The River Nile

The River Nile is located in Africa. It is the longest river in the world, at 6,695 kilometers long. It originates in a country called Burundi, which is south of the equator (the invisible line which divides the world in two) and flows north through northeast Africa.

The Nile flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the bottom of Europe. Though it is most often associated with Egypt, the Nile actually flows through eleven countries: those being Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt.

Nile River

However, even though the River Nile is of huge importance to Africa as a whole, it is particularly important to the development of Ancient Egyptian society.

The Nile provided the Ancient Egyptians with food (fish) building materials (river mud) and more. It was a symbol of Egyptian power and seen as a gift given to the Egyptians by the gods.

Much of the Ancient Egyptian lifestyle was centered around the Nile. For instance, it was considered bad luck to live west of the Nile; this is because the Egyptians worshipped the sun god, Ra, and the sun set in the west.

Because the sun rose in the east, it was considered lucky to live east of the Nile. In this way, the Nile shaped how people settled, and limited people’s choice of where they wanted to settle.

Because the land west of the Nile was considered a symbol of death, people were always buried there, and never on the east.

Nile Delta from space

The Egyptians structured their whole lives around the Nile, including their calendars. The first season, “Akhet,” was the time of the flooding of the Nile.

Around September of every year, the Nile would overflow its banks and flood the plains around it. Although this sounds dangerous (and it definitely was!) the flooding was very important for rejuvenating the soil and renewing the farmlands for the year to come.

The Egyptians called the rejuvenated soil the “Gift of the Nile.”The next two seasons were “Peret,” the “growing season” where crops were planted and cared for, and “Shemu,” the harvest season where crops were collected and distributed.

Although this was the calendar of the Egyptians and not Africa in general, the importance of the Nile even to the way they structured their time is very telling of how significant the river was to the countries it served as a whole.

The Nile also provided the Egyptians and other African tribes with rich, fertile soil that was good for growing crops. Although much of the land in Africa is unsuitable for agriculture, the ground near the Nile River is well suited to growing crops.

The Nile near Beni Suef

The three most important crops were wheat, flax, and papyrus. Wheat was a staple ingredient of Egyptian food and was used in particular to make bread. Flax was used to make clothes and was the main element of “linen,” the primary cloth used by African tribes.

Papyrus was a plant that grew along the banks of the Nile; it was used for making paper scrolls to write on, but also played an important part in the construction of sandals, ropes, and baskets.

Though most Egyptians don’t believe that the Nile has such religious importance nowadays, it is still very important to the structure of the country as a whole.

Over 95% of the population still depends on the Nile for water, and the Aswan High Dam (built in 1970) is used to generate electricity and provide farms with usable water.

In this way, even though the Nile does not flood anymore, it is still of vital importance to farmers because it keeps the soil fertile.

Nile River

Facts about the River Nile:

  • The River Nile is the longest river in the world, at 6,695 kilometers in length.
  • Though it is most often associated with Egypt, the Nile actually originates in a country called Burundi and runs through ten others; those are Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt.
  • Because the Nile ran through so much of Africa, it was very important to the development of African culture as a whole, and to the society of Ancient Egypt in particular.
  • For instance, superstitions around the Nile meant the Ancient Egyptians would always settle east of the Nile, and never west. The only time a person went west of the Nile for any extended period of time was when they died, and were buried there.
  • The Ancient Egyptians structured their yearly calendar around the Nile, with three seasons; the season for flooding (“Akhet,”) the season for growing crops (“Peret,”) and the season for harvesting (“Shemu.”)
  • The Nile burst its banks every August/September and flooded the land around it. Although this was very dangerous, it was also very good for the soil.
  • Much of the land around the Nile was very fertile and well suited to growing crops.
  • In fact, nowadays, 95% of Egypt’s population are still served by the Nile, and depend on it for drinking water, farm water, electricity, or some combination of all three!


  1. How long is the River Nile?

– 6,695 kilometers.

  1. How many countries does the Nile run through?

– Eleven.

  1. What country does the Nile begin in?

– Burundi.

  1. What country was the Nile of particular importance to?

– Egypt.

  1. What were the three seasons of the Ancient Egyptian calendar, which was structured around the flooding of the Nile?

– Akhet, Peret, and Shemu.