Length: 6,670 km / 4,135 miles, world's longest
Catchment: 2,900,000 km2 / 1,100,000 miles2,
The mother of rivers and the mother of the human species. The fertile shores of the Nile were the first repositories of human agriculture - the dawning of the era of systematic human grouping.
The Nile catchment area includes parts Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and even Zaire.
The Nile is the main outlet for Africa's largest lake - Lake Victoria - so, even at its source it is a substantial river. It drops to lake Albert, and then again down to the Sudan where it is known as Bahr el Jebel. For some 500 kilometres it runs through Sudanese swamp land until it reaches Lake No. From there it becomes the clear running White Nile until it converges with the Blue at Khartoum. From thence, it becomes the Nile proper for the remaining 3000 km to the Mediterranean Sea. During the wet season, the Blue provides about 70% of the Nile's water, but as the dry season comes, it is the White that keeps the river flowing.
The river pours into Lake Nasser and is utilised for power at the massive Aswan Dam at the lake's exit point. From there, it runs through desert all the way to Cairo. The Nile valley is only about 1.5 km wide throughout most of this stage, before widening to as much as 20 km at the delta, passing the Great Pyramids just south of Cairo. In the delta, criss-crosssed by multiple channels and sub-tributaries, the river is actually known as two separate branches - the Damietta and the Rosetta.
Being the mother of humanity, it is perhaps not surprising to realise that it is the most studied river on the planet. Water level and other records have been kept since 711 AD.
Bahr al Abyad (White)
Bahr al Azraq (Blue)
Bahr el Gazal