The Nile

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 May, 2010, 12:00am


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The length question

The Nile is the longest river in Africa. At about 6,695 kilometres long, for a long time people said it was the longest river in the world. Now, this is not so certain. The Amazon might be a little longer. Scientists said in 2007 they had found a new source for the Amazon that made it 6,800 kilometres long.

The Nile is an important river that has had a big influence on history. The Egyptians built their civilisation on the banks of the Nile. Every year, the river flooded and provided water and rich black soil - sediment. This helped the Egyptians grow crops. The river banks were also home to reeds called papyrus. The Egyptians used this to write on.

White and blue

The source is the start of a river. It is hard to decide where the source of a river is. Rivers have many sources. But most people agree that the source of the Nile is Lake Victoria. It is the largest lake in Africa.

At the northern end of it is a waterfall called the Ripon Falls. This marks the beginning of the Nile's long journey to the Mediterranean Sea.

This first section of the Nile is called the White Nile. It flows north out of the jungles of Tanzania and into the Sahara desert. When it reaches Khartoum in Sudan, it is joined by the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile's source is Lake Tana in Ethiopia. When these two rivers meet, the Nile becomes the mighty Nile.

The gift of the Nile

The ancient Greeks called Egypt 'the gift of the Nile' - without the Nile there would have been no Egypt. Like the Romans after them, they were very curious where the huge river started. But, despite sending military missions, neither the Greeks nor the Romans could find the source of the White or Blue Nile.

The first European to see Lake Victoria was British explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858. When he saw the large lake, he decided it must be the Nile's source. But fellow explorer Richard Burton did not agree with him. They fought over it publicly. It was not until 1875 that the Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley found the Ripon falls and proved Speke was right.

now do this

1 The Nile is nearly ... long.

a. 6,700 kilometres

b. 6,800 kilometres

c. 6,900 kilometres

2 The Nile was crucial to the civilisation of ...

a. Rome

b. Greece

c. Egypt

3 The source of the Nile was discovered in ...

a. 1858

b. 1875

c. 1921


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