Nile Delta

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Coordinates: 30°54′N31°7′E / 30.900°N 31.117°E / 30.900; 31.117

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NASA satellite photograph of the Nile Delta (shown in false color) Nile delta landsat false color.jpg
NASA satellite photograph of the Nile Delta (shown in false color)
The Nile Delta at night as seen from the ISS in October 2010. Nile River Delta at Night.JPG
The Nile Delta at night as seen from the ISS in October 2010.

The Nile Delta (Arabic : دلتا النيلDelta an-Nīl or simply الدلتاad-Delta) is the delta formed in Lower Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. [1] 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. [2] From north to south the delta is approximately 160 km (99 mi) in length. The Delta begins slightly down-river from Cairo. [3]

Geography

Niledelta 33.svg

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, [4] 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.

Nile River and Delta Nile River and delta from orbit.jpg
Nile River and Delta

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. Although such an engineering feat would be considered equivalent to a wonder of the ancient world, there is insufficient evidence to determine conclusively whether the delta is man-made or was formed naturally. [5]

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.

History

Ancient branches of the Nile, showing Wadi Tumilat, and the lakes east of the Delta Nile Delta Surrounding.jpg
Ancient branches of the Nile, showing Wadi Tumilat, and the lakes east of the Delta

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. [6] 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. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

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. [13] [14]

Ancient branches of the Nile

The Nile delta at the time of Herodotus, according to James Rennell (1800) AncientEgyptJamesRennell01.jpg
The Nile delta at the time of Herodotus, according to James Rennell (1800)

Records from ancient times (such as by Ptolemy) show that the delta had seven distributaries or branches, (from east to west): [4]

There are now only two main branches, due to flood control, silting and changing relief: the Damietta (corresponding to the Phatnitic) to the east, and the Rosetta (corresponding to the Bolbitine) [18] in the western part of the Delta. The Delta used to flood annually, but this ended with the construction of the Aswan Dam.

Population

Population density Egypt 2010 population density1.png
Population density

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. Other large cities in the delta include Shubra El Kheima, Port Said, El Mahalla El Kubra, Mansura, Tanta, and Zagazig. [19]

Wildlife

Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybrida 3 (Marek Szczepanek).jpg
Whiskered tern

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. [20]

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.

Climate

The Delta has a hot desert climate (Köppen: BWh) as the rest of Egypt, but its northernmost part, as is the case with the rest of the northern coast of Egypt which is the wettest region in the country, has relatively moderate temperatures, with highs usually not surpassing 31 °C (88 °F) in the summer. Only 100–200 mm (4–8 in) of rain falls on the delta area during an average year, and most of this falls in the winter months. The delta experiences its hottest temperatures in July and August, with a maximum average of 34 °C (93 °F). Winter temperatures are normally in the range of 9 °C (48 °F) at nights to 19 °C (66 °F) in the daytime. With cooler temperatures and some rain, the Nile Delta region becomes quite humid during the winter months. [21]

Sea level rise

Population density and low elevation coastal zones. The Nile delta is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. Egypt Population Density and Low Elevation Coastal Zones (5457306559).jpg
Population density and low elevation coastal zones. The Nile delta is especially vulnerable to sea level rise.

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. [22] 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, [23] flooding approximately 450 km2 (170 sq mi). [24] 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. [25]

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. [26]

Governorates and large cities

The Nile Delta forms part of these 10 governorates:

Large cities located in the Nile Delta:

Related Research Articles

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Rosetta City in Beheira governorate, Egypt

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Damietta City in Egypt

Damietta is a port city and the capital of the Damietta Governorate in Egypt, a former bishopric and present multiple Catholic titular see. It is located at the Damietta branch, an eastern distributary of the Nile Delta, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the Mediterranean Sea, about 200 kilometres (120 mi) north of Cairo.

Naucratis City of Ancient Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile river

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Canopus, Egypt Ancient Egyptian town

Canopus, also known as Canobus, was an ancient Egyptian coastal town, located in the Nile Delta. Its site is in the eastern outskirts of modern-day Alexandria, around 25 kilometers (16 mi) from the center of that city. Canopus was located on the western bank at the mouth of the westernmost branch of the Delta – known as the Canopic or Heracleotic branch. It belonged to the seventh Egyptian Nome, known as Menelaites, and later as Canopites, after it. It was the principal port in Egypt for Greek trade before the foundation of Alexandria, along with Naucratis and Heracleion. Its ruins lie near the present Egyptian town of Abu Qir.

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The Abū Qīr Bay is a spacious bay on the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria in Egypt, lying between the Rosetta mouth of the Nile and the town of Abu Qir. The ancient cities of Canopus, Heracleion and Menouthis lie submerged beneath the waters of the bay. In 1798 it was the site of the Battle of the Nile, a naval battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the Navy of the French First Republic. The bay contains a natural gas field, discovered in the 1970s.

Franck Goddio is a French underwater archaeologist who, in 2000, discovered the city of Thonis-Heracleion 7 km off the Egyptian shore in Aboukir Bay. He led the excavation of the submerged site of Eastern Canopus and of Antirhodos in the ancient harbour of Alexandria. He has also excavated ships in the waters of the Philippines, significantly the Spanish Galleon San Diego.

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Heracleion Ancient Egyptian city

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Ras El Bar city in Damietta, Egypt

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Baltim Place in Kafr El Sheikh, Egypt

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Decree of Nectanebo I

The Decree of Nectanebo I was issued by Pharaoh Nectanebo I of the 30th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. It regards payments to the local temple, and was recorded on two steles.

References

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  21. Nile Delta Facts
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  25. "Egypt fertile Nile Delta falls prey to climate change". Egypt News. 28 January 2010. Archived from the original on 9 February 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
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