Facts

Length: about 4,160 miles (6,695 kilometres), real source debatable. United States Geological Survey.

Countries: Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt.

Name: from neilos or valley, in Greek. This in turn is thought to come from the Semitic Nahal or river, from which the Hebrew word nachal is derived.

Rivers: The River Nile is formed of two major rivers, the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

Source: Lake Victoria, which lies between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, has been generally thought of as the source of the White Nile since British explorer John Hanning Speke proclaimed this in 1858.

However, many rivers feed into the lake from surrounding countries. A 2006 Anglo-New Zealand expedition to find the true source claimed the source to be the start of the Kagera River (the largest tributary flowing into Lake Victoria), in Nyungwe Forest Reserve, Rwanda.

Around seventy years earlier, in 1937 German explorer, Dr. Burkhart Waldecker, began Western opinion of the Kagera River as part of the Nile, and claimed the Nile’s true source to be the start of the tributary of the Kagera, the Ruvubu, below the summit of Mount Kikizi, Burundi. The Nile’s length above is measured from this source.

The source of the Blue Nile is Lake Tana, Ethiopia. The White and Blue Niles meet in Sudan. The third main stream is the Atbara, which also begins in Ethiopia, and meets the Nile in Sudan.

Mouth: The Nile Delta in Egypt is where the River ends, splitting into many different slow-flowing channels which eventually run into the Mediterranean Sea. Like the riverbanks further upriver, the delta is extremely fertile and has been a rich source of agriculture, from time immemorial.

Flow rate: discharge is an average of 300 million cubic metres (66 billion UK gallons) a day.

Area of watershed drainage: estimated 3,349,000 square kilometres (1,293,000 square miles).

Here are some recommended books on the River Nile for kids, and Joanna Lumley’s TV series on the Nile:

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