We explain what the Nile River is, its history and its geography. Also, what are its general characteristics, flora and fauna.

The Egyptian Empire flourished on the banks of the Nile River.

What is the Nile River?

The Nile or the Nile River is called largest of the watercourses of Africa and one of the longest in the world. It flows through the territory of ten countries and flows into the Mediterranean, in the so-called Nile delta. In the latter are the Egyptian cities of Cairo and Alexandria.

The Nile is a famous river, with conspicuous presence in many accounts of antiquity, not only from the Egyptian Empire that flourished on its shores, but from neighboring cultures, such as the Semitic (the Bible tells it). Its name comes from the Arabic ‘ni-l which in turn inherits it from the Greek Neilos or from the Semitic root Nahal meaning “valley” or “valley of a river.”

See also: Red Sea

History of the Nile

Some hold that the Nile has existed for 66 million years.

Before the formation of the Nile there were four other rivers that ran from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean.

This was discovered thanks to satellite observations showing those formations during the Miocene period (23 to 5.3 million years BC).

The origin of the current Nile is considered to be comparatively much younger.

It is likely that comes from the fracture of a larger basin into small segments. Other versions maintain that it exists since the Tertiary Era (66 million years ago).

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location of the Nile

The Nile is in the eastern region of the African continent. It drains an area of ​​about 3,349,000 square kilometers across ten countries, from south of the equator to the Mediterranean. This means about 10% of the total area of ​​Africa.

Nile dimensions

The Nile stretches over 6,853 kilometers in length.

The Nile It was considered the longest river in the worlduntil the correct measurements of the Amazon River were made in 2008. Its average flow is 2830 m3/s and reaches an average depth of 570 meters and a maximum depth of 1.4 kilometers.

It stretches across 6,853 kilometers longcrossing the territories of the nations of Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Egypt, flowing in a South-North direction.

river systems

The Nile River is made up of different river systems or stages:

  • The blue Nile. Located in Ethiopia, it is the most vigorous branch of the Nile, carrying 90% of the water and 96% of the sediments of the entire river.
  • The white Nile. Located between Uganda and Kenya, west of Nairobi, it constitutes the entire arm prior to Khartoum (Sudan), where it merges with blue. Its name comes from the whitish clay that can be found in its waters.
  • The middle Nile. The area of ​​the river between Khartoum, where white and blue converge, and Aswan, in Egypt, crossing an arid region on the plateau, and finding six waterfalls in its path.
  • The lower Nile. The most fertile region of the Nile, which culminates in the delta and in the Mediterranean Sea, north of Egypt.

Where is it born on the Nile?

Blue NileBlue Nile
The Blue Nile rises from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian Highlands.

It is commonly thought that Lake Victoria, between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, is the origin of the Nile, since the White Nile starts from there. In its vicinity, in fact, it is known as Victoria Nile. However, it is much more complicated than that.

Besides Lake Victoria, one of the main tributaries of the Nile is the Kagera Riverbetween Tanzania and Rwanda, which receives water from other rivers in West Africa.

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On the other side, likewise, The Blue Nile rises from Lake Tana., in the Ethiopian highlands, as well as the Tekezé, Atbara, Sobat and other smaller rivers, which serve as tributaries. In other words, the Nile has multiple birth points.

mouth of the Nile

Nile Delta AlexandriaNile Delta Alexandria
Alexandria is located at its mouth in delta.

The terminus of the Nile in the delta takes place in northern egypt. Thanks to this wide outlet to the sea, there are some of the fertile lands that saw the birth of the Egyptian Empire (c. 1550-1070 BC).

It is one of the largest deltas on the planet, over 230 km of Mediterranean coast, densely populated and extremely fertile, given the sedimentary drag of the river. In its region are the cities of Cairo and Alexandria, two of the most important in the Egyptian nation.

Why is the Nile important?

The historical importance of the Nile tIt has to do with the rise of Ancient Egypt., one of the oldest and most important civilizations. For 3,000 years the Egyptian Empire prospered in the central region and under the Nile, until its conquest and annexation by the Roman Empire in 31 BC. c.

In Ancient Egyptian history, the Nile played a vital role. Its recurring floods and its fluvial wealth guaranteed extra fertile land that did not require such intense agricultural work.

On the one hand, This allowed them to pursue other activities.: cultural, military or religious. In addition, the fluvial mobilization allowed to transport minerals obtained in the desert regions and the easy interconnection of the cities of the Empire.

Flora and Fauna of the Nile

It is the home of the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).

The Nile River Basin harbors numerous endogenous species. Biodiversity is found especially in the delta region, as it is limited to the south by desert.

Among others, the plants used by the ancient Egyptians for the manufacture of the first papers or papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) grow in the region. Also there are various types of bamboos, banana trees and trees like ebony.

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Regarding the fauna, there are about 129 species of fish in the Nile, of which at least 26 cannot be found in other bodies of water. In addition, it is the home of the famous Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) and the Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus), and is the spawning ground of the loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta).

Economic activities of the Nile

The Nile floods that fertilized the surrounding regions ended after the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1970. However, agriculture remains the most profitable activity to its shores, as it has been for 5,000 years.

To this must be added the transport facilities that a river of its size allows, the exploitation of fishing and other endogenous plant species, and the constant source of fresh water. For all these reasons, the Nile is a natural source of enormously valuable economic resources.

Nile pollution

nile pollution damnile pollution dam
The Aswan dam provides electricity but favors pollution.

The fact that almost all Egyptian cities are located around the banks of the Nile makes it the depository of the waste of almost an entire country. The contamination of its waters becomes more concentrated due to the increase in its natural levels of evaporation.

In addition to the loss of water (both due to human activities that take water from its riverbed, and due to global warming) the construction of the dam in the 20th century caused an abnormal stagnation of the waters. As a consequence, bacteria accumulate and therefore decrease oxygen levels in many parts of the river.


  • “Nile” on Wikipedia.
  • “Nile River: history, origin, characteristics and much more”in Rivers of the Planet.
  • “The Nile, sacred river of Egypt” in National Geographic.
  • “The Nile River and its characteristics” (Video) in Gloury Ask.
  • “Nile River”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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