Geography and Climate of Egypt

The Nile brings water and life to the Sahara Desert.

The Nile brings water and life to the Sahara Desert.

    Today, Egypt is a country located on the continent of Africa. Thousands of years ago, Ancient Egypt was a powerful kingdom. Most of Egypt is part of the Sahara Desert. Deserts are extremely dry. This means there isn’t much life in deserts because all plants and animals need water to survive.

A Nile crocodile sits in the water. 

A Nile crocodile sits in the water. 

    Life can thrive in Egypt because of the Nile River. The Nile River is the second longest river on Earth. The Nile River is so long that eleven countries share the water of the Nile as it passes through Africa.

    The Nile starts near the equator and travels north until it reaches the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt is along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. As the water from the Nile River enters the Mediterranean, it forms a delta. A delta is an area where a river separates into many smaller rivers before it empties into a larger body of water.

    The delta in Egypt provides water to a large area of land. This water causes many different plants to grow. Animals also live around the delta. The Ancient Egyptians used this land for farming. Every year the Nile would flood. The flood waters carried rich soil which helped their crops grow. They also had easy access to water along the river.

This map of Africa shows the locations of Egypt and Ethiopia on the continent.

This map of Africa shows the locations of Egypt and Ethiopia on the continent.

    The Nile flooded at the same time every year when the snow from the highlands of Ethiopia melted and filled the river. The Egyptians kept careful records of the floods and the position of the stars. This information allowed them to create a calendar with 365 days. They also divided the year into seasons based on the Nile River. There were three seasons with 4 months in each season. Each month had 30 days. There were five extra days at the end of each year.

    Occasionally, the Nile wouldn’t flood. This would cause a drought. There wouldn’t be enough water to grow crops. When people don’t have enough food, it is called a famine. To protect against a famine, the pharaoh would store grain. He could then give the grain to people during a famine. The pharaoh got the grain as taxes from the farmers. Farmers would give around 60% of their grain to the pharaoh.

This is a model of a boat that would have traveled down the Nile in Ancient Egypt.

This is a model of a boat that would have traveled down the Nile in Ancient Egypt.

    The Nile was also important for transportation within Ancient Egypt. People and cargo could travel quickly along the Nile River in boats. The major cities were located along the Nile, so almost all transportation happened on the river. There were no major roads. People would walk or travel by donkey on land.

    The climate of Egypt is very hot and dry. The people of Ancient Egypt built homes and wore clothes to help them keep cool in the hot sun. Their homes were made out of dried mud bricks. Vents were built into the walls to keep the houses cool. Homes also had flat roofs that people could sleep on at night.

Men wore kilts called shenti. Women wore dresses called kalasiris. Both items were made out of linen cloth.

Men wore kilts called shenti. Women wore dresses called kalasiris. Both items were made out of linen cloth.

    Clothes were made out of linen. Linen is a cloth made from the fibers of flax plants. Fibers are the long stringy pieces inside the stalk of the flax plant. Flax plants grew along the banks of the Nile River. The plants grew quickly and didn’t require much care.

    Men wore white linen kilts called shenti. These looked like skirts. Women worse white linen dresses called kalasiris. These looked like long dresses draped over one or both shoulders. White would have been a good color to wear because the color white reflects sunlight. This would have kept people cooler in the sun. Wealthy people were able to wear ornate clothing while poor people wore simple clothing. Young children usually didn’t wear any clothes until about six. Then, they would wear clothing similar to their parents. Slaves in Egypt often worked naked.

Notice the eye makeup in this relief from Pharaoh Seti's tomb. Eye makeup was worn by both men and women. Photo credit: Anna Pakutina / Shutterstock, Inc.

Notice the eye makeup in this relief from Pharaoh Seti's tomb. Eye makeup was worn by both men and women. Photo credit: Anna Pakutina / Shutterstock, Inc.

    Both men and women in Ancient Egypt wore makeup. The perfume and oils they put on their bodies protected their skin from the hot sun and dry air of Egypt. They also wore black eye makeup called kohl. The black around their eyes protected their eyes from the sunlight and keep flies away from their eyes. One ingredient in the kohl was also a disinfectant. That would have helped prevent eye infections. The makeup was also a part of the Egyptian culture. Mothers would put kohl on their babies’ eyes right after they were born. Makeup was also shown on statues of the gods. A wealthy person wore more makeup than a poor person. The pharaoh, the king of Egypt, wore the most makeup.

    Daily life in Ancient Egypt was greatly affected by the geography and climate of the area. The Nile River allowed life to thrive along its banks, but people still had to adapt to the hot climate. Their houses, clothing, and makeup allowed people to live comfortably in Ancient Egypt.