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Exploring the Nile River

Updated on December 18, 2017

The Nile River in Antiquity

The Nile River has been the centre of life in Egypt for the last 5000 years.

The River was important because the Seasonal flooding of the Nile River every spring, brought down fertile soil from the mountains and that soil was deposited along the riverbanks. It is this fertile belt all along the river, which has allowed the Egyptian people to grow food and to develop their cities.

In the last century the river has been dammed and the flooding is no longer a natural phenomenon.

The Nile river (including the longer White Nile branch) is the longest river on this planet - at just over 4100 miles in length.

Map Source - Ptolemy's Map of the Nile

Nile River Delta - False Colour Satellite Map
Nile River Delta - False Colour Satellite Map

The Nile River - Biblical plagues

The Nile River has been famous throughout history. One of the earliest mentions was in the Old Testament when the Israelites supposedly left Egypt and followed Moses to the promised land. Most of us know about the 10 plagues that were sent by God (all of which have now been explained by science) to force the pharoah to allow the Israelites to leave.

One of those plagues was said to be of the Nile river waters changing into blood. That is not likely to have been what actually happened. The most likely explanation is that the red waters came from an algae fungal bloom called a Red Tide.

Image Source - False Colour Satellite map of the Nile River Delta

Red is the Water, Blue refers to Buildings and Built up areas and White is the Desert.

The Black at the top is the Mediterranean Sea. Black at bottom right is what we now call the Red Sea.

James Bruce and the Blue Nile

James Bruce's journeys in and around Ethiopia
James Bruce's journeys in and around Ethiopia

The source of the Nile River was originally thought to be the Blue River which rose somewhere in Ethiopia. No one ventured to investigate until James Bruce (from Scotland) in 1769 spent 2 years travelling through Ethiopia looking for and finding the Source of the Blue Nile.

The Blue Nile contributes some 75% of the water and most of the fertile soil that is sent downstream in the times of flooding.

The Blue Nile meets the Nile River at the city of Khartoum in the Sudan. The Blue Nile and the lower Nile together are about 3000 miles long.

The Great Lakes of Africa - Searching for the Source of the Nile River

The African Great Lakes
The African Great Lakes

From North to South these lakes are...

The long lake at the very top on the Kenyan border with Ethiopia is Lake Turkana.

Then the next lakes down are - west or left is Lake Albert

East or right (where it says Owen Falls Dam) is Lake Kyoga

The 2 lakes to the west (left) of Lake Victoria are

- top is Lake Edward

- bottom is Lake Kivu

The two lakes either side of Tanganyika are - Mweru on the west/left and Lake Rukwa on the east/right

None of the lakes south west of Lake Malawi (on the Zambezi River) are considered Rift Valley Lakes. Instead they are man made lakes on the Zambezi river when dams were built between 1965 and 1975. The lake on the left, closest to the Victoria Falls is Lake Kariba. The lake on the right is Lake Cahora Bassa.

The first known Westerners to discover the lakes are as follows.

Lake Turkana - Count Sámuel Teleki de Szék (Hungarian) in 1888

Lake Tanganyika - Richard Burton and John Speke, in 1858

Lake Victoria - John Speke in 1858

Lake Albert - Samuel and Florence Baker in 1864

Lake Malawi - Candido José da Costa Cardosa (Portuguese) in 1846, but it was David Livingstone in 1859 who named it Lake Nyasa (still used by the locals)

Lady Florence Baker - (1845 - 1916)

Lady Florence Baker
Lady Florence Baker

She was born Florenz Barbara Maria Szász or Sass in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (in what is now Romania) in 1845. Her father and brothers were apparently killed in front of her around 1848. She was taken to a refugee camp in Bulgaria, and possibly adopted by an Armenian family. After 1857 (by which time she would have been 12 years old) she was abducted and groomed to be a slave. By this she was taught to speak fluent Arabic and Turkish. By 1859 she was at the Vidin (Bulgaria) slave market waiting to be sold when she was spotted by an Englishman named Samuel Baker who fell in love with her. Samuel Baker purchased her and the two of them left Bulgaria and fled to Romania where they lived in Bucharest.

In 1861 Samuel and Florence left Europe and moved to Khartoum in the Sudan from where they began exploring. There is a story of how in Uganda, the king of Uganda began demanding gifts from Samuel with the intention of eventually obtaining Samuel's wife. He refused as he did not follow African custom and they departed from Uganda that same week. They later met up with John Speke who had traced the source of the Nile to Lake Victoria. Baker was sure there was nothing left for him to discover, but Speke assured him that there was. Samuel and Forence Baker discovered Lake Albert in March 1864.

By the end of 1865 they were back in England where they finally got married, and settled down in his home estate in Devon. Samuel died in 1893 and Florence died 23 years later in 1916.

There at least 2 books written about Florence Baker.

Image source - Wikipedia Commons License

The Aswan High Dam and Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel, Aswan, Egypt, 2007
Abu Simbel, Aswan, Egypt, 2007

These statues were originally built around 1200 BCE.

The British had built a dam at Aswan around 1902 but it was already overflowing by 1945. So a new high dam was required. Work on the new High Aswan Dam was started in 1960 and completed in 1970

A plan was eventually worked out to save the Abu Simbel statues. If they had been left in place, they would have ended up permanently under water. So they had to be saved. A plan was devised and out into action at a cost of some $40 billion. Under the control of UNESCO, the statues were cut into large blocks, moved to a higher location and then reassembled. This project began in 1964 and ended in 1968.

This photo was taken in May 2007 and released into the public domain.

Image Source - Wikipedia commons license.

Mystery of the Nile - on IMAX

Mystery of the Nile by Pasquale Scaturro
Mystery of the Nile by Pasquale Scaturro

This is the story of a modern day explorer and expedition leader named Pasquale Scaturro.

In 2004, Pasquale persuaded a team of adventurers to go white water rafting down some 3000 miles of the Nile river lugging several large IMAX cameras with them. This book and the IMAX movie are the result. The official IMAX trailer is posted below. This movie is now also available on Blu-ray DVD from Amazon (see below)

More details about the Nile can be found on the Nile Film website

Official Trailer for Mysteries of the Nile - Preview this great film

Have you ever traveled on the Nile River?

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    • profile image

      Harish 2 years ago

      Your comment is aawintig moderation. November 13, 2010 at 11:22 pmI was 15 and my name was still Ethan Hurwitz. I was a nice, good Bar Mitzvah boy from Roslyn and Eppy loved me so much that he made a deal with me that I could come in the back door to any show I wanted, and for free, if I promised not to drink under age (age was 18 then)e280a6 I kept the promise (when inside the club that is) and I saw some amazing acts, many who became superstars, many who already were superstars (like Billy) and many who were there at MFP on their first e2809cWorld Toure2809d, like the Police.By 16 my band from Roslyn High School won the battle of the bands at MFPe280a6We opened that night for David Johansen (Buster Poindexter)e280a6 as well as on another night for the new star of Saturday Night Livee280a6 Eddie Murphye280a6By 17 I had a hit record with e2809cFAMEe2809d (the original Fame), It sold 3 million copies in the UK, and by 18, my name was Ethan Hurt (legally changed years later by a judge in New York) I was on tour and making records for years in the UK, Germany, Holland, etc, etc. etce280a6 and sold several million records in all.Eppy, My Fathere28099s Place, the scene, the music, was the life experience that inspired me to do so many things in the music and film businesses. And although I was never a household name in the USA, because of my experiences in Roslyn and at MFP I made lots of music and friends in the industrye280a6 I attribute the inspiration of MFP, the musicians and Eppy himself, to being a major influence in the course of my life and career. I am sure anyone would agree, that time, that era, was magic-time!

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 5 years ago

      "pinned" and being featured in my lens History Pavilion

    • creativeinc lm profile image

      creativeinc lm 6 years ago

      No, but it is a trip that I would like to make one of these days.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nope! I just took a virtual river cruise now, thanks to you! :)

    • profile image

      pickled_cabbage 6 years ago

      Fascinating lens! The story of Lady Florence Baker is incredible!! Imagine living that life??

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      That's contagious...I also love Egypt history!

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

      @whiteskyline lm: I dont think there are any Piranhas in the Nile. Those are native to the Amazon river, I believe.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      No but I sure would love to. There is such amazing romance and history surrounding the Nile River.

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 6 years ago

      I haven't, although I have always been fascinated by it, from the Pirhanas, to the tribes who have barely had encounters with modern man. Some day I will make the trip!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens. So much history and interesting facts.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I would love to travel on the Nile. Your series on great explorers and once-mysterious places is fascinating and a wonderful resource