Modern Egypt is situated in the northeast of the African continent and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the east, the Saharan and Libyan deserts to the west and the country of Sudan to the south. More than 90% of the land is desert.
The world’s longest river, the Nile (6741 km), runs through the centre of this vast land. For thousands of years it was the only source of water available to ancient Egyptians. At the start of the region’s summer months in July every year, the river slowly rises as water from heavy rainfall in Sub-Saharan Africa flow downstream. This annual flooding leaves a dark rich layer of Nile silt on the riverbanks. Between October and November, the crops are planted.
Upper Egypt is the area in the northern part of the country, which borders the sea. This expanse is called the Nile Delta and this is where the mighty river spreads out and drains into the sea. Lower Egypt is the southern, more mountainous and drier part of the country. The lives of the ancient Egyptians depended entirely on the annual Nile flooding. There is evidence of catastrophic famines when a reduction in flood waters caused crops to fail.
The completion of the colossal High Dam in Aswan in 1971 enabled the country to hold back the annual floodwaters. This allowed Egypt to more effectively manage its precious resource by using modern irrigation techniques.
This has created one of the largest man-made lakes in the world – Lake Nasser – named after one of the former presidents of modern Egypt, but the enormous lake has changed the environment of the region. Clouds form over the lake and rain occasionally falls, causing the average monthly temperature in Aswan to drop by more than 10%.
The Nile and desert region at Aswan. (c) Iziko Photo Archives.
The Sphinx of Khafra, son of Khufu, at Giza Pyramids. (c) Iziko Photo Archives.