The Nile: Egypt’s Great River with Bettany Hughes episode 2 – Bettany visits a vast desert catacomb where tens of thousands of mummified animals were once left as an offering, tracks down Egypt’s lost emblem the Blue Lotus flower, and finishes at the stunning Dendera temple.
A hundred miles south of Cairo a stretch of the Nile was once considered Egypt’s main highway, used by Cleopatra to travel the country. More than 2,000 years after her, Bettany visits a vast desert catacomb where tens of thousands of mummified animals were once left as an offering. Further upstream, there is a chance to swim in the Nile, and look inside the tombs where Tutankhamen’s discoverer, Howard Carter, first got hooked on Egypt. Bettany explores the longest tomb yet found, before heading to the Dendera temple, where Cleopatra herself may have once wowed her lover Julius Caesar.
The Nile: Egypt’s Great River with Bettany Hughes episode 2
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa. It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered the longest river in the world, though this has been contested by research suggesting that the Amazon River is slightly longer. Of the world’s major rivers, the Nile is one of the smallest, as measured by annual flow in cubic metres of water. About 6,650 km (4,130 mi) long, its drainage basin covers eleven countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan, and Egypt. In particular, the Nile is the primary water source of Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan. Additionally, the Nile is an important economic river, supporting agriculture and fishing.
The Nile has two major tributaries – the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile is traditionally considered to be the headwaters stream. However, the Blue Nile is the source of most of the water of the Nile downstream, containing 80% of the water and silt. The White Nile is longer and rises in the Great Lakes region. It begins at Lake Victoria and flows through Uganda and South Sudan. The Blue Nile begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan from the southeast. The two rivers meet at the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that “Egypt was the gift of the Nile”. An unending source of sustenance, it played a crucial role in the development of Egyptian civilization. Because the river overflowed its banks annually and deposited new layers of silt, the surrounding land was very fertile. The Ancient Egyptians cultivated and traded wheat, flax, papyrus and other crops around the Nile. Wheat was a crucial crop in the famine-plagued Middle East. This trading system secured Egypt’s diplomatic relationships with other countries and contributed to economic stability. Far-reaching trade has been carried on along the Nile since ancient times. A tune, Hymn to the Nile, was created and sung by the ancient Egyptian peoples about the flooding of the Nile River and all of the miracles it brought to Ancient Egyptian civilization.
Author Bettany Mary Hughes is an English historian and broadcaster, specialising in classical history. Her published books cover classical antiquity and myth, and the history of Istanbul. She is active in efforts to encourage the teaching of the classics in UK state schools. Hughes was appointed OBE in 2019.
Hughes has written and presented many documentary films and series on both ancient and modern subjects. In 2009, she was awarded the Naomi Sargant Special Award for excellence in educational broadcasting, and in 2012 she was awarded the Norton Medlicott Award for services to history by the Historical Association, of which she is an honorary fellow.