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Egypt is the gift of the Nile’, said Herodotus of the river. And without the mighty Nile, the many civilizations that erected the wonders of Egypt’s epic past simply would not have been. As the seasonal flood inundated the valley with rich silt, the Nile became Egypt’s life force. Since the erection of the Aswan and High Dams (circa 1900 and 1971, respectively), the waters, though astonishingly tamed, are still Egypt’s life-giving artery.
From its dual origins of Lake Victoria and Lake Tana, the world’s longest river winds through 6435 km of Africa, converging in Sudan before fanning out into the delta of Egypt and emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. It is flanked by seemingly endless desert sands that sweep away to the western horizon on one side and on the other, beyond the majestic mountains of the Eastern Desert, to a coastline fringed with extensive coral reef. Home to 90% of Egypt’s 80 million, the countryside bounding the Nile thrives with lush vegetation and fellaheen (peasants) working the land often with techniques and tools that have been used for centuries. Alongside such life, thousands of Ancient Egyptian tombs and temples dot the riverbanks, particularly in Upper Egypt (the south).Read more
Along its length, the ancient river languidly meanders along past the stripes of crops with ibis paddling in their watery furrows, farmers wearing every colour of galabiya, ancient sandstone quarries, donkeys turning wooden waterwheels and sheep among the sugar cane. Starting at Ramses II’s imposing temple of Abu Simbel near the Sudanese border, the Nile passes through Aswan, a charming and beautiful city with a distinctly Nubian flavour and a handful of wonderful sites, then climaxes around Luxor, the ancient capital of Thebes where the grand temple-complex of Karnak dominates the East Bank and the tomb-temple valleys of the Kings and Queens dominate the West.
Cruisers and feluccas (traditional sailing boats) stop at the major sites en route, enabling visitors to experience the contemporary life of the river amid the extraordinary remnants of Egypt’s past. Drifting past, with the Nile so close you can feel it mumbling and sighing, still as glass in the morning and raging like a rough sea by midday, is one of the quintessential Egyptian experiences.