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The Great Pyramids of Giza, built as a burial chamber for King Cheops
The River Nile has for centuries given work and spiritual sustenance to millions of people in Africa. In a region with unreliable rainfall and poor soil its waters have offered people a bounteous opportunity to build great societies like the Egyptian, Kushite and Meroitic civilisations.

At 6,695 kilometres, the Nile is the longest river in the world, stretching from its source at Lake Victoria, in modern day Uganda, to the Nile delta where it joins the Mediterranean sea.

The White Nile winds its way through Uganda and into Sudan where, just north of Khartoum, it joins the Blue Nile tumbling down from the Ethiopian highlands. This confluence of the two rivers is crucial to the region's history.

The River Nile, the longest river in the worldThe White Nile brings a steady flow of water all year round, but the Blue Nile builds into a torrent after summer rains cause floods in what we now call the Nile Valley.

The Nile would break its banks each year, saturating the surrounding countryside. When the waters subsided, a rich, fertile silt ideal for crop growing would be left. The main flooding took place around present day Aswan in Southern Egypt, now the site of a major dam.

Undoubtedly one of the key reasons for the rise of Egyptian civilisation was the development by early settlers of a way to control the flooding of the river Nile.

The ancient Egyptians used a variety of techniques to trap the water, using canals, basins, dams and dykes. Their ability to develop techniques of irrigation created the fertile environment, which could provide the foundation for the great civilisations that followed.

Listen HereListen to Africa and the Nile Valley, the second programme in the BBC landmark radio series The Story of Africa, presented by Hugh Quarshie