Egyptian Camel

The Nile River

Map of the Nile

The Nile River is a wonder in its own right, being the wellspring for civilization in ancient Egypt and Northern Africa for the last 10,000 years. In a desert region, where it only rains a handful of times a year, the Nile River presents the only consistent source of water required to sustain the necessities of civilization, such as agriculture and drinking water.

As is evident, most of the great cities and wonders in ancient Egypt and neighboring Sudan were built along the banks of the Nile River. Examples include the Pyramids of Giza near Cairo, the Lighthouse of Alexandria in the Mediterranean Sea, and the fabled city of Khartoum in Sudan. Many kingdoms and dynasties have also risen and fallen in the region, all of them having their roots along the Nile.

The Nile River is the longest in the world, with a length of 6695 km (4184 miles). It is composed of many tributaries, the main ones being the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile has its source in Lake Victoria in Uganda, while the Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The White and Blue Nile rivers merge near Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

The White Nile was home to many ancient kingdoms, including the Napata and Karma kingdoms. Many pyramids and tombs can also be found along its banks. The Blue Nile is home to some of the greatest mysteries of Africa, such as the Ark of the Covenant, the religious artifact rumored to be found somewhere near Lake Tana, and made famous by the Indiana Jones movie.

The desert landscape around the Nile

Also rumored to be located near the Blue Nile is the legendary King Solomon's Mines. These mines, said to be responsible for King Solomon's great wealth, have been romanticized countless times by novels and movies, the most famous of which featured the explorer Allan Quartermain.

As has been mentioned, the land surrounding the Nile River is almost entirely desert terrain. It is therefore quite intriguing to find the Cave of Swimmers hundreds of miles from the river, the only source of water in the region.

The Cave of Swimmers is located in the Gilf Kebir mountain region, in southwestern Egypt. What makes the Cave of Swimmers interesting is that it contains prehistoric drawings of people swimming, something unheard of in a desert region far from any water source. Experts have since concluded that the Cave was from a time when the Gilf Kebir region was much wetter and a river likely flowed there. The Cave was made famous recently by the movie The English Patient.

Cairo City Center along the Nile

Another famous location along the Nile River is the village of Rosetta, located at the Nile Delta. It was near this village that the famous Rosetta Stone was discovered.

Before the 19th century, historians were unable to learn the culture and history of ancient Egypt, because none of them could understand the hieroglyphs that were used at that time. In 1799, a stone tablet was found near the village of Rosetta. This tablet contained what was presumed to be a religious rite, written in three scripts: Greek, demotic and the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt.

However, it wasn't until 1822 that Frenchman Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered the tablet, unlocking the hieroglyphic code. This allowed historians and archaeologists to read the hieroglyphs adorning all the tombs and monuments of ancient Egypt, enabling them to finally understand what happened during those ancient times.

Cruising the Nile by night

In the past, the volume of the Nile was highly unstable, providing little water during the early months of the year, and flooding the countryside in August and September.

Now that the two dams at Aswan - as well as other dams along the Nile - have been built, the flow of the Nile River has been regulated, providing farmers with consistent water supply all year round, and limiting the effects of the annual flooding.

These days, besides providing the farmers with much-needed water, the Nile River has also become a tourist attraction. A trip to Egypt isn't complete until one has had the opportunity to take a cruise down the Nile.

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