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Ancient Egypt

Nile in ancient Egypt

A satellite image of the Nile valley todayA satellite image of the Nile valley today Fed by tributaries that rise in both the Ethiopian Highlands and the Great Lakes region of East Africa, the Nile, the world’s longest river, flows north across the Sahara Desert to the Mediterranean Sea. The civilization of ancient Egypt grew up close to its banks. The Nile was crucial to the shaping of ancient Egypt. Each summer, the river overflowed its banks, laying down a fresh layer of rich, fertile earth across the floodplain on both banks of the river. This event allowed ancient Egyptian people to grow their crops and raise their animals. Farming villages sprung up along the Nile and the people prospered.

Panoramic view of Nile valleyPanoramic view of Nile valley

The Nile valley

Flanked by desert, the Nile valley was, in ancient times—as it is today—a lush, fertile, level land, excellent for cultivation and stock-rearing. Villages were sited just above the plain, to avoid the annual flooding. Rising abruptly from the lush valley floor on either side of the Nile were the edges of the desert: a barren, landscape of sand and rock stretching off into the far distance. The river itself was vital for travelling from place to place and for transporting goods in bulk by boat. The waters also offered plentiful fishing and a habitat for game animals.

Papyrus is now nearly extinct in the Nile Delta, its native habitat.

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