is often associated with the mysterious and majestic Nile. No trip to Egypt can be complete without witnessing the Nile River’s glory. Undoubtedly, this beautiful River will take sightseers to the doorsteps of history.
The most favourable time for excursions is from December to February. If travellers go on a trip from October to May, there will be floods during this period, and the River’s water level will decrease.
Contribution to Egyptian Civilisation
River valley civilizations are agricultural societies that thrive alongside a river, relying on it for sustenance. These civilizations are characterized by permanent settlements with developed urban areas, social hierarchies, specialized labour, centralized governance, and formal communication systems. Rivers provide a reliable water source for drinking and farming and other benefits such as fishing, fertile soil from annual flooding, and convenient transportation.
The earliest great civilizations, such as those in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, arose in river valleys. Mesopotamia’s civilization prospered near the Tigris River, while Egypt flourished near the Nile.
The fertile banks of the Nile played a massive role in establishing the powerful ancient civilisation. The Egyptians used most of the food to cultivate the banks of the Nile Delta region. Consequently, the rich soil allowed ancient Egyptians to grow the papyrus plant. Ancient Egyptians used the papyrus plant to make cloth, rope and, most importantly, paper. The Nile River remains home to 95 per cent of Egyptians who reside within a few kilometres of it.
Excellent source of mythology
Ancient mythology suggested that the Nile flood arose from the tears of Isis mourning the death of her husband, Osiris. The Nile River held such great reverence; therefore, the ancient Egyptians divided the year into three seasons based on the River’s flooding. Accordingly, they split each season into four months: flooding, planting and harvesting.
Celebration of the Nile Flood Day
The Nile does not flood the shore anymore due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. However, modern Egyptians continue to celebrate this event with a holiday commencing on August 15 and lasting about two weeks. Egyptians prepare boats designed in Pharaonic style with flowers, joyful chants, dances, and colourful costumes to honour their ancestors. Of course, it is a beautiful way to thank the mighty River for its loyalty and love. The Nile River is historically significant and takes tourists on a voyage of discovery. Travellers get to witness iconic sights and understand the importance of the River Nile and the history associated with this majestic River.
Comparison between the Nile and the other Rivers
If you compare the Nile with other rivers, you can notice the main difference – it begins its course from south to north, unlike other rivers from north to south. 95% of the Egyptian population lives near the banks of the River. Another feature of the Nile is that it is home to a particular type of perch – the Nile, whose weight can be close to 140kg. Nile crocodiles are the second largest in the world. Males can reach 5.5m in length and weigh up to 200kg. These species are man-eating crocodiles.
On the very coast of the Nile River, there is intense heat; the temperature reaches +50 degrees. Rains are sporadic here. Thus, precipitation occurs only a few times a year and exclusively on the lands in the Nile Delta.
The fauna of the Nile is famous for its diversity. It is home to a wide variety of fish and turtles. There are all kinds of snakes and cobras, and there are more than 300 different species of birds. Migratory birds flock here for the winter.
To summarise, the Nile witnessed the rise of civilisation on its banks. In particular, it has played an influential and vital role in the history and power of the Ancient Egyptians. The Nile River still gives life to all people living along its banks in modern days.