How Did the Geography of Ancient Egypt Affect the Egyptians?

Egyptian desert soft colors with man main

Have you ever wondered how geography affected ancient civilizations? Ancient Egypt is a great example of this! Located in North Africa, Egypt had access to two major continents (Africa and Europe), the Mediterranean Sea, and the Red Sea. This allowed for easy trade routes with other countries and regions. Additionally, Egypt’s proximity to Palestine and Syria meant that it was constantly interacting with other cultures. All of these factors together helped make ancient Egypt one of the most powerful empires in the world.

Where was Ancient Egypt?

Egypt is an ancient civilization located in northeast Africa. Before approximately 3200 BCE Egypt was divided into Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. At that time both were united under the rule of King Narmer (also known as Menes). It is about the size of Texas and New Mexico.

If you study the map, Upper Egypt is south of Lower Egypt. The reason for this is the Nile River that runs throughout the region. The Nile runs in a northern direction, up to the Mediterranean Sea.

As a result, Upper Egypt is next to the upper part of the Nile and in the north Lower Egypt is next to the lower Nile. Kind of crazy, right? 


The Gift of the Nile

A Greek philosopher once said that Egypt’s civilization was due to the “gift of the Nile”. Egypt then and now, is very dry with very little annual rainfall.

Fresh water for drinking and watering crops would not have been possible without this gift. The delta of the Nile is the area at its mouth where the river meets the sea. It is a great area to grow food.

As mentioned in a previous slide, the Nile River runs south to north in an upward direction. As a result the northern part is called the lower Nile, because it is the end of the river and the southern portion is known as the Upper Nile because it is at the beginning.

The Nile would flood and overflow each year in July and recede in October. Waters came from the melting snow in the mountains.

Flooding can be difficult for the inhabitants. However, the flooding left behind rich, fertile soil that was excellent for farming. 

What was the climate of ancient  Egypt?

Egypt has a hot, arid (dry) desert climate. There is very little rainfall. Parts of Egypt are located near the Mediterranean Sea and enjoy winds from the sea.

There are only 2 seasons, summer and winter.

In the summer temperatures fluctuate wildly from day to night. This is caused by a hot, dry wind called the khamsin blowing through the desert. In the daytime it is as hot as 110 degrees, then come nighttime temperatures dropped to as low as 44 degrees. 

In the mountainous region of Sinai, it could get as cold as 3 degrees!

The early Egyptians divided their geography into the black lands and the red lands. The red lands referred to the desert and the black were the rich, fertile soil around the Nile River.

Egyptian Deserts

Over 90% of Egypt is comprised of deserts, known as the red lands. There is the Sinai Desert, the Eastern Desert and the Western Desert (part of the Sahara Desert).

These deserts protected Egypt from invaders. It was also a source of precious metals.

An oasis is fertile land in the middle of a desert. In the Western Desert of Egypt, oases made life possible, providing not only water for people and animals but also dates, palms, and other vegetation. The oases also supported a variety of wildlife, including gazelles, foxes, and snakes. 

The Egyptians made use of all these resources, hunting game in the desert and using the oases as staging areas for trade expeditions. The oases were also places of religious importance, associated with fertility and with the gods who ruled over the desert. In many ways, the oases were the key to life in the Western Desert, and their importance can still be seen today. 

What was the effect of geography on the ancient Egyptian people?

Egypt’s location, climate and topography allowed the ancient Egyptians to become an advanced and wealthy civilization. It also caused them to learn to adapt to its many challenges.

The great cities of Egypt were located around the Nile River. The “gift of the Nile” allowed Egyptians to grow many crops from the rich, fertile soil left by the annual flooding. 

They raised livestock and fished in the Nile. It gave them drinking water and a mode of transportation. The deserts protected them from invaders.

The harsh climate and deserts challenged the people. Egyptians made their houses from mud brick. These moist walls kept homes cooler during the many hot days of summer. They built roof vents to allow hot air to escape.

Camels were an important part of Egyptian life. These amazing animals have many adaptations for desert life.

Their long legs keep them away from the hot sand. They can go many days without food because of the fat stored in their humps. Camels can go up to 7 days without water because their bodies conserve it extremely well.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.