Updated: Jun 10
by Suli Adams The river Nile has fascinated humankind for thousands of years, and influenced human history as no other river has. The Nile is still considered the longest river in the world 6,650km, and runs through not only Egypt, but through or borders along 10 other African countries namely, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, North Sudan, Ethiopia and South Sudan. There are 3 main tributaries the White Nile, the Blue Nile and the Atbara or the Black Nile. The White Nile flows north from Uganda through Sudan where it meets the Blue Nile from Ethiopia at Khartoum, Sudan. The Atbara river joins the Nile at the city of Atbara, Sudan and is the last tributary of the Nile before it exits into the Mediterranean Sea. The Blue Nile originates in Lake Tana, Ethiopia and travels 1,450km through Ethiopia and Sudan, carrying with it silt and 80% of the water supply to Egypt. The source of the Nile is the White Nile, 3,700 km long originating in East Africa. Whether it originates at Jinja, Uganda or farther south in Tanzania is still under debate. It was determined in 1858 that the source of the Nile exit was in Uganda at Lake Victoria named after the Queen.
The Nile provides the worlds biggest desert, the Sahara with water and fertilizer, silt from
Sudan and Ethiopia, making the desert lush and fertile essential to sustain life.
The Nile travels through 11 countries! Offering so much diversity, from monkeys and lions to
camels and cobras, from jungle to desert, from Pygmys and cannibals to Bedouins. The
immense variety of languages, music, dance, customs and cuisine!!
Much effort was invested by Europeans to search the source of the Nile. They encountered the beauty of Africa, the snow capped mountains on the equator, the beauty of rivers and lakes rapids and falls, much wildlife elephants, giraffes, zebra, rhinos, lions, elephants etc and various exotic fruits pineapples, sugar canes, coconuts, mangoes, etc and vegetables like cassava, spices such as cloves, saffron etc African tribes, culture, music and cuisine. The
search for the source of the Nile was challenging, not only the terrain, but poisonous snakes,
crocodiles, hippopotamuses, lions, many insects/microbes causing cholera, malaria, bilharzia, many tribes including cannibals, warriors, language and cultural barriers. Much manpower was required to carry supplies, and communicate with many tribes. In many languages and understand tribal politics. However, most Africans did not want to accompany the white man, a consequence of colonialism and slavery.
Flooding of the Nile was essential for the survival of ancient Egyptians. Hieroglyphs depict
that, the ancient Egyptians divided their year around the 3 seasons of agriculture, 4 months to each season, 30 days for each month and 5 days of feasting, therefore 365 days per year. A 24 hr day and the second as a unit of measure for the hour is accepted as coming from the
Egyptians. The Great Pyramid has clues as how this was used for watching and clocking the
heavens. There are many hieroglyphic depictions of farming and farm equipment. The
architecture of the ancient Egyptians amazes and fascinates mankind to this day. The first
skyscrapers were built by the Ancient Egyptians the pyramids and the sphinx. The knowledge of math, construction, the transportation of materials is a mystery to this day.
The ancient Egyptians were known for their knowledge of medicine and surgery. There is
evidence that the Ancient Egyptians practiced circumcision and brain surgery. They created
effective contraceptive using acacia spikes, honey and dates in specific ratios and inserted into the women. Modern science has since discovered that acacia spikes contain lactic acid which is a spermicide. Bags of wheat and barley were soaked with urine from a pregnant woman, if the barley sprouted, the woman would give birth to a female, if the wheat sprouted she would give birth to a male. The urine pregnancy test was rediscovered by modern science in 1926 and the wheat/barley sex determination test was not developed till 1933.
In its day, the library of Alexandria was regarded as the most prestigious library containing a
copy of all the books of the world and the writings of all nations. The library also contained an observatory, dissecting rooms, botanical gardens, a zoo and lecture halls. For more than 600 years, this was the site for the world’s scientific and cultural development and religious
The discoveries of the first human ancestors were found in the olduvai gorge in Kenya,
Tanzania and Ethiopia dating from 1.8 to 4.3 million years ago. More recent findings are
6-7million years ago in Kenya and Chad, all in the vicinity of the Nile. Africa is viewed as the
cradle of the human race. Dr Richard Leakey a noted anthropologist and conservationist,
states that up until 2 million years ago, the human race existed only in Africa. He states that it
was the African people who moved and settled in Southern Europe, Central Asia and migrated to the Far East. In his words, Africa’s principal contribution to the world is humanity itself.
Anthony Browder, states that the Ancient Egyptians saw themselves as “Blacks”. Egypt was
referred to as Kemet, ie black land. Kemet written in hieroglyphic form was represented by a
block of wood charred to the end. The people of Kemet called themselves Kemmiu which
translates as “the Blacks”. The word Kemiu was used to describe a considerable portion of
the Nile Valley. Anthony Browder further states that, cities, artifacts, and historical personalities are not indigenous but derived from Greek, Arabic, French and British interpretations. He gives the example that when the Greeks came into contact with Africans and Asians, they called them burnt faces. The Greek word for burnt is ethios and the word for faces is ops. So ethios plus ops became Ethiopian. Likewise, the Greeks were greatly impressed with the temple of Ptah in Memphis, and referred to the land of the temple of Ptah as Hekaptah which in Greek language became Aiguptos and under the Roman rule the name was Latinized to Aegyptus, from where we get the name Egypt.
Ancient Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations that depicts communications, writings,
drawings, dance, agriculture, architecture, religion and more. Egyptians are very proud of their history. In fact Luxor, Aswan and even farther south many traditions from the time of the
Pharaohs are still in practice. One example is that of the Nubian tradition to take the first born son to the river Nile and splash the water on mother and child, followed by placing a papyrus boat with the son’s name down the Nile river, as was done for Moses.
The Nile has so much to offer, particularly along Egypt. The diversity from the Nubians in the
south, to the Saiidi in Luxor who still have strong pharaonic ties in lifestyle, music and dance
to the Bambouti in Port Said influenced by the French who ruled the Suez Canal for 99 years.
Mysteries of the advances in construction, math, medicine, arts and sciences by the Ancient
Egyptians. This leaves us with another mystery, were these advanced sciences and art createdby the cradle of civilizations namely, the blacks? Were the Ancient Egyptians black? Were the Pharaohs black? Egypt is a country in Africa, yet it’s referred to as part of the Middle East? The never ending mysteries of the Nile!
In my opinion, there is no river like the Nile that offers so much history, so much mystery, so
much diversity in culture, terrain, animals and other life forms. The Nile continues to fascinate mankind, and perhaps always will. Perhaps our roots are buried in the mysteries along the Nile.
1. Journey to the source of the Nile, Christopher Ondaatje
2. Nile Valley contributions to civilization, Anthony T. Browder
3. The First Human, Ann Gibbons
Suli Adams lives in Pembroke, Canada and loves bellydance. She is on the Pembroke Diversity Advisory Commitee. She studies with Aziza of Montreal, writes and dances as much as she can. Most notably she has been recently published in I Will Dance 'til a Hundred and One!: Communal Wisdom on Dancing as We Age: Turner LCSW, Janine: 9781977583574: Amazon.com: