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.
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.
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 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.
– 6,695 kilometers.
– Akhet, Peret, and Shemu.