About five thousand years ago, various independent tribes that existed along the river Nile united to form a single nation known as Egypt. Although this newly formed Egypt was located in the desert, it could grow and thrive because of the river Nile. The river Nile, which flows northwards through eastern Africa's tropical climate into the Mediterranean sea, breaths life into all the regions it flows through. Ancient Egypt is one of the regions that benefited greatly from this river. This article shall examine the river Nile and the importance of his river to the ancient Egyptian kingdom.
Introduction to the River Nile
The River Nile is the longest river in Africa and is even disputed to be the world's longest river. It is a north-flowing river in northeast Africa, and it spans a total distance of 6,650km. Although the river Nile starts from the Victorian lake, its true source is traced to the Kagera River, the Victoria lake's major tributary.
The river's drainage basin spans over about eleven countries today; these countries include South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, the Republic of Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, and Rwanda. The river serves as the primary source of water in almost all these regions. Although the river has many tributaries, its major two tributaries are the White Nile, the Blue Nile, and the Atbara river. The BlueNile supplies about 80 percent of the water in the Nile. The river Nile forms a Nile delta in lower Egypt and then empties into the Mediterranean sea. The delta formed by the Nile is one of the most significant parts of the Nile to ancient civilization.
Importance of the River Nile in Agriculture
Agriculture was the ancient Egyptians' major occupation; the Egyptian farmers produced enough food to support their ever-growing population. But since ancient Egypt was located in the desert, one might wonder how these Egyptian farmers were able to produce such a large quantity of crops from such dry land. The ancient Egyptian land was not entirely dry. The kingdom's strategic location at the banks of the river Nile allowed the ancient Egyptians to take advantage of the Nile delta. The Nile delta contained the very fertile soil deposited by the river into the region. The Egyptians farmed in these fertile areas and were able to harvest bountifully every year.
The ancient Egyptian farmers accurately calculated and studied the flooding behavior of the river. The ancient Egyptian calendar, in fact, was based on the three cycles of the Nile; these cycles are the Akhet, Peret, and Shemu. They then used the periodic flooding of the river to their advantage. During the flooding seasons, they moved inland and allowed the river to flood their farmlands. Although these might sound like a disastrous event, it enabled these farmers to preserve their lands. The flood deposited fresh and fertile soil on the farms and carried away the depleted soil. This occurrence allowed the Egyptians to farm entirely new fertile soil during every planting season for thousands of years.
During ancient Egypt's middle kingdom, ancient Egyptian farmers started to create farmlands in places far from the river Nile's shores. They developed sophisticated irrigation techniques that were used to transport water from the river to these distant farms. The invention of new irrigation techniques and more farmlands contributed to Egypt's rapid development during the middle kingdom. It improved the Egyptian economy as cemented Egypt as an international superpower.
Another vital resource the ancient Egyptians derived from the river Nile is the Papyrus Reeds. The papyrus Reeds are long plants that grew in the swampy regions along the shores of the river Nile. These remarkable plants were beneficial to the ancient Egyptians. The papyrus reed is a very fibrous plant; its fiber was utilized by the ancient Egyptians in the creation of the papyrus paper, ropes, sandals, baskets, and other materials used in their daily activities. Apart from plants, the river Nile also provided ancient Egyptians with fish. The fishes harvested from the river formed an integral part of the average Egyptian diet. Egyptians used fishing spears nets to gather these fishes from the river.
Importance of River Nile in Religion
Ancient Egyptians were very religious people; almost every aspect of their daily life was significant in the worship of their gods and goddesses; the river Nile was no exception. The god Hapi and the pharaoh were believed to control the flooding of the Nile. Every year before, sacrifices and prayers were made to this god. It is believed that the god Hapi controlled the annual flooding and is often referred to as "Lord of the Fish and Birds of the Marshes" and "Lord of the River Bringing Vegetation"; Also, the Nile is believed to be the link from life to death to the afterlife. The east of the river was considered the place of death and growth, while the western part of the river was considered the place of death. This belief is reinforced by the sun's rising in the east and its setting in the west. It is believed that the rising and setting sun setting is caused by the sun god Ra who was born every day in the east of the river and died in the west of the river. The river Nile is also believed to flow in paradise, generally referred to as the "Field of Reeds" by the ancient Egyptians.
Importance of River Nile in Trade and Daily life
The river Nile also aided the ancient Egyptians in their trades with other nations. Agricultural produce from ancient Egypt is transported to other nations through the Nile. Traders from all over the world came into Egypt through the Nile and introduced new goods and innovations through the Nile river. The trading system and route established via the Nile with other nations brought about economic stability to the ancient Egyptian empire.
The River Nile also provided water for various daily activities such as cooking, bathing, and entertainment. It also supplied water for the manufacture of bricks used in the building of the famous Egyptian structures. The River Nile literarily served as the river for both the ancient Egyptians and other neighboring nations.