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The Nile

Without the great Nile, the longest river in the World, Egypt would just be a vast expanse of desert. The River Nile enabled Egypt to become one of the greatest early civilisations, and one of the most prosperous countries in Africa today.

This benefit came at a price. Every year the Nile would flood, bringing fertile topsoil from Ethiopia, and enabling crops to thrive. This

Barge on the River Nile imn Egypt

'inundation', however, was unreliable and too much water would result in villages being destroyed, or too little would cause famine. Prophets, or the more scientific 'nilometers' would be used to try to forecast the height of the river.

There have been several attempts to control the Nile's flow, notably when Britain built the Aswan Dam in 1902. No-one succeeded until President Nasser constructed the Aswan High Dam with Soviet resources in the 1960s. Now, the height of the Nile is predictable, allowing irrigation to be planned, and there is a bonus of vast amounts of hydro-electric power - pylons scar the desert skyline throught the country.

Although roads and a railway run the length of the Nile from the Mediterranean to Lake Nasser, by far the best way to see it is to take a boat. The numerous Nile cruisers each house a hundred or so holiday makers in luxury. The more basic Feluccas, sailing boats, can be used for short trips or even for back-to-nature cruising where food is served on board and you sleep under the stars.

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