The Significance Of River Nile To Ancient Egyptians: How They Used The River

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Ancient Egypt comprised two land masses: Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.

Upper Egypt is located to the South, while Lower Egypt is situated to the North. Looking at a map, it appears bizarre that Lower Egypt is positioned at the upper end of the country and Upper Egypt at the lower end. To understand why these two kingdoms are positioned this way, you will have to take into account the River Nile.

Ordinarily, many rivers flow from the North to the South. However, this is not the case with the Nile – it begins from the South and flows heading to the North.

For this reason, when naming the two landmasses, the Ancient Egyptians set Upper Egypt in the South to indicate where the river originated (the river’s top) and Lower Egypt in the North to show where the river terminated (the river’s bottom). If you’re interested in visiting Egypt for a vacation, you can check out the Panorama Bungalows Resort El Gouna for exquisite and affordable accommodation.

The River’s Flooding Provided Arable Land

Egypt is characterized mainly by desert-like conditions. However, the Nile could flood at least once a year (each September), causing the deposition of black and fertile soils near the banks of the river. This soil was thick and fertile enough to enable the cultivation of healthy crops such as wheat, flax, and papyrus. The Egyptians used to refer to these fertile soils as the “Gift of the Nile” because of their ability to supply many people with food and employment opportunities.

River Nile’s flood was so significant that the Egyptians measured its height each year using a creative technique called ‘Nilometer.’ Measuring the extent of the annual flood enabled the farmers to determine beforehand the crop volume they would manage to grow that season.

The Egyptians understood that whenever the Nile River failed to flood, it was because they had annoyed their gods and would be punished with crop failure and famine.

The high fertility of the soil near the banks of the River Nile supported Ancient Egyptians in planting and harvesting various types of food, including fruits such as figs and melons and vegetables such as onions, cucumbers, and cabbages.
However, wheat was the main crop that was grown in these areas and supported the country’s bread and beer industries to thrive. As soon as the floodwaters receded to the river, they ensured they planted wheat before other crops.

Source Of Fish

Besides supporting land cultivation, the Nile provided fishing waters to enable the Egyptians to catch fish using nets and spears. This meant that the Nile supplied food to the population even when there was no floodwater or crop planting.

Hunting Wild Animals

The rich soil around the river Nile allowed different forms of vegetation to grow, thus attracting wild animals looking for pasture. Consequently, the areas near the river formed the ideal ground for hunting wild animals – a widespread sport among the Pharaohs who wanted to demonstrate their hunting skills.

Other Types Of Crop Grown Near The Nile

The Ancient Egyptians used the fertile land near the Nile for much more than growing food crops. Other types of crops that were grown along the Nile include:

Flax: Flax was used to making linen, which was used to make various types of clothes. Producing linen was highly laborious, so the finer and softer linen fabrics were a preserve for the nobles in the Egyptian culture.

Papyrus: Papyrus is famous for its use in producing paper for writing on. Papyrus was used to make quality writing paper that was relied on by the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans for their literal works. Other functions of Papyrus include the production of clothes, ropes, mats, baskets, sandals, and boat sails.

Used As A Means Of Transport

Since the Nile was vital for many people’s lives in Ancient Egypt, many large and notable cities formed and developed near the river. The people who settled in these cities relied on the Nile for drinking, washing, bathing water, and employment.