The Nile is the longest river in the world, measuring 6695 km (4160 mi) from its remotest headstream in Burundi to its mouth at the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile proper rises at Lake Victoria, and flows north through much of eastern Africa. Heavy rainfalls cause the Nile to flood each summer, while the river reaches its lowest volumes between January and May.
Nile River Cargo A number of different watercourses drain into Africa’s Nile River. The Blue Nile, originating in Ethiopia, joins the White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan; from this point the Nile runs northward through Sudan and Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea
Downstream from Khartoum, the Nile passes through six cataracts (waterfalls), five in Sudan and one in Egypt, near Aswān. Separating into the Rosetta and Damietta branches north of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, the Nile enters the Mediterranean Sea through a 250 km- (160 mi-) wide delta. The landscape along the river varies from rain forests and mountains in the south to savannas and swamps in southern Sudan to barren deserts in the north. Fish found in the Nile include Nile perch and tilapia. Among wildlife, hippopotamuses are common in the upper Nile, while crocodiles are found throughout the river’s length.
Until the middle of the 1800s, the source of the Nile was one of the world’s great mysteries. Ancient Greeks wrote that the river originated in snowcapped highlands. Noted Western explorers of the Nile include British explorers John Hanning Speke,
who reached Lake Victoria in 1858, and Samuel White Baker, who sighted Lake Albert in 1864; German explorer Georg August Schweinfurth explored the Bahr al Ghazāl between 1868 and 1871. An Anglo-American, Henry Morton Stanley, circumnavigated Lake Victoria in 1875 and explored Lake Edward and the Ruwenzori Range in 1889.
European powers gained control over most of the countries of the Nile basin in the late 19th century. Britain established its power in Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya; Germany ruled what are now Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi; and Belgium governed what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). After World War I (1914-1918) German territory was divided between Britain and Belgium, with Britain controlling Tanzania, and Belgium gaining Rwanda and Burundi. Ethiopia remained an independent state. European power in Egypt and Sudan ended in the 1950s and elsewhere in the 1960s. The 1959 Nile Waters Agreement resolved an international dispute concerning the equitable division of the river’s water among the countries of the region.