Geography of Egypt
It’s Been the Nile all the While…
The geography of Egypt is very much related to the Nile and the direction of its. In fact, ancient Egypt’s other name is “the Nile Valley”. The ancient Egyptian name for Egypt, or the Nile Valley, is Kemet, which means black land.
Since ancient times and until today, the most inhabitable place in Egypt is along the banks of the Nile. The population has always been concentrated there.
The small pockets of inhabitable areas other than along the Nile are oases that also have a source of water, or near the two seas that border the country to the north and east.
The ancient name of Kemet comes from the black silt that made up the fertile soil along the banks of the Nile – the product of the yearly Nile flooding that was so essential for agriculture, and therefore for life.
The geography of Egypt also makes it a coveted land. Egypt takes up the north-eastern corner of Africa, with the Mediterranean Sea on its north coast and the Red Sea on its east coast.
The Divisions of the Nile in Relation to the Geography of Egypt
The geography of ancient Egypt is divided into 4 main parts, although there are many other subdivisions. Check out this map of ancient Egypt to understand more.
First there is the north and south. Lower Egypt is the northern part of the land and Upper Egypt is the southern part.
This used to confuse me a great deal back in primary school because I associated the word “upper” with north and the word “lower” with south, not the other way around!
But the reason it’s named this way is related to the Nile River’s flow. The Nile runs from the source (which is in the south) up to the north and flows into the Mediterranean Sea. So the beginning part (upper part) of the Nile is in the south, and vice versa…
For example, ancient Thebes, now called Luxor, was a New Kingdom capital located in Upper Egypt. But as you know, Luxor is in the south.
The other division of the geography of Egypt is the east and west banks of the Nile, as it splits the country down the middle.
The ancient Egyptians believed the east bank to be the land of the living as that’s where the sun rose every morning. They built their temples and homes on that side.
The west bank was thought to be the land of the dead, where the sun sets. Many of the tombs and funerary temples lay there.
Other than these 4 main divisions, there were 42 nomes, or provinces. 22 of them were in Upper Egypt, 20 in Lower Egypt. The ancient Egyptians called these nomes sepat.
Each nome had a mayor, a local temple, a capital, a deity and religious beliefs and rituals.
There were no flags to represent all the different nomes however, but there were staffs with the local deity’s statue for each.
Upper Egypt was represented by the white crown Hedjet, the lotus and the vulture Goddess Nekhbet.
He then was named” King of Upper and Lower Egypt” and the double crown was called Pschent in Greek and Sekhemti in ancient Egyptian.
The Geography of Egypt was a major aspect of its ruling, with the king keeping the unity as well as choosing Egypt’s capital city. We can say that the real history of ancient Egypt began with this unification, and the magical pharaonic period that lasted over 3,000 years.
Click here to learn more about ancient Egyptian geography – its different capitals, population and the characteristics of the people from different areas.
Ancient Egypt as a Unified Country
In 3100 BCE king Narmer proceeded to unify the most important division, to merge the “Two Lands”, Upper and Lower Egypt, into one.
Ancient Egypt’s first battle was that of the unification, and would start the new era in kingship. Any true king of Egypt must rule both Upper and Lower and wear the combined white and red crown.
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