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  • The Nile at Aswan
    The Nile at Aswan

At 6650 km (4130 miles), the Nile is the longest river in the world and passes through 11 countries – Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt. There are two major tributaries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The former rises around Lake Victoria in central Africa but its actual source is still disputed as the lake has feeder rivers. The Blue Nile’s source is Lake Tana in Ethiopia and the two rivers meet near Khartoum in Sudan.

The Nile is an important water source for much of its length. In many places it floods – becoming a natural source of irrigation – though, since the building of the Aswan Dam in 1970, this is no longer the case in Egypt. It passes through many lakes – Kyoga and Albert in Uganda, Lake Nasser in Sudan and Egypt – and flows over a number of cataracts. In Egypt it splits into the branches that form the Nile Delta that feed the Mediterranean. The river is, of course, most famous for its role in the cities and sites of great antiquity within Egypt. Its flooding made a great contribution to the development of agriculture and civilisation in the region as the river overflowed its banks and brought rich silt making the land fertile. Most cruises travel the river between Luxor and Aswan in an area filled with such extraordinary sites as the temples of the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the desert city of Akhenaten, the tombs of Beni Hassan and Tutankhamun. There can be few places where 5000 years of history unrolls before your eyes within a landscape that still looks as it would in biblical times.