Hail to thee, O Nile, that issues from the earth and comes to keep Egypt alive! The river flow follows regular patterns, increasing between May 17 and July 6, peaking in September, and then receding until the next year. But the river volume is very unpredictable, as documented by nilometers multi-storied structures built in the river to measure water heights. Successive empires of Pharaohs, Greeks, Romans, Christian Copts, and Muslims celebrated the rising waters of the Nile and dreaded floods or droughts. Five millennia of Nile history show how years with high water have produced ample food, population growth, and magnificent monuments, as during the first five dynasties from B.
Periods with low water have brought famine and disorder. The Book of Genesis describes seven years of famine that historians associate with the drought of B.
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From the time of the Pharaohs until C. The irrigation projects of the 19th century Ottoman ruler Mohammad Ali allowed year-around cultivation, causing population growth from 4 to 10 million. Despite the extraordinary importance of the Nile to people downstream, the origin of the great river was a mystery until the middle twentieth century. Herodotus speculated that the Nile arose between the peaks of Crophi and Mophi, south of the first cataract.
In C. Ptolemy suggested the source was the Mountains of the Moon, in what are now called the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda. In the Scottish explorer James Bruce claimed his discovery of the source in Ethiopia, while in John Hanning Speke thought he found it in Lake Victoria and the equatorial lakes. The Blue Nile River descends feet in miles from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands through a deep gorge with crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and bandits to the Sudan border and the savannah.
Despite the efforts of scores of intrepid adventurers, the Blue Nile in Ethiopia was not successfully navigated until by a team of British and Ethiopian soldiers and civilians equipped by the Royal Military College of Science. Further south up the White Nile in the lakes and rivers of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, the Egyptian cultural influence is less pronounced, due to the Sudd, a gigantic and impassable swamp which absorbs waters from the equatorial lake tributaries.
The Nile River historian Robert O.
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Not until the 20th century did it become clear that the Nile is part of a vast river system with dozens of tributaries, streams, and lakes, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the remote mountains of Burundi, in tropical central Africa, and to the highlands of Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa. Spanning more than 4, miles, it is the longest river in the world.
Ethiopia and Egypt have had a long relationship of both harmony and discord, the latter the result of religious issues and access to Nile water, among other factors. From until C. Aksumites participated in Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trade. The cultural relationship between Egypt and Ethiopia was institutionalized when the Aksumite King Ezana converted to Christianity in C. For 16 centuries until the Egyptian bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was appointed by the Egyptian patriarch in Alexandria, often under the influence of the Egyptian government.
Ethiopians were profoundly influenced by the Middle East, even writing their state and geography into Bible stories. The source of the Blue Nile became the Gihon, one of the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden. The 14th century C. Menelik stored the Ark on an island in Lake Tana—into which the Gihon flows—before it was moved to Aksum, where many Ethiopians believe the Ark remains to this day. The Muslim conquest of Egypt in C.
Because the Ethiopian Orthodox Church remained subordinate to the Orthodox Church in Alexandria, and Egypt had become a Muslim country, Ethiopians became suspicious and resentful of the control Egypt had on the appointment of their Christian bishop abun. Muslim Egyptians also controlled Jerusalem and had the power to expel Ethiopian pilgrims to their holiest of cities. So Ethiopians began to claim power over Egypt through control of the Nile. During the Crusades the Ethiopian emperor Lalibela —who built a new Jerusalem in Ethiopia, safe from Muslim occupation in magnificent, underground rock-hewn churches—threatened retribution by diverting the Tekeze River from its pathway north into Sudan where it becomes the Atbara and then joins the Nile.
The first Egyptian to write about the potential for an Ethiopian diversion of the Nile was the 13th century Coptic scholar Jurjis al-Makin d. Nothing came of the plan. The climax came in at the Battle of Gura in present day Eritrea where the Ethiopians delivered a humiliating defeat to the Egyptian army. Egypt was colonized by England in Egypt was prized for the Nile Delta, a region of unsurpassed agricultural productivity. For the British control of Egypt meant more profitable trade with India, its richest colony.
For the French, the canal offered quicker access to Indochina, its most lucrative colony. In the late nineteenth century, since controlling Egypt was the key to Asian wealth, and since Egypt depended on the Nile, controlling the source of the Nile became a major colonial goal. The French conceived of the idea of building a dam on the White Nile, so as to undermine British influence further downriver and establish east-west control of the continent. They organized a stupendous pincer movement with one group of soldiers traveling from East Africa across Ethiopia and the other from West Africa across the Congo.
The British heard of the French expedition, and, having just captured Khartoum ordered a fleet of gun boats and steamers with soldiers under the leadership of General Horatio Herbert Kitchener upriver to Fashoda, the site of the proposed dam. With fewer than men, the French were embarrassed. In the two colonial powers reached an agreement which designated to France the frontiers of the Congo River and to England the frontiers of the White Nile. Thinking that most of the Nile waters came from the equatorial lakes Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, and Edward , the English spent enormous energy on plans to increase White Nile water flows.
First called the Garstin Cut and later the Jonglei Canal, the British intended to create a channel that would maximize water transfer through the great swamp where half of it evaporated. If the mile-long Jonglei Canal had been completed, it would have increased water flows by nearly 4 billion cubic meters into the White Nile. Treaty negotiations about Nile waters started during the colonial era as England tried to maximize agricultural productivity in the delta. As the controlling imperial power in East Africa, agreements with Kenya, Tanganika, Sudan, and Uganda were pro forma , internal colonial matters.
Isis then brought her dead husband back to Egypt to return him to life. This sequence of events would inspire the Djed column , a symbol which appears in Egyptian architecture and art throughout the history of the country, which symbolizes stability. The Djed, according to some interpretations, represents Osiris' backbone when he was encased in the tree or, according to others, the tree itself from which Isis removed Osiris' body to bring him back to life.
Once back in Egypt, Isis left Osiris in his coffin by the Nile to prepare the herbs and potions to bring him back to life. She left her sister, Nepthys, to guard the body from Set. Set, however, hearing that Isis had gone searching for Osiris, was looking for the body himself. He came upon Nepthys and forced her to tell him where his brother's body was hidden.
Finding it, he hacked the corpse into pieces, and scattered them throughout Egypt. When Isis returned to revive her husband, Nepthys tearfully confessed what had happened and vowed to help her sister find out what Set had done with Osiris' body. Isis and Nepthys went in search of Osiris' remains and, wherever they found a piece of him, they buried it according to the proper rituals and erected a shrine.
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This accounts for the many tombs of Osiris throughout ancient Egypt and was also said to have established the nomes , the thirty-six territorial divisions of ancient Egypt similar to a county or province. Wherever a part of Osiris was buried, there a nome eventually grew up. She managed to find and bury every part of him except for his penis which Set had thrown into the Nile and which had been eaten by a crocodile. Since he was incomplete, Osiris could not return to life but became Lord of the Afterlife and Judge of the Dead. The Nile, which had received Osiris' penis, was made fertile because of this and gave life to the people of the land.
Osiris' son, Horus , avenged his father by defeating Set and casting him out of the land in some versions of the tale, killing him and so restored balance and order to the region. Horus and Isis then ruled the land in harmony. The Milky Way was considered a celestial mirror of the Nile and it was believed the sun god Ra drove his ship across it. The Nile was also an important recreational resource for the Egyptians. Another popular river sport was boat racing and displays of skill such as were described by the Roman playwright Seneca the Younger 1st century CE who owned land in Egypt:.
Then they are violently tossed about in the raging rapids. At length they reach the narrower channels and, swept along by the whole force of the river, they control the rushing boat by hand and plunge head downward to the great terror of the onlookers. You would believe sorrowfully that by now they were drowned and overwhelmed by such a mass of water, when far from the place where they fell, they shoot out as from a catapult, still sailing, and the subsiding wave does not submerge them, but carries them on to smooth waters. The god Khnum, who became the god of rebirth and creation in later dynasties, was originally the god of the source of the Nile who controlled its flow and sent the necessary yearly flood which the people depended on to fertilize the land.
During the reign of King Djoser c. Djoser had a dream in which the god Khnum came to him to complain that his shrine on the island of Elephantine in the river had fallen into disrepair and he was displeased at the neglect. Djoser's vizier, Imhotep , suggested the king travel to Elephantine to see whether the dream's message was true. Djoser found the temple shrine in poor condition and ordered it rebuilt and the complex around it renovated. Afterwards, the famine was lifted and Egypt was fertile again. This story is told on the Famine Stele of the Ptolemaic Dynasty BCE , long after Djoser's reign, and is testimony to the great honor the king was still held in at that time.
It also illustrates the long-standing importance of the Nile to the Egyptians in that the god of the river, and no other, had to be satisfied for the famine to end. Sherif was the best tour guide possible and made sure the entire group was having a great time every day. It was a great value for the money. However, there are more free-time add ons than what Contiki lists on their website. They were all worth the money. Rachel Russell.
Great trip at great price. Fantastic trip, would very highly recommend, as there is nothing else quite like it. Anthony Leung. Very well organized and loved every moment of it!
Traveled Feb Bucket list tour. Great and safe experience but the pre sale service is terrible. Amanda Winner. Egypt is a must see. Very good for price however another tour company did a similar tour for about half the price, plus more items should be included in the price instead of as an add-on. Another amazing trip!! Great trip! Amazing sights to see! Trip was wonderful, Contiki itself was disappointing. Trip was absolutely wonderful and life-changing. Maddison Musgrove. Absolutely Incredible! Monica Sopiarz. Wonderful and amazing experience!
Sherif, the tour guide, is so knowledgeable and passionate!!
Ancient Egyptian civilization
The tour takes you to all the amazing and must see spots in Egypt! Everyday is an adventure!! Nicholas Curry. Contiki gave me everything I could want from a trip to Egypt and then some!