Many Streams, One River
Five million years ago, 2 streams originating from Ethiopia and Uganda, the Blue Nile and White Nile began to flow northwards to the great sea that geologists call the Tethys (today's Mediterranean Sea). The streams converged at Khartoun in the Sudan and continued to flow northwards as a single river. From Khartoum the Nile is interrupted by a series of rapids. These cataracts continue over 1,800 km to Aswan in Southern Egypt where the river enters the Nile Valley.
The Nile hollowed out its bed in the immense plateau of desert limestone and sandstone. Then over the course of thousands of years, it deposited alluvium at the bottom of the narrow valley, forming arable ground.
Five million years ago,
my two halves descended
from the heavens to bring
life to the void below. I set
out alone to pave the way for
one of the greatest civilizations
that would walk this planet. Unlike
the rest, I would head upwards,
and I forged my own path despite
the rock placed in my way~~~~~
I move in rhythm. Contrary to most
I am at my prime when the lands
are the hottest. I come forth in
full force, bursting forth on the
dry land bringing life and fertility.
The people would come to me
and worship me--for without
me there would be nothing...
They would study my
behavior and look to the
skys to learn of my ways. I
would be their lifeblood, their
But beware my wrath. As easily
as I bring forth life, I can take it
away. Upset my rhythm and you
upset more than just me. For my
actions go beyond me, they touch
the land and all its beings. Through-
out the ages, I will continue to flow
to my rhythm, always headed up,
and bring life and life's challenges
to all who come to seek refuge by my side
~~For I am the Nile and Egypt is my child.~~
The Greek traveler and writer, Herodotus, described Egypt as "the gift of the Nile"; and a gift it was. How else could this dry desert land with so little rainfall sustain such enormous empires over thousands of years? Every year, between July and October, the annual flood of the Nile brings needed water to the arid desert. When the water retreats after the flood, what is left behind is a layer of fertile silt. All of Egypt's cultivable land owed its existence to the Nile and its actions. Thousands of years ago people flocked to the riverside to set up settlements along the Nile Valley, and the lower Nile Delta in the north. This fertility, centered around a passageway for trade and communication, paved the way for the beginnings of vast empires and advanced cultures.
The Nile's behavior was carefully studied and the celestial signs accompanying its annual flood were observed and recorded. The sacred river has always incited admiration by the breadth and contemplative majesty of its flow, and records find it inextricably linked with mythology. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the annual flood of the Nile as the god Hapy who symbolized abundance and fertility. Its periodic rise and fall are associated with the myth of Osiris who is the god of the underworld and fertility. Osiris represents the divine principle of perpetual return, of death and rebirth, as symbolized by the annual cycle of vegetation that the Nile brings.
Egypt is the work of the Nile. It can be a lush oasis during its flood or a barren wasteland if it fails to rise; causing much hardship and great famine. Historians have found references to famine in Upper Egypt around the time of the collapse of the Sixth Dynasty, which was apparently linked to low levels of the Nile. But the Nile's wrath is unpredictable, ancient graffiti at Semna which dates from the Middle Kingdom records several years in which there were abnormally high Nile flood levels. The Temple of Amun at Karnak has reference to its flooding as well. This erratic behavior has had a profound effect on the stability and self-sufficiency of Egypt throughout the ages. It permeates every aspect of Egypt's existence from its food production to weather to transportation and communication.
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cataracts - a furious rush of water; deluge
alluvium - sediment materials from a river
inextricably - hopelessly entangled
We're excited to be here in Egypt and to be learning about the longest river on this planet (4266 miles!). It's longer than the longest section of the US, from the East Coast to the West Coast! Throughout our next six weeks here we will be following the path of the Nile, tracing the ancient civilizations that had established huge kingdoms and temples up and down its shores. Stay tuned to learn more about the mysteries of this great river.
p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...firstname.lastname@example.org
The Team - Memphis: The Ancient Capital of Egypt
Abeja - Introducing Egypt's Living Dead
Jasmine - One Step at a Time: Egypt's First Pyramid
Monica - Learning How To "Walk Like An Egyptian..."
The Team - Poltics as Usual in Algeria
The Team - U.S.-Libya: A History of Tense Relations
Making a Difference - Just Do It
Making a Difference - The Parthenon
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