Sunday, August 26, 2007

Travel: The complete guide to Nile journeys

Picture a map of Africa, and divide it in four. The top right-hand bit – the north-eastern quadrant, for the geographically minded – is dominated by the Nile. It has two main tributaries: the White Nile, flowing out from Lake Victoria in Uganda; and the Blue Nile, originating in Ethiopia. These two rivers flow into Sudan, meeting at Khartoum to form the Nile, which then continues north through the eastern edge of the Sahara and into Egypt, finally reaching the Mediterranean near Alexandria.

The Nile's main features include some of the largest lakes in Africa. In Uganda, accompanying Lake Victoria is, inevitably, Lake Albert – as well as swampy Lake Kyoga. In Ethiopia, the Blue Nile flows out of Lake Tana, the Horn of Africa's largest body of water. Then there's Lake Nasser, backed up for 300 miles behind Egypt's gargantuan Aswan Dam, which creates one of the largest artificial lakes in the world.

For overland travellers, a boat along Lake Nasser is the usual way between Sudan and Egypt. But unlike on some of the world's other major rivers, ultra-long ferry journeys down the Nile are not possible, due mainly to rocky rapids, or cataracts, cutting across the river. Had the Nile been navigable from the Mediterranean to its Blue and White tributaries in the deep interior, the map and the history of Africa might have been very different.

See the above page for the full story.

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