Flooding of the Nile

Flooding of the Nile

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has been an important natal cycle in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 since ancient times
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

. It is celebrated by Egyptians
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

 as an annual holiday for two weeks starting August 15, known as Wafaa El-Nil. It is also celebrated in the Coptic Church by ceremonially throwing a martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

's relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

 into the river, hence the name, Esba` al-shahīd ('The Martyr's Finger'). Ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile flooded every year because of Isis
Isis
Isis or in original more likely Aset is a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic...

's tears of sorrow for her dead husband, Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

.

The flooding cycle


The three stages of the Egyptian flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

 cycle were Akhet
Season of the Inundation
The Season of the Inundation is the first season in the ancient Egyptian calendar and corresponds roughly with early September to early January....

, the time of the Nile flood, Peret, the sowing time, and Shemu, the time of harvest. Without this cycle people would die from starvation.The flood cycle was so predictable that the Egyptians even based their ancient calendar on it. Akhet was the first season of the year, between the months of June and September. Peret or the Egyptian Autumn season marked the time when their crops grew in the fields and were harvested, running from October to mid-February. Shemu was the third and last season of the Egyptian year which ran from mid-February until the end of May; it essentially signalled the spring season of the Egyptian calendar
Egyptian calendar
The ancient civil Egyptian calendar had a year that was 360 days long and was divided into 12 months of 30 days each, plus five extra days at the end of the year. The months were divided into three weeks of ten days each...

.

Importance for Egypt


Were it not for the Nile River, Egyptian civilization could not have developed, as it is the only significant source of water in this desert region. Its other importance was the fact that it was their gateway to the unknown world. The Nile flows from south to north, to its delta
Nile Delta
The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers some 240 km of Mediterranean coastline—and is a rich...

 on the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. It would flood each year, bringing in silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

-laden waters; when the waters receded the silt would stay behind, fertilizing the land,the silt would be helpful for growing crops. If a flood was too large it would wash over mud dykes protecting a village. A small flood or no flood at all would mean famine. A flood must be of just the right intensity for a good season.

The ancient Egyptians did not realize that the flood in fact appeared due to rains on the mountain
Mountain
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|right|The Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everestrect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan Plateaurect 250 406 340 427 Rong River...

s to the south, and it was seen as the annual coming of the god Hapi
Hapi
Hapi, sometimes transliterated as Hapy, is one of the Four sons of Horus in ancient Egyptian religion, depicted in funerary literature as protecting the throne of Osiris in the Underworld. He is not to be confused with another god of the same name...

. The rains would swell the different tributaries and other rivers that joined to become the Nile River.

End of the flooding


In 1970, with the completion of the High Dam
Aswan Dam
The Aswan Dam is an embankment dam situated across the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt. Since the 1950s, the name commonly refers to the High Dam, which is larger and newer than the Aswan Low Dam, which was first completed in 1902...

 at Aswan
Aswan
Aswan , formerly spelled Assuan, is a city in the south of Egypt, the capital of the Aswan Governorate.It stands on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract and is a busy market and tourist centre...

, the annual flooding cycle in Egypt came to an end. Today, farmers must use fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s to keep their land productive, as the deposits of silt no longer occur each year.