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The Nile River spans almost 4,175 miles (6,719 km), crosses nine countries throughout Africa, and is widely regarded as the longest river in the world. Here are ten of the most fascinating facts about the Nile River.
Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia, Africa. ( alekosa /Adobe Stock)
1. Without the Nile, the Ancient Egyptian Civilization May Never Have Existed
The Nile River was considered the source of life by the ancient Egyptians and played a vital role in the country's history and rich culture. The river was also a very important factor in the socioeconomic development and success of ancient Egypt. Without the Nile River, the great ancient civilization may have never existed since rainfall was almost non-existent in Egypt and the Nile River was the only source of moisture to sustain crops.
Burial chamber of Sennedjem, Scene: Plowing farmer.
2. The Real Source of the Nile River Remains Unknown
Some might tell you that Lake Victoria , Africa’s main lake, is the source of the Nile River. Others will say the Kagera River and its tributary the Ruvubu, having its headwaters in Burundi, is the real source. The truth is, however, that the source of the Nile River remains a mystery to this day.
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The Nile river in Uganda. (Rod Waddington/ CC BY SA 2.0 )
3. The Nile “Highway”
The Nile River was the “highway” that joined the country together and was essential for trade and transportation. Up until the 19th century, travel by land was virtually unknown in the region. Ships and boats were the main means of transporting people and goods around the country.
An ancient Egyptian boat.
4. Nile, The Life-Giver
Other than providing water, the Nile offered an excellent soil for growing food , which is the main reason why so many Egyptians lived near it. Locals used spears and nets to catch fish and trap different birds that flew close to the surface of the water.
4th Dynasty of Egypt painting: Trapping (harvesting) birds; Plowing fields.
5. Contributing to the Production of Papyrus
So much of what we know about ancient Egypt comes from the plethora of written records left behind on papyrus. The Nile was responsible for providing this papyrus. It came from the reeds growing on the side of the river.
Egyptian peasants harvesting papyrus, mural painting in Deir el-Medina (early Ramesside Period).
6. The Flooding of the Nile
Melting snow and heavy summer rain within the Ethiopian Mountains sent a torrent of water, causing the banks on the River Nile in Egypt to overflow in this flat desert land, causing massive floods every year. The reason why it does not flood now is because of the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.
A view of Aswan High Dam. (Frostie 2006/ CC BY SA 2.0 )
7. Akhet: The Inundation
Until the Aswan High Dam was built, the yearly inundation of the Nile happened between June and September, in a season the Egyptians called akhet: the inundation. This was seen by the Egyptians as a yearly coming of the deity Hapi, bringing fertility to the land. The goddess of the flood was the goddess Mehet-Weret, “The Great Flood.”
Hapi, shown as an iconographic pair of genii symbolically tying together upper and lower Egypt. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
8. Osiris: The Nile’s Most Sacred God
Despite Hapi being the local deity in a way, the god most closely associated historically and culturally with the Nile was Osiris, who was killed by his brother Seth on the riverbank and then became the king of the Underworld. For that reason, the Nile River was an important part of Egyptian spiritual life as well. The Egyptians believed that it was the passageway between life and death. That’s why all Egyptian tombs are built on the west side of the Nile - the west was considered the place of death since the sun god Ra set in the west each day.
Osiris with an Atef-crown made of bronze in the Naturhistorisches Museum (Vienna). ( CC BY SA 3.0 )
9. A Popular Ancient Sport was Played on the Nile’s Waters
Ancient Egyptians practiced a popular river sport - water jousting. Modern knowledge of this sport comes from studying ancient Egyptian tomb reliefs thus it is limited. These depictions show that vessels held a small group of men, each one wielding a long pole. While most of the crew used theirs to maneuver the boat, a few of them would stand upright, wielding their poles to knock opponents off their respective boats.
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- Evil Eye Box and Other Treasures Found in Ancient Tombs on the Shores of the Nile
- Mediterranean Tsunami Could Have Been the Inspiration for the Biblical Story of Moses Parting the Waters
Two depictions of ancient Egyptian water jousting. and ( PennState University )
10. The Nile’s Oldest “Residents”
Crocodiles have been living in the Nile Rivers’ waters for thousands of years and they don’t really like it when humans get close to them. They are known to attack humans regularly, usually people washing clothes or fishing at the shore. It’s estimated that there are 200 attacks a year from Nile crocodiles in Africa.
Top Image: Digital reconstruction of the Nile River from Assassin’s Creed Origins. Credit: Ubisoft
By Theodoros Karasavvas
Updated on December 1, 2020.
Cruise on the Nile in style with Ancient Origins Tours in 2021. For more information on the Ancient Origins Egypt Tour click here .
The History of Manyikeni, Mozambique
The site was occupied over two phases from 1000 to 1200 AD and from 1250 to 1700 AD. What little we know about it comes from the oral tradition and archaeology. Much of the information is still theory, speculation, and supposition based on the artifacts found.
Great Zimbabwe ruins, Zimbabwe ( evenfh / Adobe Stock)
The site is believed to have been connected to the Kingdom of Zimbabwe , best known in the archaeological world for the famous Great Zimbabwe ruins. Manyikeni was part of this mighty kingdom and was probably a tributary state. The architectural remains at the site are similar to those found at Great Zimbabwe and other sites. Manyikeni was also thought to have been dominated by an aristocratic elite with a stratified society.
Manyikeni, meaning ‘place where people trade’, was an important trade center and expanded into a large town over the centuries. Grass that is only found in Zimbabwe grows here and this suggests that grass seeds were introduced deliberately to improve the fodder available for livestock.
A crucible that was unearthed during excavations provides proof that the site was part of the gold trade and the discovery of glass beads has led to theories that it traded with the port of Chibuene, once part of the lucrative Indian Ocean Trade network.
In the 1500s Manyikeni became part of the Kingdom of Mutapa after Great Zimbabwe collapsed. It continued to flourish and remained an important center for the ivory and gold trade. By the late 17 th century the Kingdom of Mutapa was under attack from Portuguese and Arab traders and slavers. Not long after, a pastoral people encroached onto its territory and led to the demise of the settlement at Manyikeni which was abandoned by about 1700. It was only rediscovered in the 20 th century and has been investigated by archaeologists several times.
The tributaries are the White Nile and the Blue Nile, which meet in Sudan near the capital of Khartoum before continuing northward toward the Mediterranean Sea. The map above shows the confluence of the two rivers.
The White Nile, which begins at Lake Victoria (whose total area spans three countries), is so named due to the white color of the clay it carries. The Blue Nile, which begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia, is so named due to the dark color of the silt it carries.
"The Egyptian Nile, though it does have its own particular hazards, is subject to none of what I find in Rhode Island. Since the Aswan High Dam was built in 1973, the Nile has become something of a grand canal. It is wide, flat, slow, and so calm it verges on the geriatric."
— Rosemary Mahoney
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Accounts of the Ancient Egyptian Labyrinth
Herodotus was not the only historian to describe the labyrinth of ancient Egypt. The massive temple complex was described by many classic authors, including Manetho Aegyptiaca (3rd century BC), Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC), Strabo (64 BC – 19 AD), Pliny (23 – 79 AD), and Pomponius Mela (c 43 AD), and at least two of whom claimed to have seen the labyrinth first-hand.
Herodotus was the first to describe the labyrinth of Egypt. In the second book of his ‘ History’, the Greek writer gave the following account:
It has twelve courts covered in, with gates facing one another, six upon the North side and six upon the South, joining on one to another, and the same wall surrounds them all outside and there are in it two kinds of chambers, the one kind below the ground and the other above upon these, three thousand in number, of each kind fifteen hundred. The upper set of chambers we ourselves saw… but the chambers underground we heard about only… For the passages through the chambers, and the goings this way and that way through the courts, which were admirably adorned, afforded endless matter for marvel, as we went through from a court to the chambers beyond it, and from the chambers to colonnades, and from the colonnades to other rooms, and then from the chambers again to other courts. Over the whole of these is a roof made of stone like the walls and the walls are covered with figures carved upon them, each court being surrounded with pillars of white stone fitted together most perfectly and at the end of the labyrinth, by the corner of it, there is a pyramid of forty fathoms, upon which large figures are carved, and to this there is a way made under ground. Such is this labyrinth.
5. The rise of the Middle Kingdom
The collapse of the Old Kingdom led to the death of many people and this decline in the population continued for another 200 years into the First Intermediate Period.
Egypt was a civil war zone where the Upper and Lower Egypt regions were split by fighting. However, around 2055 BC the civil crusades came to a halt and Upper Egypt emerged victorious, after which the regions reunited and Mentuhotep II began his reign as the new pharaoh of the 11th dynasty. The kingdom prospered until the 13th dynasty when the pharaohs were considered less superior to the nomarchs.
The nomarchs controlled the people and formed a powerful government which was backed by their wealth. However, towards the 12th dynasty their power started to decline, and this led to the fall of the Middle Kingdom.
10 Fakta Menarik Mengenai Sungai Nil
Sungai Nil terbentang hampir sepanjang 4175 batu (6719 km), melintasi sembilan buah negara di seluruh Afrika dan ia dianggap secara meluas sebagai antara sungai terpanjang di dunia. Walaupun ia mungkin dianggap sebagai pengetahuan yang umum ketahui, sungai masyhur ini menyimpan banyak fakta menarik. Artikel ini melampirkan sepuluh fakta yang dianggap paling mengujakan.
Sungai Nil dianggap sebagai sumber kehidupan buat masyarakat Mesir purba dan memainkan peranan yang signifikan dalam sejarah dan kekayaan budaya bangsa tersebut. Sungai ini juga merupakan faktor penting dalam pembangunan sosioekonomi dan kejayaan Mesir purba. Tanpa Sungai Nil, tamadun agung purba itu mungkin tidak akan pernah wujud memandangkan curahan hujan hampir tiada di Mesir dan Sungai Nil adalah satu-satunya sumber bagi mengairi tanaman.
Sebilangan pihak mungkin menyatakan bahawa Tasik Vitoria, tasik utama Afrika, sebagai sumber kepada Sungai Nil. Ada pula yang menyebutkan Sungai Kangera dan anak sungainya, iaitu Ruvubu yang berhulu di Burundi sebagai sumber sebenar Nil. Apapun, hakikatnya, sumber Sungai Nil masih kekal misteri sehingga kini.
Sungai Nil umpama ‘lebuh raya’ yang menjalinkan negara-negara dan ia sangat penting bagi kelangsungan aktiviti perdagangan dan pengangkutan. Perdagangan rentas darat tidak menjadi pilihan di rantau itu sehingga kurun ke-19. Kapal-kapal dan perahu-perahu merupakan antara pengangkutan utama bagi mengangkut manusia dan barang dagangan di rantau berkenaan.
Selain membekalkan air, Nil juga menyumbang kepada kesuburan tanah sekaligus menjadi sebab utama mengapa ramai masyarakat Mesir hidup berhampiran dengannya. Masyarakat tempatan menggunakan lembing dan jaring untuk menangkap ikan dan memerangkap pelbagai jenis burung yang terbang rendah di permukaan sungai.
Hampir keseluruhan maklumat yang kita ketahui tentang Mesir purba datang daripada rekod-rekod bertulis yang ditinggalkan di atas papirus. Nil amat berperanan dalam membekalkan papirus, di mana papirus itu sendiri diperbuat daripada rumput yang tumbuh di tepi sungai.
Salji yang mencair dan hujan lebat pada musim panas di Pergunungan Habsyah mendorong kepada derasnya curahan air sekaligus mengakibatkan tebing-tebing Sungai Nil di Mesir berlimpahan ke atas tanah rata sehingga berlaku banjir besar pada setiap tahun. Pada hari ini, Nil tidak lagi membanjiri kawasan sekitarnya semenjak terbinanya Empangan Tinggi Aswan pada 1960an.
Sebelum Empangan Tinggi Aswan dibina, banjir tahunan Nil lazimnya berlaku pada bulan Jun hingga September. Musim ini disebut oleh orang Mesir sebagai akhet: banjir. Musim ini dilihat oleh orang Mesir sebagai tanda kedatangan dewa Hapi bagi membawa kesuburan kepada tanah. Sementara itu, dewi banjir menurut kepercayaan mereka pula ialah dewi Mehet-Weret, si “Banjir Besar”.
Walaupun Hapi merupakan dewa yang menaungi kawasan sekitar Nil, dewa yang paling lazim dikaitkan secara sejarah dan budaya dengan Nil adalah dewa Osiris yang diceritakan telah membunuh saudaranya, Seth di tebing sungai Nil dan kemudian menjadi raja Alam Kematian. Oleh kerana itu, Nil merupakan bahagian penting dalam aspek kerohanian masyarakat Mesir. Mereka mempercayai bahawa Sungai Nil merupakan laluan antara hidup dan mati. Justeru, semua makam Mesir dibina di bahagian barat Nil – barat dianggap sebagai tempat kematian memandangkan dewa matahari, Ra, terbit dari barat pada setiap hari.
Masyarakat Mesir purba mengamalkan suatu sukan sungai yang agak masyhur, iaitu sukan lawan tombak. Pengetahuan moden tentang sukan ini hanya datang dari penyelidikan ke atas relif-relif makam Mesir purba, justeru ianya terhad. Gambaran-gambaran ini menunjukkan sejumlah perahu dinaiki oleh sekumpulan lelaki, di mana setiap seorang daripada mereka membawa sebatang lembing atau tombak. Kebanyakan mereka menggunakan batang lembing itu untuk mengayuh dan mengawal perahu, sambil beberapa yang lain berdiri untuk melempari lembing tadi bagi menjatuhkan lawan dari perahu masing-masing.
Buaya telah hidup dalam Sungai Nil sejak ribuan tahun dan mereka tidak gemar jika ada manusia mendekati mereka. Mereka lazim menyerang manusia, terutama mereka yang sedang mencuci pakaian atau menangkap ikan di tepi sungai. Dianggarkan bahawa sebanyak 200 buah serangan oleh buaya Nil di Afrika berlaku setiap tahun.
9 Fascinating Facts About the Suez Canal
1. Its origins date back to ancient Egypt.
The modern Suez Canal is only the most recent of several manmade waterways that once snaked their way across Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh Senusret III may have built an early canal connecting the Red Sea and the Nile River around 1850 B.C., and according to ancient sources, the Pharaoh Necho II and the Persian conqueror Darius both began and then abandoned work on a similar project. The canal was supposedly finished in the 3rd century B.C. during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, and many historical figures including Cleopatra may have traveled on it. Rather than the direct link offered by the modern Suez Canal, this ancient nal of the Pharaohs” would have wound its way the through the desert to the Nile River, which was then used to access the Mediterranean.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte considered building it.
After conquering Egypt in 1798, the French military commander Napoleon Bonaparte sent a team of surveyors to investigate the feasibility of cutting the Isthmus of Suez and building a canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. But following four separate excursions to the region, his scouts incorrectly concluded that the Red Sea was at least 30 feet higher than the Mediterranean. Any attempt to create a canal, they warned, could result in catastrophic flooding across the Nile Delta. The surveyors’ faulty calculations were enough to scare Napoleon away from the project, and plans for a canal stalled until 1847, when a team of researchers finally confirmed that there was no serious difference in altitude between the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
3. The British government was strongly opposed to its construction.
Planning for the Suez Canal officially began in 1854, when a French former diplomat named Ferdinand de Lesseps negotiated an agreement with the Egyptian viceroy to form the Suez Canal Company. Since Lesseps’ proposed canal had the support of the French Emperor Napoleon III, many British statesmen considered its construction a political scheme designed to undermine their dominance of global shipping.
The British ambassador to France argued that supporting the canal would be a “suicidal act,” and when Lesseps tried to sell shares in the canal company, British papers labeled the project 𠇊 flagrant robbery gotten up to despoil the simple people.”
Lesseps went on to engage in a public war of words with British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and even challenged railway engineer Robert Stephenson to a duel after he condemned the project in Parliament. The British Empire continued to criticize the canal during its construction, but it later bought a 44 percent stake in the waterway after the cash-strapped Egyptian government auctioned off its shares in 1875.
4. It was built using a combination of forced peasant labor and state-of-the-art machinery.
Building the Suez Canal required massive labor, and the Egyptian government initially supplied most by forcing the poor to work for nominal pay and under threat of violence. Beginning in late-1861, tens of thousands of peasants used picks and shovels to dig the early portions of the canal by hand. Progress was painfully slow, and the project hit a snag after Egyptian ruler Ismail Pasha abruptly banned the use of forced labor in 1863.
Faced with a critical shortage of workers, Lesseps and the Suez Canal Company changed their strategy and began using several hundred custom-made steam- and coal-powered shovels and dredgers to dig the canal. The new technology gave the project the boost it needed, and the company went on to make rapid progress during the last two years of construction. Of the 75 million cubic meters of sand eventually moved during the construction of the main canal, some three-fourths of it was handled by heavy machinery.
5. The Statue of Liberty was originally intended for the canal.
As the Suez Canal neared completion in 1869, French sculptor Frຝéric-Auguste Bartholdi tried to convince Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Egyptian government to let him build a sculpture called 𠇎gypt Bringing Light to Asia” at its Mediterranean entrance. Inspired by the ancient Colossus of Rhodes, Bartholdi envisioned a 90-foot-tall statue of a woman clothed in Egyptian peasant robes and holding a massive torch, which would also serve as a lighthouse to guide ships into the canal. The project never materialized, but Bartholdi continued shopping the idea for his statue, and in 1886 he finally unveiled a completed version in New York Harbor. Officially called “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the monument has since become better known as the Statue of Liberty.
The opening of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869 (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)
6. Its creator later tried𠅊nd failed—to build the Panama Canal.
Having silenced his critics by completing the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps later turned his attention toward cutting a canal across the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. Work began in 1881, but despite Lesseps’ prediction that the new canal would be sier to make, easier to complete, and easier to keep up” than the Suez, the project eventually descended into chaos. Thousands died during construction in the sweltering, disease-ridden jungle, and the team burned through nearly $260 million without ever completing the project.
The company finally went belly up in 1889, triggering a massive scandal that saw Lesseps and several others—including Eiffel Tower designer Gustave Eiffel, who had been hired to design canal locks𠅌onvicted of fraud and conspiracy. It would take another 25 years before the Panama Canal was finally completed in a decade-long, American-led construction project.
7. The canal played a crucial role in a Cold War-era crisis.
In 1956, the Suez Canal was at the center of a brief war between Egypt and the combined forces of Britain, France and Israel. The conflict had its origins in Britain’s military occupation of the canal zone, which had continued even after Egypt gained independence in 1922. Many Egyptians resented the lingering colonial influence, and tensions finally boiled over in July 1956, when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, supposedly to help fund a dam across the Nile River.
In what became known as the Suez Crisis, a combined British, Israeli and French force launched an attack on Egypt in October 1956. The Europeans succeeded in advancing close to the canal, but later withdrew from Egypt in disgrace following condemnation from the United States and the threat of nuclear retaliation from the Soviet Union. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden resigned in the wake of the scandal, and the Suez Canal was left under Egyptian control.
Sunken ships during the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis (Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)
8. A fleet of ships was once stranded in the canal for more than eight years.
During June 1967’s Six Day War between Egypt and Israel, the Suez Canal was shut down by the Egyptian government and blocked on either side by mines and scuttled ships. At the time of the closure, 15 international shipping vessels were moored at the canal’s midpoint at the Great Bitter Lake. They would remain stranded in the waterway for eight years, eventually earning the nickname the “Yellow Fleet” for the desert sands that caked their decks.
Most of the crewmembers were rotated on and off the stranded vessels on 3-month assignments, but the rest passed the time by forming their own floating community and hosting sporting and social events. As the years passed, the fleet even developed its own stamps and internal system of trade. The 15 marooned ships were finally allowed to leave the canal in 1975. By then, only two of the vessels were still seaworthy enough to make the voyage under their own power.
9. In 2015, the canal got a huge overhaul.
For years the canal was hampered by its narrow width and shallow depth, which were insufficient to accommodate two-way traffic from modern tanker ships. In August 2014, Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority announced an ambitious plan to deepen the canal and create a new 22-mile lane branching off the main channel. The expansion opened in 2015, providing ships with a 22-mile channel parallel to the newly deepened main waterway.
The improvements, however, were not enough to preventਊਁ,300-footontainer ship from becoming wedged𠅊nd stuck—in the canal as it traveled from China in March 2021. The shiplocked more than 100 ships at each end of the vital shipping artery for nearly a week, causing major disruptions to global commerce.
Recent Discoveries at Petra, Jordan
Excavations are on-going , and more secrets of different phases in the history of Petra are being revealed. For example, one of the excavations in 2010 uncovered a 2000-year-old Hellenistic style artwork depicting a child with wings playing the flute.
In 2016, archaeologists found a residence with two “absolutely exquisite” statues of the goddess Aphrodite dating to the time Rome annexed Nabataea in 106 AD. During that excavation, another residence and three rock-cut shaft tombs were unearthed containing pottery, animal bones, ceramic oil lamps, an iron sword, and human remains that were buried with decorative items such as jewelry.
Speaking on these finds, bioarchaeologist and co-director of the dig Megan Perry said : “The human remains and mortuary artifacts from Petra provide perspectives not only on Nabataean concepts of death, but also their biological histories while alive.”
Another discovery, also made in 2016 , revealed a massive ceremonial platform measuring 184 ft. (56 meters) by 161 ft. (49 meters), which ‘has no parallels’ in the ancient city. It was discovered just half a mile from the city center using high-tech satellite scanners.
One of the unanswered questions about Petra, Jordan is if it was really possible for such a magnificent, famous city to have been built by the ‘primitive’ Nabataean tribe more than 2000 years ago without some kind of help. Hopefully the unexcavated 85% of the city will someday answer that question.
The theater in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. ( gatsi /Adobe Stock)
Top Image: Monumental building of Ad Deir carved into the rock at the ancient city of Petra, Jordan. Source: zinaidasopina112 /Adobe Stock