The River Nile takes its name from the Greek word 'Nelios' meaning River Valley and it is the longest river in the world. Although many people consider it an Egyptian river, it actually flows through many countries and is the primary water source for both Egypt and Sudan.
Classed as an international river, the Nile flows through nine countries, namely Egypt, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Zaire. While there are disputes about the exact length of the Nile, it certainly travels thousands of miles through Central/Eastern and Northern Africa and its countries.
Take a look at some interesting and unusual facts about the great River Nile:
The Nile’s two major tributaries are known as the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile begins its path in Rwanda and wends its way north through Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan, where it merges with the Blue Nile at Khartoum. The Blue Nile begins in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan to Khartoum. Together they become one great river that travels through Egypt to a delta that empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
The White Nile gets its name from whitish clay that is suspended in its waters. When the Nile floods, deposits of silt act as a rich fertiliser on the soil.
The Nile played a vital role in the development of Egyptian civilisation, and Egypt was described as 'the gift of the Nile'. When the banks overflowed and silt was deposited on the land, crops began to flourish and the cultivated wheat was traded to sustain the famine-plagued Middle East. Egypt fast became economically stable with this valuable help from the Nile.
Due to the ancient Egyptians considering the west as a place of death, all of the country’s tombs have been built west of the Nile. The Nile was used to transport the blocks of stone used to create these magnificent tombs.
The ancient Egyptian calendar was based on the three cycles of the Nile. Four months of thirty days each were classed as one season and were named Akhet, Peret, and Shemu. Akhet was the season when the Nile flooded and left fertile soils behind, while Peret was the growing season. The name Shemu was given to the harvest season.
The Nile has played a vital role in transportation for hundreds of years, with ships using the seasonal flow of the river to sail up or down river. Paddle steamers then came along, providing visitors with the opportunity to see the Pyramids and Thebes. Today, modern diesel boats use the river for tourist trips.
Half of Egypt's population live in the Nile Delta region and many of the country's ancient sites and cities can be located along the river's banks.
The famous Rosetta stone was discovered in the Nile Delta in the 18th century. This ancient artefact was a hugely important discovery as it played an important role in modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The Aswan High Dam was built in 1970, helping to control water levels. By regulating flooding, it has prevented crops being washed away and is a vital water source in years of drought.