Nile River: Location, Importance & Major Facts
A recap of elementary geography will always hit you with one fact – the Nile is the longest flowing waterbody on our planet. That’s not an exaggeration! Flowing through key African countries such as Sudan and Egypt, the Nile River empties its voluminous waters into the Mediterranean. Nile’s unimaginable dimensions match its enviable reputation of being “the father of African rivers”. Here, we bring you the locations, facts, and importance of the iconic River Nile.
Location and Flow of the River Nile
First of all, 3 major streams (tributaries) make up the Nile; they are the Blue Nile, White Nile, and the Atbara. The Blue tributary starts its journey from Lake Tana (in Ethiopia) and meanders its way through 870 miles (1400 km) to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. The White Nile, on the other hand, takes its source from Lake Victoria (in Tanzania) and then flows its way to join the Blue Nile at Khartoum. Together, the White and Blue make up one Nile, which pours into the Mediterranean Sea.
In Ethiopian dry seasons, Atbara dries up until the rains set in to give it a flow. In all, the Atbara flow measures 500 miles (or roughly 800 kilometers). Atbara starts its flow from Ethiopian higher lands and journeys in a western direction into Sudan. At Sudan, it then flows northwards to join the other Nile.
In north Sudan, the mixed waters of the two Niles – Blue and White Nile – now flow as one river into Lake Nasser, mainly in Egypt. The Nile then continues its north course through the Egyptian capital, Cairo, until it divides itself into two distributaries that finally open the Nile waters into the Mediterranean Sea. The Rosetta distributary flows westward while the Damietta flows Eastward into the sea. The branched landforms constitute the Nile Delta.
To demonstrate just how spectacular the Nile is, here are some cool facts about the Nile River:
It’s the World’s Longest River
So far, the most popular fact about the Nile has to do with its breath-catching approximate length of 4258 miles (6853 km). Even though there have been some debates about the river’s actual length, no evidence has come out to prove that the Nile isn’t the longest river we have on Earth. The most worthy contender for the longest river in the world has been suggested as the Amazon in South America. However, the U.S. Geological Survey recently debunked this. According to the agency, the Nile meanders longer and it is about 100 miles longer than the Amazon River.
Origination and Meaning of the Nile
Nile is thought to have originated from the Greek word “Neilos”. Or in Latin, this corresponds to “Nilus”. Neilus also owes its origination to the Semitic word “Nahar” which translates into the English meaning “river valley” or simply “valley”. So basically, Nile is equal to a river.
The Nile Runs through 11 African Countries
As the saying goes, little drops of water make a mighty ocean. In the same vein, little drops of water from 11 African countries make the mighty Nile. Being a great river, it has roots in Sudan, Uganda, D.R Congo, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Eritrea, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Egypt. Unfortunately, most people are only accustomed to what goes through Egypt – the Egyptian Nile.
41% of Egyptians Inhabit the Nile Delta
Measuring from the north to south, the Nile Delta’s total length is about 100 miles (161 km). At the coastline, it stretches 150 miles (241 km). These dimensions put the Delta into the lists of the world’s largest Delta’s.
However, the amazing fact here is that the Nile Delta accommodates 41% of Egypt’s population, meanwhile, the Delta’s area constitutes only a negligible 2% of Egypt’s overall area. However, the Delta inhabitants’ days are numbered; since the Mediterranean Sea gradually eats away the fertile lands and communities at its shores.
Nile Crocodiles Are Dangerous
If there is one dangerous water body in Africa, then it’s the fearsome Nile with its dangerous crocodiles. Along the banks and deep inside its waters, the river has a diversity of wildlife. Examples include rhinos, tigerfish, hippos, crocodiles, and frogs.
Nile crocodiles (with lengths 18-20 ft) are famous for their predatory life. They are very large. National Geographic has reported that each year, roughly 200 unlucky people get sucked into the bellies of Nile Crocodiles. As you do your washing around a Nile bank, be cautious of these vicious flesh-eaters.
The Nile is Voluminous
Calculations have estimated that the Nile drives out about 79 billion water gallons (300 million m^3) each day. Another very mind-blowing fact about the Nile River is that: if you placed a boat on the Nile’s water in Jinja, Uganda, it would sail for 3 months before reaching the sea.
The River Basins Account for 10% of Africa’s Landmass
When you sum up the areas of the water bodies of 11 countries that connect with the Nile, the area represents a whopping 10% of Africa’s total land area. That’s significantly huge. It’s no wonder the Nile has been referred to as the “father of African rivers”.
The Aswan Dam in Egypt Controlled Nile Floods
Built across the Egyptian Nile, the hydroelectric dam powers Egypt but it has also put a stop to Nile’s annual floods. The dam’s construction has adversely affected the water supply of some communities. The dam’s downside is that it denies farmlands downstream of the enormously nutrient-rich silt that the Nile used to deposit on the farmlands whenever there was flooding.
The Great Bend
After its north-bound course from Khartoum (Sudan), the Nile makes an unexpected southwest curve (known as the Great Bend) at the Sahara Desert. It then flows for 300 km before resuming back to its north course to the sea. This bizarre meandering is known as the Great Bend – it’s linked with cataracts (waterfalls) and tectonics of the Nubian Swell.
Importance of the Nile
Aside from setting records, the Nile has been a great aquatic asset close to a dozen countries that share its waters. Here are a few examples of the significance of the Nile to the African continent:
Source of Power
Some hydroelectric dams have been built across sections of the Nile. The famous dam is the Egyptian’s Aswan High Dam – it powers roughly 50% of Egypt. Other dams of the Nile are the Roseires and Sennar dams. There is also the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that is being built over the Blue Nile. The Ethiopian dam is slated to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity for the country – the energy that would be used to help alleviate several millions of people in the country from poverty. Over half a century, similar projects and dams have sprung up in Sudan; plans are currently been made in the upper parts of the Nile – in Kenya and Uganda.
It Provides Food and Water to Egyptians
Without the Nile, ancient Egyptians would probably have been nothing to write home about. Flowing through Egyptian deserts, the Nile’s periodic floods used to dump several tons of black fertile soil around surrounding lands.
Since rainfalls are scarce in Lower Egypt, they cultivated these lands for their survival. Through it, their economy was rich enough to build magnificent pyramids and structures that we all love to see today.
As for modern-day Egyptians, the Nile still continues to be a devoted servant to the country. The river allows for extensive irrigation projects and food generation. Thanks to the Nile, Egyptians are able to rake in several billions of Dollars in fish farming and aquatic preservation.
The Nile is an important transport route to the neighboring communities. Starting from ancient times to today, goods and people have been ferried across the Nile using boats. The smart ancient Egyptians used wood-made ships to carry construction blocks to feed into their gargantuan pyramids.
In terms of the benefits of the Nile has to Africa in general, honorable mention can also be made of the revenue that it brings from tourism, education, and mythology.