The Nile River is the longest river in the world. So it follows that it would be long on enchantment, mystery and antiquity’s most intriguing relics. The lifeline of Egyptian civilization, the Nile basin is a cultivated oasis of green vegetation in a country which would otherwise be entirely desert. Measuring more than 4,100 miles–roughly the distance between Orlando and Juneau–the Nile has plenty of time to sail past rainforests, mountains, savannas, swamps, deserts and more than 5,000 years of history. Ancient temples, pyramids and other archaeological treasures stand in mesmerizing contrast to the Nile’s bustling cities, colorful bazaars and lively hospitality.
The Nile has been the cradle of Egyptian civilizations since the Stone Age. The thin, cultivated swath of the Nile valley is what most of today’s population and yesterday’s antiquities call home. Since the creation of the Sahara desert at the end of the most recent ice age more than 5,000 years ago, the Nile has been Egypt’s sole source of water, agriculture, commerce and power. Perhaps this is why the Greek historian Herodotus wrote that “Egypt was the gift of the Nile.”
Over the course of time, as the Nile would flood, silt deposits made the surrounding land extremely fertile. Ancient Egyptians were able to cultivate wheat and other crops in an otherwise hostile agricultural environment. The Nile’s water also attracted game such as water buffalo, elephants, antelopes and gazelles. But more than a vital source of sustenance, the Nile was also a critical transportation and trade route. In fact, trade was what secured Egypt’s diplomatic relationship with other countries and contributed to its economic stability.
The Nile was an important part of the ancient Egyptian spiritual life. The deity Hapy was the god of the annual floods, and both he and the pharaoh were thought to control the ebb and flow of the mighty river. Ancient Egyptian hunters prayed to god and goddess images of the animals they sought to ensure their and success of the hunt.
Crucial to Egyptian life, the Nile was considered to be the pathway from life to death and the afterlife. The east was thought of as a place of birth and growth, and the west was considered the place of death. The god Ra, the Sun, underwent birth, death, and resurrection each day as he crossed the sky. That is why all tombs are located west of the Nile, because Egyptians believed that in order to enter the afterlife, they must be buried on the side that symbolized death.
The Nile was, and still is, used to transport goods and people along its lengthy path. Winter winds in this area blow up river, so ships could travel up river effortlessly by using a sail, and down river using the high flow of the river. While most Egyptians still live in the Nile valley, the construction of the Aswan High Dam (completed in 1970) ended the summer floods and their renewal of the fertile soil.
For more information on a Nile River Cruise or other great Avalon Waterways vacations, contact your local Boscov’s Travel Specialist, email email@example.com or call 800-755-8020.