The River of Life – Nile, Egypt

Nile River

Nile River is one of the largest waterways on our planet. The length of the river is more than 6700 km, for a long time it was thought to be the longest in the world. Then it was found that the distance between the source and the mouth of the Amazon is more. It is safe to say that the river almost entirely ensures the existence of the population of Africa. The Nile is notable for its unusual “behavior. During the hot season it does not dry up, but goes out of its banks, changing its hue and dyeing the surrounding land red.

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Historical Info.

The Nile is mentioned in sources that describe the formative period of civilization. At that time, the water stream was called by the ancient Greek word “Neilos” – this is where the modern name comes from. You can meet the name “Egiptos”, most likely “Egypt” is its derivative.

In ancient times, people tried to establish a relationship with nature to avoid drought, floods or animal attacks. The Egyptians believed that in the depths of the Nile dwelled the god Sebek. In his honor they built temples and tried in every way to placate him with sacrifices. It is difficult to overestimate the role of the Nile in the development of ancient Egyptian civilization. To this day, the river is a source of water for the entire continent, as well as a variety of flora and fauna. Water resources are used to irrigate fields, operate water supply systems, and navigate ships. The large amount of silt left on the land after the river leaves its banks is a useful natural fertilizer.

Nile River Hippos in the Nile Delta

The source and tributaries of the Nile

Since ancient times, scientists have tried to figure out how the river fills up with water. There have been a huge number of conjectures about it, but none of them is one hundred percent correct. For a long time in art the Nile had the image of some deity with his head wrapped up, which was a symbol of ignorance. At the moment there is no consensus regarding the origin of the river, it has been established only that the watercourse has its source in the East African Plateau and flows into the sea. Its fullness of water is provided by numerous tributaries, the most important of which are the Blue and White Nile. They are so named because of the color of the water, which is colored by the suspended clay in it. The Nile changes its color during the flooding season – it can be red or green. This is due to the presence of mountain minerals and tropical plants in the water.

The Nile Basin and Valley

The Nile Basin is home to a large number of nations such as: Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda. One-fifth of the river channel is in Egyptian territory, the remaining waters are distributed among other countries. All the cities of Egypt are located in the valley of the watercourse, so the Nile is traditionally associated with this state. The surrounding area is a kind of tourist oasis. This is a real boon for the lovers of history and archaeology. Near the Nile are the most famous cultural monuments – the pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Luxor and Karnak Temple, the Great Sphinx.

Near Cairo begins the Nile Delta, which is 260 km long along the Mediterranean coast. The mouth of the river is so named because of its visual resemblance to a letter of the Greek alphabet. Here the Nile valley ends and the Nile flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The beginning of the delta and the Nile rapids delimit the area of Upper Egypt, an area where there is a concentration of ancient monuments built during the Middle Kingdom and the Roman-Byzantine period. In the city of Kom Ombo you will see numerous mummies of sacred crocodiles. Abydos is known as the center of worship of Osiris, the god of the dead. Just as Muslims seek to make the Hajj to Mecca and Christians seek a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, so too did ancient Egyptians want to visit Abydos in their lifetime or ask to be buried here. Poor people who could not build a tomb in a given place took the mummies of their dead relatives here for worship.

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A little further up the Nile we find the tombs of Beni Hasan and the necropolis at Tun el Gebel. Here the temple of Speos Artemidos, built in honor of the lioness goddess Sekhmet, is preserved. Not far from Sohag you can find the secluded Red and White Monasteries where you can immerse yourself in the ascetic atmosphere and lifestyle of the primitive Christians.

Nile Cruises

Travelling on the Nile has been popular with tourists since the XIX century. The cruise is made on a special liner on the section from Luxor to Aswan, the total length of the route is about 220 km. During the trip the ship stops at several towns, where tours of the remains of the temples. Historical settlements located on the Nile – Aswan and Abu Simbel, Karnak and Luxor, Cairo and Abydos. You can enjoy not only an informative program but also a relaxing holiday on board. The trip lasts 4-5 days, the price of the trip includes three meals a day, tickets for sightseeing and bus transfer to the place of departure of the liner.

The cost of the cruise varies depending on the place of purchase. It can be purchased in the Russian travel agency, a local agency or a guide at the hotel. When applying to the travel companies Luxor and Hurghada, you get the opportunity to save about $ 200. It is worth considering that in this case, the payment for the missing days in the hotel you will not be compensated by the Russian operator.

The River of Life – Nile, Egypt

The main waterway of the entire African continent and the second longest river in the world (after the Amazon) is the Nile. In this article we will talk about the history of the giant, its features and the best places for recreation and memorable photos.

Nile in Cairo

Cairo, divided into two parts by the Nile

Characteristics of the Nile

The beginning of the river is considered to be Lake Victoria, which divides three African states at once – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is also the second largest freshwater lake in the world. The height of its source is more than 1100 meters. The lifeblood artery made its way through Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. The basin spans Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea, reaching the Mediterranean Sea at a distance of 5,600 kilometers from Victoria. If you count all the tributaries, the total length of the Nile is 6852 km.

Name of the Nile

The origin of the word “Nile” is interpreted in several languages at once:

Semitic – river valley, river valley;

Egyptian – father of life. Another interpretation is “the river is the mother of mankind.

The legend of the emergence of the Nile and its historical development

The appearance of the Nile is shrouded in mystery. In ancient art the river was depicted as a deity with his face covered by draped cloth with a hint of mystery behind his appearance. The ancient Greeks, led by Herodotus, believed that the source of the Nile sprang from the earth. The subjects of the Egyptian king Ptolemy the Second claimed that the rains that flooded the Ethiopian highlands were the cause of the Nile. The ancient Egyptian scholar Claudius Ptolemy in the first century believed that the Nile came from the Ruwenzori Mountains on the border of Uganda and the Congo. His opinion was accepted until the XVI century. The next four centuries – from XVI to XX – researchers from many European countries competed in the search for the sources of the Nile. In 1790, Scottish explorer James Bruce, after spending more than ten years in the countries of the African continent, found the source of the Blue Nile. In 1858, explorers determined that the White Nile began from Lake Victoria, which was discovered the same year.

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White Nile

Although the Nile is thought to originate in Victoria, its basin also includes the Kahera, a river that flows into Victoria from the south. It is 420 kilometers long. As it leaves Victoria, it changes its name to White Nile. “White” is the name of the tributary because of the white clay runoff from the Sobat River. It is 920 kilometers long and not more than two kilometers wide. The waters of the White Nile are used for irrigation in agriculture and navigation, as well as for fishing and plumbing.

Fishermen on the Nile

The clear waters of the Nile are often used for fishing

Blue Nile

The right tributary, the Blue Nile (another name Abbai), comes out of Lake Tana in Ethiopia. It is 1,783 kilometers long. It carries 80% of the water in the main stream. Its waters are also used for agriculture, fishing, plumbing and shipping (no closer than 580 kilometers from the mouth). In 2011, the construction of the Hydase Hydropower Plant, the most powerful hydroelectric power plant on the continent, began on the Blue Nile. It is planned to be fully operational by 2022.

THIS IS INTERESTING. Ethiopians believe that the blue tributary of the Nile originated in Eden. Therefore, they bring gifts in the form of fruit and bread to the river. In the local culture, the river is considered sacred. The two tributaries meet in the heart of Sudan, the city of Khartoum. There they form a single channel and pass through the entire Sahara Desert. It is almost 3,000 kilometers. The largest water reservoir, the Aswan Reservoir, built in the 1960s with the help of the USSR, is also located there. It saved the desert from drought and concealed six major Nile rapids located there. Up until the advent of the reservoir, it was impossible to travel by boat because of the danger of the rapids.

The Delta

The Nile reaches its delta (estuary) 20 kilometers from Cairo and branches into nine parts. It is shaped like a lotus flower and is 260 kilometers long along the coast. The length of each of the nine arms – about 200 km. There are ten cities in the delta. Almost half of the country’s population lives in this area.

Nile Delta

The mouth of the Nile, which resembles a lotus.

INTERESTING FACT. The word “delta” comes from ancient Greece. The first explorers of African lands associated the triangular shape with the Greek letter Δ, which is “delta.” Soon the deltas of all the rivers in the world began to be called that.

The animal world

Crocodiles, giraffes, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, turtles, several species of snakes, and dozens of fish, including the Nile perch, which weighs over 100 kilograms, live in the fresh waters of the Nile. Large animals – crocodiles and hippos – used to meet people along the entire length of the river, but with the rapid development of the delta were forced upstream. Amphibious inhabitants such as buffalo, elephants, antelope and other animals can also be seen there. In winter, the Nile Delta is home to hundreds of thousands of waterfowl. Scientists note the largest concentration of gulls in the world in this area. In addition to gulls, storks, pelicans, terns, ibises and herons can be found there. The aquatic inhabitants of the Nile are interesting and varied – the catfish and African carp, polyp, catfish, gymnarch, alesta and tiger fish. Fishing is therefore one of the most common ways to feed a family for settlements along the river.

Old Tallinn

Hippos in the waters of the Nile

The southern part of the Nile is rich in hippos

Video: Nile wildlife

Plant World

The plant life of the giant river is no less interesting. On the banks of the Nile grows papyrus and baobab, a poisonous candelabra tree whose poison is used in medicine. The sausage tree, whose fruit resembles sausage. Its pulp is inedible, but is actively used in cosmetology.

Rich Nile vegetation

Plant life along the Nile

The Significance of the Nile

As a major waterway, the Nile supports life along its entire length. In addition to its use for domestic water and agriculture, the Nile is a popular tourist destination year-round. In addition, the waters of the Nile are indispensable for irrigating the oases in the African deserts through which it flows. At all times more than 90% of the entire African population lived on the banks of the Nile, and today 97% of Egypt’s population lives in its delta. The chronicles of the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca described the many entertainments of the Egyptians on the waters of the Nile. Rowers competed in overcoming river rapids. What distinguishes the Nile from other rivers of the world is that it does not dry up. In the summer, when all the surrounding bodies of water begin to dry up, the Nile is filled with rainwater, especially in the upper reaches. The lakes that the river meets on its way also contribute greatly to its fullness.

Video: rafting on the Nile

Interesting facts about the Nile

Seven facts about the Nile that are surprising:

The distance between the banks in the narrowest place – 350 meters, wide – 7.5 km.

The length of the Nile is second only to the Brazilian Amazon.

Nile is shallow, its average depth is 5-8 meters, at its deepest – up to 11 meters.

Thanks to the fullness of the Nile, local farmers can harvest up to three crops each year.

Most of the Egyptian pyramids were built along the Nile. Building materials were floated down it.

Most of the world’s rivers flow from north to south. The Nile is an exception and originates in the south and flows into the Mediterranean Sea in the north.

When the river floods, silt rises from the bottom and the water turns red. During this period, it is called “bloody”.

Tourist attraction

As far as Egypt, the Nile passes through Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. There its waters are used mainly for agricultural purposes. The flooding of the river is especially important for the countries. After it, the surrounding land is fertilized with a large amount of silt left by the river. In addition, numerous hydroelectric power plants are built on the Nile, providing water for the cities standing on it. In the southern countries tourist visits to the Nile are not as developed as in northern Egypt. This is largely due to the distance from major cities and the presence of Nile crocodiles in the local waters. The only tourist Mecca of the southern Nile is Kabarega Falls (aka Murchinson Falls), located in Uganda near Lake Victoria. It is surrounded by the largest national park in the country with an area of over 3,000 square kilometers. The height of the waterfall is more than 100 meters. In the park you can meet hippos, crocodiles, roe deer, buffalo, antelope and up to three hundred varieties of birds. If the purpose of the trip is to observe animals, the visit should be scheduled for the morning. By the midday heat, the inhabitants are hiding in the forests.

Kabarega Falls in Uganda

Murchinson Falls in the Nile Basin

Video: rafting in Uganda

At the lower end of the Nile is Cairo, the “heart” of the country. The river divides it into two parts and several islands, completely built up as residential areas. Cairo is the main Egyptian city to visit. In addition to the pyramids and the sphinx, you can see there the temples and mosques, palaces and museums, both modern buildings and those that have survived since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Cairo is a great place for recreation with children. Near the Ibn Tulun Mosque there is a children’s park of culture. It combines Africa’s largest museum for children and the surrounding natural park, where you can watch the exotic birds, insects and butterflies. There is a theater, a movie theater, several libraries, and playgrounds for children of all ages. In the south-west of Cairo, in Giza, one of the oldest zoos in the world is spread over an area of 34 hectares. In addition to exotic animals, the park is decorated by a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel. Nearby is a botanical garden with hundreds of rare plants.

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Hippos in Cairo Zoo

An inhabitant of the Cairo Zoo

An interesting place to visit would be the Nilometer. They were used in the eighth and ninth centuries to measure the level of water in the river. This helped predict droughts and floods. During the French conquest of Egypt, many Nilometers were destroyed and were not rebuilt until peacetime. After the construction of the Aswan Dam they were no longer needed and are now enjoyed by tourists as historical monuments.

Nilometer in Egypt

Nilometer, which saved the Egyptians from floods and droughts

Lovers of the exotic will enjoy a camel market near the village of Birkash, which is 60 kilometers from Cairo. Next to the market trading rows with antiques, antique furniture and household items. You can visit the market by an organized tour or independently by city cab. In the south of Cairo lurks “netyouristic” attraction – the “City of the Dead” – a cemetery stretching over six kilometers and over 2000 years old. On the territory you can see the family vaults and mausoleums. Rest there as ordinary people and sultans.


A little north, in the Nile Delta, is the ancient Alexandria, Egypt’s main port city. There, in the western part of the delta, stood the Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was built in the 3rd century B.C. and for centuries it remained the tallest building built by man. Its height reached 118 meters. The site of the building – the river delta – was chosen personally by Alexander the Great. The ruler wanted to make the delta the center of life and trade. The construction of the lighthouse did not end until after his death. After standing for several centuries, in the 10th century the lighthouse survived an earthquake and was badly damaged. The same thing happened again in the 14th century, which completely destroyed the giant structure.

Fortress of Alexandria

The fort built on the site of the Alexandria Lighthouse

Today, on the site of the lighthouse stands the Fort of Alexandria, built on its foundations. It is open to visitors all year round. Inside there is a Muslim mosque, a sea museum, and a biological museum. You can walk freely both inside and outside. The bastions of the fortress offer great views for photos, and by its walls stretched street bazaar with all kinds of souvenirs. The first attempts to find the remains of the lighthouse were made in the 90s. Then divers found the remains of the stone from which the lighthouse was built and fragments of the statues that decorated it at the bottom. Since 2016, the question of its restoration has been discussed.

Documentary about the lighthouse

In addition to the lighthouse, scuba diving and lounging on local beaches in Alexandria is worthwhile. For a cultural vacation, you’ll do just that:

The Pompeii Column, built in the 3rd century.

One of the best promenades in the country along the bay.

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The city is built on the east side of the Nile and proudly bears the name of open-air museum. It is especially valuable in terms of archaeology. Thousands of ancient artifacts have been excavated here, which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The river divides Alexandria into two parts. The “Living City” has everything for a complete vacation – airport, hotels, restaurants and clubs. Of architectural “pearls” – the avenue of sphinxes, temples – Luxor, Karnak (age – more than 4000 years) and Amona-Ra. On the other bank of the Nile, in the “Dead City”, stretches Thebes Necropolis, which for centuries buried the Egyptian nobility. On the grounds you can see dozens of funerary temples decorated with ancient Egyptian statues. There also stands the Luxor Museum of Antiquities, where you can see exhibits that are up to 4,000 years old. Including the mummies of ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Cruises along the Nile also start from the city.

Luxor Temple

Ancient statues guarding the entrance to the Luxor temple


Abu Simbel, a temple located in a rock, has long been one of the “calling cards” of Egypt. At the entrance sit four statues – three Gods and the ruler Ramses. The neighboring small temple is dedicated to the wife of Ramses – Nefertari. Due to the unusual architecture of the temple twice a year, the sun falls inside and illuminates its interior – the image of Ramses and the gods Amon and Ra. The temple of Abu Simbel is one of the seven historic sites in Egypt, listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

INTEREST. During the construction of the Aswan Reservoir the place where the temple stood was flooded and it was pre-sawed into pieces and moved to a safe distance – 200 meters away from the Nile.

Abu Simbel Temple in Aswan

The entrance to Abu Simbel

The Aswan Dam, often called the miracle of engineering, is also interesting to visit. It is more than 3,000 meters long, 800 meters wide and over 110 meters high. Its construction saved the surrounding settlements from annual flooding during the Nile flood. The dam is made of Egyptian granite, which is considered “eternal. Next to the dam is Lake Nasser. – one of the largest artificial reservoirs in the world.

Aswan Dam

The dam and reservoir in Aswan 100 meters high

THIS IS INTERESTING. During the construction of the dam, the Egyptians had to move dozens of historical monuments to higher ground to avoid flooding. Nevertheless, the Sudanese port and train station remained under water. Back in the city, you can enjoy its pride – Aswan’s waterfront. From it you can admire the feluks – pleasure sailing boats – cruising along the Nile. On the other side of the river are the sand dunes of the desert. The feluke takes you from Aswan to the island of Elephantine. At the southern end of Elephantine stands the Aswan Historical Museum, which has exhibits from different eras, including a mummy of a sacred ram.

Feluka in Aswan

The felucca, an Egyptian recreational boat

How to get there

Regular trains run from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan, the most economical option. You can buy a ticket at the train station or from the cashier on the train itself.

Another option – shuttle buses and cabs. They go all over upper Egypt. You should arrive for boarding 15-20 minutes before the appointed time.

Shuttle buses leave from the three train stations in Cairo.

Water cabs are another popular way to travel along the Nile to the surrounding cities.

Nile Cruises

Have been widely popular since the XIX century. Departing from Luxor, cruise ships sail a distance of about 220 km to Aswan. Depending on the organizer, the duration of such a trip is 3-6 days. Along the way the ship makes sightseeing stops in the cities on the Nile – Cairo, Abydos and Karnak.

Nile Cruise

Cruise liner from Luxor to Aswan

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