Flowing far back into ancient times, the Nile River has been the scene of considerable human history. The longest river in the world, the Nile stretches 4,144 miles across African terrain to its famous delta where it meets the Mediterranean Sea. The following offerings contain a myriad of facts and trivia about the Nile River.
The Blue Nile and White Nile are the two main tributaries that flow to form the singularly great river. The Atbara River is a more minor tributary of the Nile; it, like the Blue Nile, originates in Ethiopia.
The White Nile has its genesis in Lake Victoria, which is located in central East Africa. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. The river leaves Lake Victoria at Ripon Falls.
The White Nile takes its name from the white clay it picks up in Sudan.
Located just near Ripon Falls is Uganda’s Owen Falls Dam. The dam, built in 1954, is used to create hydroelectric power; although, even today, only about five percent of Uganda’s people have electric power.
Below Owen Falls Dam, the river’s famous white waters can be seen to flow over great drops and rocks. This area boasts some of the best white water on the globe.
Parts of the river in this area are plagued by the aggressive growth of water hyacinth. The weed, though attractive, depletes the oxygen levels of the water. Fishing is severely impacted by the plant, but removing water hyacinth is dangerous work due to the river’s crocodiles.
The Basoga people live between Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga and make up Uganda’s largest ethnic group. They rely on the river to grow sustenance crops like maize, millet, beans, and bananas.
The Nile enters the Rift Valley after leaving Lake Kyoga. The African Rift Valley is 4038 miles long and is visible from space. The river enters the Rift Valley at Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls National Park is home to hippos, lions, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, and Nile crocodiles. A mature Nile crocodile and measure more than nineteen feet long and weigh in at over 1,500 pounds.
The people who live near Murchison Falls National Park are among Uganda’s poorest.
The river flows about three hundred from Murchison Falls to Lake Albert. Lake Albert is the seventh largest lake in Africa.
The Nile leaves Lake Albert near the Ugandan-Sudan border entering into the domain of the Dinka, a pastoral people of Sudan. As the river passes into Sudan it becomes turbulent and dangerous at an infamous pass known as Al-Jabal.
Translated, Al-Jabal means “Mountain Nile.” After this pass, the river slows near Juba in Southern Sudan. Soon it enters a great swampy region known as the Sudd. The Sudd, during wet seasons, can stretch more than 198 miles long.
The Sudd acts like a sponge soaking up a considerable amount of river water. Kingfishers, eagles, and storks make their home in this marshy area. The White Nile meets the Blue Nile just to the north of the Sudd.
The Blue Nile originates in Ethiopia’s Lake Tana. The two tributaries meet near the twin cities known as Khartoum and Omdurman. The White Nile provides a steady flow of water, but the Blue Nile’s water contributions vary due to the flood season.
The twin cities are quite unique from one another. Khartoum is the Sudanese capital. Omdurman is older and larger than Khartoum; it is Sudan’s commercial center. Khartoum was once a major slave trade center.
The source of the Nile was solved in 1858 by explored John Hannington Speke. Speke died a few years later in a hunting incident. The Nile’s origin was famously hunted for by David Livingstone who was unable to fulfill his quest.
Egypt receives about seventy percent of its river water from contributions made by the Blue Nile once it joins the White Nile.
The Blue Nile actually begins as a stream called Abay that originates in the Ethiopian Highlands. As the river leaves Lake Tana, it flows over the Tis Abay Falls, which are considered to be the Nile’s most spectacular set of waterfalls.
Translated, Tis Abay means “Smoke of the Nile.”
The merged White and Blue Nile form the singular Nile River. After leaving Khartoum, the Nile encounters desert lands. Although essentially calm, the river hosts various sets of rapids known as cataracts.
The Nile has six cataracts. Of these, only the second cataract is navigable to river traffic.
The area between Khartoum and the south Egyptian city Aswan was once home to the Nubian civilization also known as the Kingdom of Kush and was thriving 2,700 years ago.
Nubians, though a small minority today, still make their home near the river between northern Sudan and southern Egypt.
Abu Simbel, an ancient temple along the river, was constructed for Ramses II, an Egyptian pharaoh.
Aswan Dam was constructed in 1902 and replaced with a larger structure in 1960 to help control the unpredictable flooding of the Nile.
Past the Aswan Dam, the Nile Valley stretches about seven miles to either side of the river up to the delta.
Since the dawn of their civilization, Egyptians have been dependent on Nile waters for life. Even today, nearly all Egyptians make their home in the Nile Valley. Beyond the Valley is the Sahara Desert.
After oil, the tourism industry is Egypt’s second greatest source of income. People cruise the river to see the many ancient monuments that are found near its shores such as the Great Pyramid.
Sections of the river past Luxor have become polluted due to the actions of the dense population that uses the river for washing clothes.
The Nile flows through Cairo, Egypt’s capital city that is home to approximately sixteen million people. Air pollution is a major problem for Cairo.
The Nile spreads into its famous fan-shaped delta to the north of Cairo. Scientists believe that global warming could possibly result in the submergence of much of the delta including Alexandria and Port Said.
Within the delta region, the Suez Canal links the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. The canal has resulted in added income for Egyptians who collect taxes from ships that use the canal for passage.