Nile Delta on the Mediterranean Sea

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  8 minutes

Nile River and Nile Delta. Pretty obvious why both are that important to Egypt © ISS Expedition 25 - NASA Earth Observatory

Nile River and Nile Delta. Pretty obvious why both are that important to Egypt
© ISS Expedition 25 – NASA Earth Observatory

The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Lower Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world’s largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers 240 km (150 mi) of Mediterranean coastline and is a rich agricultural region. From north to south the delta is approximately 160 km (99 mi) in length. The Delta begins slightly down-river from Cairo.

From north to south, the delta is approximately 160 km (99 mi) in length. From west to east, it covers some 240 km (150 mi) of coastline. The delta is sometimes divided into sections, with the Nile dividing into two main distributaries, the Damietta and the Rosetta, flowing into the Mediterranean at port cities with the same name. In the past, the delta had several distributaries, but these have been lost due to flood control, silting and changing relief. One such defunct distributary is Wadi Tumilat. The Suez Canal is east of the delta and enters the coastal Lake Manzala in the north-east of the delta. To the north-west are three other coastal lakes or lagoons: Lake Burullus, Lake Idku and Lake Mariout. The Nile is considered to be an “arcuate” delta (arc-shaped), as it resembles a triangle or flower when seen from above. Some scholars such as Aristotle have written that the delta was constructed for agricultural purposes due to the drying of the region of Egypt. In modern day, the outer edges of the delta are eroding, and some coastal lagoons have seen increasing salinity levels as their connection to the Mediterranean Sea increases. Since the delta no longer receives an annual supply of nutrients and sediments from upstream due to the construction of the Aswan Dam, the soils of the floodplains have become poorer, and large amounts of fertilizers are now used. Topsoil in the delta can be as much as 21 m (70 ft) in depth.

People have lived in the Nile Delta region for thousands of years, and it has been intensively farmed for at least the last five thousand years. The delta was a major constituent of Lower Egypt, and there are many archaeological sites in and around the delta. Artifacts belonging to ancient sites have been found on the delta’s coast. The Rosetta Stone was found in the delta in 1799 in the port city of Rosetta (an anglicized version of the name Rashid). In July 2019 a small Greek temple, ancient granite columns, treasure-carrying ships, and bronze coins from the reign of Ptolemy II, dating back to the third and fourth centuries BC, were found at the sunken city of Heracleion, colloquially known as Egypt’s Atlantis. The investigations were conducted by Egyptian and European divers led by the underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio. They also uncovered a devastated historic temple (the city’s main temple) underwater off Egypt’s north coast. In January 2019 archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziri working in the Kom Al-Khelgan area of the Nile Delta discovered tombs from the Second Intermediate Period and burials from the Naqada II era. The burial site contained the remains of animals, amulets and scarabs carved from faience, round and oval pots with handles, flint knives, broken and burned pottery. All burials included skulls and skeletons in the bending position and were not very well-preserved.

Nile Delta © John187/cc-by-sa-4.0 Nile River and Nile Delta. Pretty obvious why both are that important to Egypt © ISS Expedition 25 - NASA Earth Observatory Mediterranean Sea, Nile River Delta and Levante © NASA
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Nile River and Nile Delta. Pretty obvious why both are that important to Egypt © ISS Expedition 25 - NASA Earth Observatory
During autumn, parts of the Nile River are red with lotus flowers. The Lower Nile (North) and the Upper Nile (South) have plants that grow in abundance. The Upper Nile plant is the Egyptian lotus, and the Lower Nile plant is the Papyrus Sedge (Cyperus papyrus), although it is not nearly as plentiful as it once was, and is becoming quite rare. Several hundred thousand water birds winter in the delta, including the world’s largest concentrations of little gulls and whiskered terns. Other birds making their homes in the delta include grey herons, Kentish plovers, shovelers, cormorants, egrets and ibises. Other animals found in the delta include frogs, turtles, tortoises, mongooses, and the Nile monitor. Nile crocodiles and hippopotamus, two animals which were widespread in the delta during antiquity, are no longer found there. Fish found in the delta include the flathead grey mullet and soles.

Egypt’s Mediterranean coastline experiences significant loss of land to the sea, in some places amounting to 90 m (100 yd) a year. The low-lying Nile Delta area in particular is vulnerable to sea level rise associated with global warming. This effect is exacerbated by the lack of sediments being deposited since the construction of the Aswan Dam. If the polar ice caps were to melt, much of the northern delta, including the ancient port city of Alexandria, could disappear under the Mediterranean. A 30 cm (12 in) rise in sea level could affect about 6.6% of the total land cover area in the Nile Delta region. At 1 m (3 ft 3 in) sea level rise, an estimated 887 thousand people could be at risk of flooding and displacement and about 100 km² (40 sq mi) of vegetation, 16 km² (10 sq mi) wetland, 402 km² (160 sq mi) cropland, and 47 km² (20 sq mi) of urban area land could be destroyed, flooding approximately 450 km² (170 sq mi). Some areas of the Nile Delta’s agricultural land have been rendered saline as a result of sea level rise; farming has been abandoned in some places, while in others sand has been brought in from elsewhere to reduce the effect. In addition to agriculture, the delta’s ecosystems and tourist industry could be negatively affected by global warming. Food shortages resulting from climate change could lead to seven million “climate refugees” by the end of the 21st century. Nevertheless, environmental damage to the delta is not currently one of Egypt’s priorities. The delta’s coastline has also undergone significant changes in geomorphology as a result of the reclamation of coastal dunes and lagoons to form new agricultural land and fish farms as well as the expansion of coastal urban areas.

About 39 million people live in the Delta region. Outside of major cities, population density in the delta averages 1,000/km² (2,600/sq mi) or more. Alexandria is the largest city in the delta with an estimated population of more than 4.5 million. Large cities located in the Nile Delta are: Abusir, Alexandria, Avaris, Bilbeis, Bubastis, Canopus, Damanhur, Desouk, Damietta, El Mahalla El Kubra, Kafr El Sheikh, Leontopolis, Mendes, Mit Abu El Kom, Mansoura, Naucratis, Pelusium, Port Said, Rosetta, Sais, Tanis, Tanta and Zagazig.

Read more on LonelyPlanet.com – Nile Delta and Wikipedia Nile Delta (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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