Why Is the Nile River so Important?

The Nile River is important because it provides Egypt with irrigation, hydroelectric power, a steady water supply and rich soil. It was the lifeblood of ancient Egyptian transport, commerce and agriculture, and remains crucial for sustaining life in the barren deserts of Egypt today. At over 4,000 miles long, it is the longest river in the world.

The Nile River makes agriculture, fishing and boating possible in Egypt. It floods annually, leaving behind nutrient-rich silt than can be used for growing food. Basin irrigation was developed thousands of years ago to capture a portion of the flood water. Later, a perennial irrigation system was developed to reduce dependence on the annual flood. Basin irrigation supports basic crops, such as barley and wheat, while perennial irrigation supports cash crops such as cotton and corn.

The waters themselves provide several different types of fish including mullet, bolti, perch and catfish. They also provide transport, and the ancient Egyptians are believed to have built cargo, passenger and naval boats for traversing them. Culturally, the Nile is an important part of Ethiopian and Judeo-Christian tradition as its banks served as a backdrop for the stories of Moses, Joseph and the Holy Family. For thousands of years, Egyptians have associated the river with the concept of rebirth as its reliable waters rejuvenate the floodplains annually, making growth and life possible.