Nile River: The Lifeline of Egypt

Egypt can never be Egypt, without the river Nile. The longest river in the world, with a huge length of  6,650 Km (4130 miles), the Nile river captivated the world for centuries. The peculiar feature of the river is that it is the source of life for one of the oldest civilizations. The name of the river comes from the Greek word ‘Nelios’, meaning ‘the river valley’ . Sailing on this river is the experience, most Africans aspire, to cherish the beauty of the river.


Nile River

The Nile (Image source:

The course of the river makes it unique and ‘international’, for its expansion of its area over many countries.  Egypt, in the absence of the river nile is an empty desert, as it is the only river of Egypt providing sources of water. Most importantly, the annual food production, is the result of the fertile soil produced by the river Nile. The river Nile provided a means of transport, during the construction of the great Pyramids of Egypt.


Significance of the Nile:

Egypt is known popularly as ‘The gift of Nile’. The mention of the name of the river evokes the images of Pyramid, great temples and the unlimited treasures. The Nile has shaped the culture of the ancient and the present centuries with its beauty and we are just in the beginning to understand it’s significance.


The ancient Egyptian calendar shaped its climate, with three seasons, depending on the cycles of the river. In addition, the river is known for its beauty and resources. The River served all aspects of human life of tradition, transport, agriculture and created a unique way of living for the people living around.


Origin and Course:

In the quest of finding the origins of the river Nile, many explorers had to fight the obstacles of nature. They had to overcome dangerous animals like crocodiles, hippos, armies of mosquitoes and many such problems. Many great explorers spent their lives finding the origins of the river Nile and most of them failed, while some of them reached the origins without their own knowledge. Some of such explorers include James Bruce, Mungo Park, Samuel Baker,  David Livingstone, John Hanning Speke, Henry Mortan Stanley and many others.


The river has two tributaries namely the Blue Nile and the White Nile, both having different origins. The Blue Nile is a river originating at Lake Tana in Ethiopia, while it is believed that the White Nile is formed at Lake No, at the conflux of the Bahr al Jabal and Bahr el Ghazal  rivers.


The White Nile, the longest of the two, expands its length of around 3,700 Km, draining from Lake Victoria.  Both the Niles converge at Khartoum (confluence ) in Northern Sudan, before they flow through Egypt as the river Nile.


Exploring the Nile:

Exploring the Nile river and the Nile river valley is a popular part time for the tourists to the most historic land. The visitors would witness pyramids, towns, villages, necropolis (burial grounds), feluccas (traditional sail boats) and most importantly, the recorded history of more than five hundred years.


The interest of such exploration dates back to the earlier parts of history. Herodotus, the Greek historian Herodotus, travelled along the Nile till the first cataract (Aswan) in 457 BC  and the Greek  writer, Eratosthenes sketched almost a correct route of the Nile to Khartoum,  suggesting the sources of the river and exploring the unexplored. In addition many Popular figures of Roman history, like Strabo, Aelius Gallus explored the Nile till the first cataract.   


Night Vision of the Nile delta

Night Vision of the Nile delta (Image courtesy: NASA earth observatory)

Modern exploration of the Nile river initiated in the seventeenth century by many enthusiastic explorers of the world like Pedro Paez, James Bruce and many others, researching the origins of the river.


There are a number of ways, one could explore the Nile river valley. The tourists can choose to explore the valley along the land or on water. For, travelling along water, hundreds of Nile river cruises can be found to explore the wonders of nature, along the river Nile.


Amazing facts about the Nile:
  • Nile river length: Longest in the world, measuring,  6650 Km.
  • Egyptian Civilisation:  The entire Egyptian civilisation is a result of the river Nile. Cairo and Luxor are the best examples of the beautiful cities, served by the river Nile.
  • Transportation: The construction of the Pyramids was made possible only by the transportation provided by the river.
  • Location: People assume that the river exists only in Egypt, while the river is ‘international’, that flows in many countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.
  • Nile Delta: The delta is located to the north of Egypt and flow to the Mediterranean sea, measuring 110 miles.
  • The Aswan dam:  was constructed between 1960 and 1970, to prevent the flooding of the river and has a significant impact on the economy and the culture of Egypt.
  • Akhet:  Flooding occurs regularly in the Nile river around June and September and Egyptians call such condition with the term ‘Akhet’.


Felucca on the river Nile

Depicting Felucca on the river Nile

The Aswan High dam:

For ages, the people in Egypt, suffered either for the lack of water or for the excess and the end to their problems came in the form of the Aswan High dam. Situated to the North of the border between Egypt and Sudan, the huge dam captures the World’s longest river , was completed in 1970. The dam was constructed to use the resources of Nile for varied purposes like irrigation, hydro electric power generation and to provide protection for the crops around. Additionally, the dam serves the purpose of storing sufficient water for the cultivation of crops, irrespective of the Nile floods.


The dam is 12,562 feet long and 32,80 feet wide at the base, with a height of 364 feet above the riverbed. The hydro-electric plant has a capacity of 2,100 megawatts.


Aswan Dam

The Aswan high dam

The dam during its construction, was opposed by many critics for the damage caused in the river, causing erosion of the downstream barrages and bridge foundations. But at the end, it is serving the nation in various economic and social aspects. In addition to the above mentioned aspects, the dam has its impact on the environmental protection.  The 30% increase in the cultivable land of Egypt shows the positive impact of the dam.


For the purpose of Tourism, the travellers are not recommended to reach the river during hot summers, as the area is scorching hot but can enjoy evenings, when the temperatures decrease a bit. While the winters are appropriate for tourists, as the average temperatures during the coldest months get into sixties.


The Nile river is the gift of nature not only just to Egypt, but to the entire continent for a varied number of reasons. The economic, social and environmental development of the African continent is possible only with the help of the river Nile. The king of rivers makes itself unique from the rest of the rivers for the resources, it provide to the entire world.