Egypt: Destinations - Nile Delta - The Past

The Nile Delta - The Past

During the Pharaonic times, there were five tributaries of the Nile that fed the delta's marshlands. The farmers of that time cultivated the borders and the marshes turned into savannas. Over the centuries the climate has dried allowing for more cultivation of the land. All but two of the tributaries have been filled with silt; the eastern Damietta and the western Rosetta. The delta supplies the majority of Egypt's crops today to feed Egypt's people.

The Delta played an increasingly important part in the economy, politics and culture of Egypt during the dynastic periods to the Ptolemaic times. By the time of the New Kingdsom, the draining of the Delta had provided a cultivation area that was twice the size of the entire Nile valley. The course of the river through Lower Egypt has almost completely erased the history of that area. In ancient times, the Nile had seven arms; the Pelusiac, the Tanitic, the Mendesian, the Phatnitic (Bucolic), the Sebennytic, the Bolbitine and the Canopic. There are only two today; the Damietta and the Rosetta. Cities were abandonded or just disappeared with the drying up of some arms or the changing course of others.

During the Second Intermediate Period, Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos. The eastern Delta was called the Land of Goshen and was the capital of the Hyksos. During the 7th century BC, Naucratis, which is in the western Delta, became a flourishing Greek trading center. Ramesses II's capital, Pi-Ramesses, was built here. During the first millenium BC the Egyptian affairs were dominated by the Delta. The Delta became even more important when the Ptolemies built Alexandria as their capital between the sea and the Delta. Most of the historical remains of the Delta have not survived the shifting of the Nile, the Mediterranean rains and the repeated plowing of the fields.