The River Nile is about 6,670 km (4,160 miles) in length and is the longest river in Africa and in the world. Although it is generally associated with Egypt, only 22% of the Nile’s course runs through Egypt.
In Egypt, the River Nile creates a fertile green valley across the desert. It was by the banks of the river that one of the oldest civilizations in the world began. The ancient Egyptians lived and farmed along the Nile, using the soil to produce food for themselves and their animals.
Countries it flows through
Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, Egypt
Approx 6,695 kilometers
Number of tributaries
Burundi, central Africa
Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea
- Where is the River Nile? Where?
- Where is the source of the River Nile? Source?
- Which two main rivers flow into the River Nile?
- Why did the Ancient Egyptians live near the River Nile?
Why live near Nile?
- Why was the Nile River so important to the Ancient Egyptians? Why important?
- What else did the Nile provide for the Ancient Egyptians?
- What was the area next to the River Nile Called?
Black land and Red land
- When did the Nile flood? Flooding
- Why did the Nile Flood?
- Why does the Nile not flood now ?
- Who was the Nile God? God
- Interesting facts about the River Nile
Facts about the Nile
The River Nile is in Africa. It originates in Burundi, south of the equator, and flows northward through northeastern Africa, eventually flowing through Egypt and finally draining into the Mediterranean Sea.
Map of the River Nile from space
Notice that the land is green on either side of the Nile.
Lake Victoria, Africa's biggest lake, is generally thought of as the source of the River Nile. On the northern edge of the lake, water pours over a waterfall, known as Ripon Falls, into a narrow opening which some people believe is the beginning of the River Nile.
The true source of the River Nile
Ripon Falls may be the starting-point of the river, but the many streams that flow into Lake Victoria could claim to be the true source.
Much of Lake Victoria is surrounded by mountains with streams tumbling down into the lake. The largest tributary of Lake Victoria is the Kagera river. The Kagera and its tributary the Ruvubu, with its headwaters in Burundi, is now considered to be the true source of the Nile. It is from here that the Nile is measured as the world's longest river.
The River Nile is formed from the White Nile, which originates at Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. These rivers meet in Sudan and then go on their long journey northwards towards the sea.
The White Nile is a lot bigger than the Blue Nile, but because of losses along the way the it only contributes about 15% to the flow of the combined Nile. The Blue Nile, rising in Ethiopia, contributes about 85% to the flow of the Nile that passes through Egypt to the Mediterranean.
Back to the top
Most Egyptians lived near the Nile as it provided water, food, transportation and excellent soil for growing food.
Ancient Egypt could not have existed without the river Nile. Since rainfall is almost non-existent in Egypt, the floods provided the only source of moisture to sustain crops.
Every year, heavy summer rain in the Ethiopian highlands, sent a torrent of water that overflowed the banks of the Nile. When the floods went down it left thick rich mud (black silt) which was excellent soil to plant seeds in after it had been ploughed.
The ancient Egyptians could grow crops only in the mud left behind when the Nile flooded. So they all had fields all along the River Nile.
Find out about Egyptian Farming
Reeds, called papyrus, grew along side the Nile. The Egyptians made paper and boats from the reeds.
Find out about Egyptian Writing
The Nile also gave the ancient Egyptians food. They used spears and nets to catch fish. They would also use the nets to catch birds that flew close to the surface of the water.
Another way the Nile helped the ancient Egyptians was in trade. The Nile was the quickest and easiest way to travel from place to place.
Back to the top
This area was known as the Black Land. Further away from the river was the Red Land, a region of inhospitable desert.
The River Nile flooded every year between June and September, in a season the Egyptians called akhet - the inundation.
Melting snow and heavy summer rain in the Ethiopian Mountains sent a torrent of water causing the banks of the River Nile in Egypt to overflow on the flat desert land.
The construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960's meant that from 1970 the annual flood was controlled.
Back to the top
Hapi was the Nile god. Honouring a god was very important, so when a flood came the Egyptians would thank Hapi for bringing fertility to the land.
The Nile River is the longest river in the world.
The Nile flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
The largest source of the Nile is Lake Victoria.
The Nile has a length of about 6,695 kilometers (4,160 miles).
Its average discharge is 3.1 million litres (680,000 gallons) per second.
The Nile basin is huge and includes parts of Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo (Kinshasa), Kenya.
The name Nile comes from the Greek “neilos”, which means valley.
The Ancient Egyptians called the river Ar or Aur (black) because of the colour of the sediment left after the river’s annual flood.
A fantastic resource about the Nile.
Fact File of the River Nile