The River Nile is about 6,670 km (4,160 miles) in length and is the longest river in Africa and in the world. Although it is generally associated with Egypt, only 22% of the Nile’s course runs through Egypt.
In Egypt, the River Nile creates a fertile green valley across the desert. It was by the banks of the river that one of the oldest civilizations in the world began. The ancient Egyptians lived and farmed along the Nile, using the soil to produce food for themselves and their animals.
Where is the River Nile?
The River Nile is in Africa. It originates in Burundi, south of the equator, and flows northward through northeastern Africa, eventually flowing through Egypt and finally draining into the Mediterranean Sea.
Where is the source of the River Nile?
Lake Victoria, Africa's biggest lake, is generally thought of as the source of the River Nile. On the northern edge of the lake, water pours over a waterfall, known as Ripon Falls, into a narrow opening which some people believe is the beginning of the River Nile.
The true source of the River Nile
Ripon Falls may be the starting-point of the river, but the many streams that flow into Lake Victoria could claim to be the true source.
Much of Lake Victoria is surrounded by mountains with streams tumbling down into the lake. The largest tributary of Lake Victoria is the Kagera river. The Kagera and its tributary the Ruvubu, with its headwaters in Burundi, is now considered to be the true source of the Nile. It is from here that the Nile is measured as the world's longest river.
What are the two main rivers that flow into the River Nile?
The River Nile is formed from the White Nile, which originates at Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. These rivers meet in Sudan and then go on their long journey northwards towards the sea.
The White Nile is a lot bigger than the Blue Nile, but because of losses along the way. It only contributes about 15% to the flow of the combined Nile. The Blue Nile, rising in Ethiopia, contributes about 85% to the flow of the Nile that passes through Egypt to the Mediterranean.
Why did the Ancient Egyptians live near the River Nile?
Most Egyptians lived near the Nile as it provided water, food, transportation and excellent soil for growing food.
Why was the Nile River so important to the Ancient Egyptians?
Ancient Egypt could not have existed without the river Nile. Since rainfall is almost non-existent in Egypt, the floods provided the only source of moisture to sustain crops.
Every year, heavy summer rain in the Ethiopian highlands, sent a torrent of water that overflowed the banks of the Nile. When the floods went down, it left thick rich mud (black silt) which was excellent soil to plant seeds in after it had been ploughed.
The ancient Egyptians could grow crops only in the mud left behind when the Nile flooded. So they all had fields all along the River Nile.
When did the Nile flood?
The River Nile flooded every year between June and September, in a season the Egyptians called akhet - the inundation.
The River Nile and its banks
The Nile is truly the River of Life and has been revered in Egypt since ancient times. Until the Aswan High Dam was built, only 4% of Egypt was cultivated, but this has now been extended to 6%. Nearly all habitation owes its existence to the narrow strip of land either side of the river itself or to the very fertile Nile Delta in the north.
One explanation for the shape of the Ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol for eternal life, is that it is thought to represent the Nile and its importance to life and consequently their religion. The two side arms represent the two banks of the river - East for the Living and West for the After-life. The top loop is for the productivity and fertility of the Nile Delta; the stem is for the Nile itself.
The proximity of the Desert to the river is a constant reminder of the fragility of the narrow strip of life which survives all the way from Aswan to Cairo. Many of the dwellings and settlements have a very simple existence with few modern amenities.
Boats of the River Nile
The history of Egypt is totally dominated by the River Nile. At one time nearly all transportation was by boat along the river. Consequently it was always thought that Gods would travel by boat - or barque as it was called. The souls of the dead also traveled by barque in the afterlife.
FELUCCAS: - The felucca has remained, over the centuries, the primary transportation of the Nile. Its ancient form still graces the river as it has done since the time of the Pharaohs. Motorized barges transport bulk material and modern cruise ships transport tourists, but the felucca remains despite modern alternatives.
The felucca rarely has any form of engine and relies entirely on the breeze which builds during the day and usually subsides at night. Some of the craft today are used to carry tourists who wish to enjoy an eternally peaceful journey carried along by the gentle breeze and the currents of the river.
Few are now made entirely of wood, but the basic layout has barely changed. They don’t have a keel as such, but a heavy centre plate which can be raised in the shallows. The sails are seriously low tech affairs made of native cotton and other natural fibers.
Tour Boats: - There are a phenomenal number of tourist boats on the Nile and most of them resemble a floating block of flats - they have little charm on the outside and absolutely no connection with Egypt on the inside. They are floating hotels designed to keep the Western traveler sanitized from the world outside - but Pharaoh does exact his revenge!!
The River Nile is possibly the most famous river in history. It was by its banks that one of the oldest civilizations in the world began. Not surprisingly, the Nile teems with life. Many different types of animals, birds, and fish all call the River Nile home. Hundreds of years ago, even hippos and lions could be found here in the Nile Valley.
The crocodile’s eyes and nostrils are on top of the head so it can see and breathe while the rest of it is underwater. As an added advantage, its ears and nostrils can close when it dives, and a nictitating membrane (a transparent eyelid) closes over the eye to keep water out.
Nile Crocodiles range all over Africa, eating almost anything (including each other), but rarely moving away from their chosen body of water. Hatchlings eat small fish and insects; adults will go after turtles, baboons, and even the gigantic wildebeest. They live in large "communities" of several dozen crocodiles, but even there they tend to leave each other alone except during a "feeding frenzy" when they will all unite to take down a much larger animal.
The Nile Valley is home to so many creatures we wouldn’t be able to see them all, but here is a good collection for you to see.
Are we ready to begin? Excellent!
This fearsome reptile is the Nile Crocodile. These gigantic animals have not been seen around the Nile for many years, though recently they’ve started making a comeback behind the Aswan Dam. The skin of the Nile Crocodile, unlike that of most reptiles, is not shed, but grows with the animal.
Although crocodiles look like alligators, they can be distinguished by their longer, narrower snout, and their fourth tooth, which sticks out from the lower jaw rather than fitting neatly into the upper jaw. The adults can reach lengths of over 10 feet and can weigh up to 1500 pounds.
Crocodiles swim mostly with their tails. Though their back feet are webbed, they rarely use them underwater. On land, they use their powerful legs to move around. They only look slow; Nile Crocodiles have been known to "gallop" at speeds of about 30 miles an hour.