Fun Facts About the Nile, the Longest River in the World
As the longest river in the world, the mighty Nile enjoys more fame than most other rivers as the protagonist of legends and historical tales. For instance, baby Moses was sent down this very river on a basket. The Nubians and Ancient Egyptians flourished thanks to its abundant waters, and it still facilitates trade and commerce throughout eastern Africa.
For travelers, this glorious body of water is a dream destination. Cruising on the Nile has been a favored activity for centuries since it provides beautiful scenery, a chance to travel slowly through Africa and the opportunity to see some of the most impressive pyramids in Egypt and Sudan.
Here is everything you need to know about the longest river in the world — and tips on how to visit it.
Is the Nile Really the Longest River in the World?
You'd think that measuring the length of a river would be straightforward, but it's more complex than most people imagine. Scientists have long debated whether the Nile or the Amazon should be crowned the longest river in the world.
The most accepted measurement positions the Nile at 4,132 miles and the Amazon at 4,000 miles — making the latter only a few hundred miles shorter. But some scientists debate the accuracy of the measurement, particularly since the Amazon is a remote river clad in the thick jungle and very difficult to explore.
In 2007, a team of Brazilian scientists concluded that the source of the Amazon was farther than previously thought and that the river was actually 4,345 miles. However, the study was never published, so the conclusion is not widely accepted by the scientific community.
For now, the Nile continues its reign as the Queen Bee of rivers.
How Long Is the Nile River?
Now that we've settled the debate, let's get into all the things people want to know about the majestic Nile, starting with how long we're talking exactly.
Like we've said, the true measurement is debated, but the most accepted one places the Nile at 4,132 miles. To put this in perspective, the distance between Los Angeles, California, and New York, New York, is around 2,790 miles.
You would need to drive from coast to coast, and then do three-fourths of the Danube River in order to travel an equivalent distance.
Where Is the Nile River?
The Nile is entirely located in East Africa, running down a grand total of 11 countries — more than any other river in the world!
The countries that have been blessed with access to the Nile are Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.
Where Does the Nile River Start?
The Nile River begins south of the Equator, flowing out of the large Lake Victoria, which is bordered by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Though the river has been important to both animals and people in these countries throughout history, having access to other sources of freshwater has meant less dependence on it. This is why many people don't even think of the Nile when they are planning a visit to the southern countries where the river starts.
Where Does the Nile River End?
Most rivers end by flowing into a sea or an ocean, and the Nile is no exception. The river flows directly into the sparkling blue waters of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt.
Because most of the country is arid and marked by the desert, the Nile played a major role in the development of civilizations in Egypt. Irrigation systems stemming from it allowed people in the area to develop agriculture and build relatively large cities.
Even today, about 95 percent of Egyptians live along the banks of the Nile.
What Direction Does the Nile River Flow?
If you thought we made a mistake when stating that the Nile starts south of the Equator and ends in the Mediterranean, we assure you, this is accurate.
The river flows north — a phenomenon that is not as rare as people think, as there are hundreds of rivers that follow this direction.
How Deep Is the Nile River?
It may be the longest river in the world, but the Nile is not very deep. Its average depth is 16 to 36 feet.
Compare this to the second-longest river in Africa, the Congo River. At its deepest parts, it goes down 720 feet. This is so deep that even light can't penetrate.
To put it another way, if you were to throw the Hollywood sign (which stands about 49-feet tall) into the Nile, a large part of it would be out of the water.
How Wide Is the Nile River?
Another measurement in which the Nile doesn't shine is width. At its widest point, the river measure 1.7 miles. Considered the widest river in the world, the Amazon has a maximum width of 62 miles.
But the slenderness of the Nile does provide the unique opportunity to almost always be able to see both banks as well as the cities and ruins that line the shores of the river.
Does the Nile River Have Piranhas?
Piranhas are native only to South American rivers, most famously the Amazon.
To put you at ease, piranhas are not nearly as dangerous as 1990s adventure movies will have you believe. Yes, they have been known to attack people, and some of these attacks have been fatal. But they are so small that you are very likely to be able to get out of the water before they inflict serious damage.
If you fall into the Nile, you won't have to worry about this small but vicious carnivorous fish trying to gnaw at you. Though there are even worse animals to worry about...
Are There Crocodiles in the Nile River?
Crocodiles are an extremely aggressive species that present a threat to humans who fall into the water of the Nile. Other dangerous animals that you can find within it include hippopotamuses, Egyptian cobras and black mambas. The presence of these deadly animals makes the Nile one of the most dangerous rivers on the planet.
However, you will probably experience the river on a scenic cruise and won't have to really worry about the animals that lurk within it.
Visiting the Nile
If you love unique adventures, don't hesitate to put the Nile River on your bucket list. Most people experience the river on a cruise in Egypt. Cruises usually start from Cairo and vary in destination and length. Travelers who are short on time can do short cruises that last a few hours, with sunset being the most popular time. Day cruises are also available to places like the coastal town of Alexandria.
But if you have a bit more time, we highly suggest taking a slow cruise down to Luxor. Many people simply fly into the former imperial city, which is famous for its Valley of the Kings, where you'll find the tombs of Tutankhamun, Set I and Ramses II. While this is valid, nothing can compare to being on the Nile for about 12 days, disembarking in towns and archaeological sites along the way.
Another way to experience the Nile in Egypt is by booking a hot-air balloon ride over the river. This is particularly recommended while in Luxor since you'll get a view of the ancient Egyptian tombs from above.
You can also see the Nile in any of the other 10 countries it passes through. Taking political instability into consideration, Sudan is one of the most amazing destinations to see both the Nile and ancient pyramids. The country has more than 200 pyramids — hundreds more than Egypt!