The Nile River in Egypt is not just famous for its lengthy body of water snaking its way through Africa, it also serves as a liquid link of vitality and without it Egypt would not be the same country.
For more than 5,000 years, this fundamental watercourse has promised land that is fertile, transportation that is swift and a harvest that would have been nonexistent in a desert landscape. In Egypt today, 95% of the population continue to live and flourish along the lush embankments.
Our Egypt tours ensure that you will come to understand the importance of this river – and see its true beauty from both the teeming banks and on its tranquil waters. To brush up on your knowledge before you book your trip, take a look at these 5 interesting facts about the Nile River.
A lifeline to Egypt
The Nile runs through the country of Egypt and creates a fertile valley across the arid countryside. The name Nile comes from the Greek word Neilos meaning valley. Ancient Egyptians referred to the river as Ar – translating to black and ‘River of life’ given the black sediment it leaves behind. The yearly flooding of the Nile also means that the crops can grow and then be harvested that year. As a result the Egyptians have worshipped this waterway and relied on it as a lifeline for food.
Every year, Egyptians continue to celebrate this river with a festival called Leylet en Nuktah. In past times, if the waters did not seem to be rising, the locals would pacify the god of the Nile, Hapi. It was believed that the river god had to be appeased or there would be no harvest that season.
Today, the Nile still rises around the same time and the waters flood the Delta’s soil with silt – encouraging the growth of crops. In modern Egypt, the festival is enjoyed with families and friends picnicking on the banks and camping by the river’s edge. As the sun sets, women put out balls of dough that represent the members of their family living in the house. In the morning, the dough balls are examined for cracks. These marks indicate the person’s future and longevity.
The longest river in Africa
This famous waterway is about 6,670 km (4,160 miles) and is the longest river in Africa. It is also believed to be the longest river in the world but some scientists and sources cite that the Amazon is in fact the longest river by 105km (65 miles). The Nile is generally associated with Egypt even though only 22% of the river’s course runs through the country.
This major-flowing river in Africa is an ‘international river’ as its drainage basin covers 11 countries including the Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Republic of Sudan. The Nile is the primary water source of Sudan and Egypt.
The two main tributaries of the Nile River are the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile is seen as the major stream of the Nile while the Blue Nile is the source of the majority of the water and silt. The White Nile is the longer of the two and rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. The Blue Nile runs from Lake Tana in Ethiopia and continues from the southeast to Sudan.
It is just below the Aswan High Dam at the northern point of Lake Nasser that the Nile returns to its original course.
Home to one of the oldest ancient civilizations
Without the waters of the Nile, the civilization of Ancient Egypt would not have existed. The Egyptian civilization and the Sudanese kingdoms have relied on the river since ancient times. Most of the population in Egypt and many of the cities sit alongside the banks of the river in the Nile Valley, north of Aswan. It was around 5,000 B.C. that the first prominent Egyptian civilization was founded in the northern Nile Valley.
When you travel on one of our Egypt tours you will notice how majority of the historical and cultural sites of Ancient Egypt are located by the riverbanks. To view all these sites, our Egypt tours visit Cairo, Thebes/Luxor, Aswan and Karnak.
The best way to see these ancient landmarks is via hot air balloon ride over the city of Luxor. From this angle, you will be able to gaze at the vast array of magnificent monuments as well as the sparkling waters of the Nile.
The fertile soils and water from the Nile aided in the growth of the ancient civilizations. The deposits of rich soil along the banks meant that Ancient Egypt relied on agriculture for its power and wealth. Even today as you travel on our Egypt tours you will still notice the vast number of people farming along the river.
A diverse ecosystem
The Nile River is not just a lifeline for the people of Egypt but also for the wildlife. These fertile waters are home to over 100 species of fish, reptiles, rhinos, hippos, birds and small land animals. The most popular reptile that you are sure to spot is the Nile crocodile. This African crocodile is the largest freshwater predator in Africa and could even be considered the second largest crocodilian in the world.
In parts of the Nile River basin, you can also find the Nile monitor – a large species of lizard. This lizard stands out from the waters with its yellow and orange stripes.
In ancient times, the Egyptians believed the hippo or the ‘river horse’ to be an animal of worship. The hippo was originally indigenous to Egypt and is now endangered.
Bird watchers exploring Egypt will be highly appeased as along the Nile, over 300 species of birds can be discovered. The Nile Valley sunbird is one of the more striking birds with a bright yellow belly. The males have a metallic green head and a blue-violet back.
A major source of transportation
During ancient times the Nile was also used for transportation. In modern Egypt, this is still the case and ships transport goods along the river. When the pyramids were built, the Nile served a vital role as the stone blocks were carried by boat from the source. On our Egypt tours, you will begin your trip with an excursion to the site of the pyramids and get to examine the impressive stone structures up close.
For millions of farmers across Africa, the Nile is an important means of transportation. Egypt imports 40% of its grain via boats and steam ships along the Nile. The Nile becomes even more vital in flood season when road transportation in many areas becomes dangerous and difficult.
One of the highlights of our Egypt tours is that you will spend a night while drifting along the Nile in a traditional felucca sailboat. This unique experience gives you a much-needed break from the busy sightseeing itinerary and allows you to catch a glimpse of a different side to the country.
A friendly Nubian crew will enhance this blissful journey from Aswan to Luxor. The staff will be on hand to prepare and cook delicious traditional meals and provide entertainment in the evenings. As night falls, you can sleep on an open deck and look up at the moon before being lulled into a serene slumber
(mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets are provided).