Lesson 4: The Nile River - An Overview


The Nile River is a large and complex feature that traverses much of the diversity of Africa as it journeys from its headwaters towards the famous delta in northern Egypt. The Nile we know in Egypt actually comprises two major tributaries: the White Nile which begins in the rain forest and high mountains of equatorial Africa, and the Blue Nile which captures the seasonal monsoonal rains in the highlands of Ethiopia. These rivers merge in Khartoum, Sudan and carry precious water northward through the parched Sahara.

The Nile Delta was built from thousands of years of silt, carried primarily in the Blue Nile during its seasonal flood. This silt derives from eroding basalts which are rich in Ca and Mg—nutrients that growing crops need to flourish. The ancient Egyptians used the water and the natural fertilizer from the Nile to become one of the most prosperous societies ever known. Today, we find that many ancient towns have sunk below the waters of the Mediterranean Sea as the delta sediments compacted under their own weight.

Each of the Nile tributaries has its own seasonal times of flood, and start to fill when it rains in Ethiopia or in the equatorial regions. The combined waters take many months to travel to Egypt. In our next lesson we will struggle along with the ancients to understand how so much water can arrive annually in Egypt when it never rains there!


REMINDER: The following items are due by the end of this lesson (see the Calendar tab in ANGEL for specific due dates). Detailed information about each assignment and submission directions are included in this lesson.

  1. Discussion Forum: The Meeting of the Niles in Khartoum
  2. Topic-Specific Assignment: Nile Basin Geography
  3. Thought-Provoking Assignment: Rains and Rivers
    1. Part A - Virtual River Discharge and River Flooding
    2. Part B - River Hydrographs