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The Nile River is 6700 kilometres long and for its last 2400km, it does not have a single tributary. Yet it never runs dry!

This web-site is concerned with the more easterly of those two vast branches, which meet at Khartoum, the spectacular fabled Blue Nile, a gem of a river, which gives vital life to both Sudan and Egypt!

The Blue Nile has a total length of 1450 kilometres [900 miles], of which 800km [500 miles] is inside the country of Ethiopia.

The rest is within the neighbouring country of Sudan, with a relatively short stretch bordering the newest country in the world, South Sudan, which gained independence, after years of armed conflict, in July 2011.

South Sudan borders the most southerly part of Sudan, Blue Nile State, with its capital at Damazin.

Visitors should take care before visiting Blue Nile State, because rebels are still active in this disputed border region with South Sudan.

The latter's capital, Juba, is in the far south of the new country. Before the split, Sudan was the largest country in Africa.

The source of the Blue Nile is a holy spring known as Abbay or Abai, which feeds a stream called the Little Abai, which flows  north-east into the large Lake Tana in the verdant Ethiopian Highlands.

The Blue Nile then flows southwards out of Lake Tana to commence its immense journey to the Mediterranean Sea near Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt.

The upper Blue Nile, flowing out of the highlands of Gishen, is called the Abbay/Abai in Ethiopia, and is believed to be the River Gihon, mentioned in the Bible as flowing out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis.

Lake Tana is a beautiful area. Covering 3600 square kilometres, it is the largest lake in Ethiopia and has a scattering of 37 islands, about 20 of which have ancient churches and monasteries of great historical and cultural interest.

Blue Nile Map

It is a birdwatcher's dream.

Lake Tana and the Blue Nile gorge down-river host a wide variety of both migratory and indigenous birds.

Lake Tana was known to the ancient Greeks as Pseboa.

Papyrus reed boats, known as tankwas, which are somewhat similar to those found in the Pharoas tombs in the pyramids, are sometimes seen traversing the lake, which can be quite stormy.

You can take a very enjoyable boat trip, visiting the islands and peninsulas of Lake Tana with a local Ethiopian boat company. The beautiful town of Bahir Dar lies just south of the lake.

The Blue Nile takes its name from its blackish muddy colour, as around 140 million tonnes of rich dark soil is eroded by torrential rains from the Ethiopian Highlands and washed down river, eventually forming the highly fertile alluvial plains of the Nile Delta on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Egypt and Sudan's great gain is Ethiopia's loss! 

The Blue Nile is not really blue. 

Rather than blue, in fact it is almost black!

Apparently, in the local Sudanese language, further down river from Ethiopia, the word for "blue" and "black" is the same. So there we have it. The "Blue Nile", laden with dark alluvial soil, is closer to black in colour.

This soil is eroded from the Ethiopian Highlands during the wet season, when very heavy rains swell the Blue Nile to fifty times its dry season volume.

These Nile floods used to cause great water damage down river on the Nile in bygone days, until the construction of the Aswan high dam in the 20th century brought control to the annual floods, and provided Egypt with invaluable hydroelectricity to power its homes and its industry.

In Sudan, the Blue Nile is used to irrigate the vast, 2 million acre, Gezira Plain, where high quality cotton is grown on a large scale, as well as wheat and animal food.

Dams on the Blue Nile produce 80 per cent of Sudan's power, through hydroelectricity.

The sheer power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated just thirty kilometres, or eighteen miles, downstream from the exit point from Lake Tana, in Ethiopia.

Blue Nile Falls

There, a great rumble of sound, like thunder, fills the air and the verdant fields and low hills on either bank of the river seem to tremble to the roar of the Blue Nile Falls, or the Tis Issat Falls, as they are known to the indigenous Ethiopian people.

It is one of the most dramatic spectacles on either the White or Blue Niles, a vision of natural strength and grandeur. In fact, this relatively unknown waterfalls is one of the great natural wonders of the Earth, and the second largest waterfalls in Africa, after the far more famous Victoria Falls on the Zambezi, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Four hundred metres, or a quarter of a mile, wide in flood, during the wet or rainy season, the Blue Nile plunges spectacularly forty-five metres down a sheer chasm to throw up a continuous mist that drenches the Ethiopian countryside up to a kilometre away.

In turn, this gentle deluge produces rainbows that shimmer across the gorge under the changing arc of the sun - and a perennial verdant rainforest.

The pillar of cloud in the sky above, seen from afar, explains the local name for the falls, 'Tissisat', or "water that smokes".

In Amharic, the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia, the Blue Nile Falls are called "Tis Abay", again meaning "smoking water". 

It should be noted that Ethiopia has over a hundred different tribes, each with its own language, or possibly dialect. Many of these languages will have similarities as well as differences.

During the dry season, there are only about four relatively narrow streams tumbling over the rock face of the falls, but this is transformed to a torrent in the rainy summer season.

So, to see the Blue Nile Falls in all its glory means a visit during the rainy season.  A major hydroelectricity scheme has also taken much of the flow of the waterfall during the dry season. The hydroelectricity is essential  for the Ethiopian economy.

Downstream of the Blue Nile Falls is the great Blue Nile Gorge, a very deep canyon, nearly 20 kilometres wide in places and 600 km long. It is very reminiscent of the Grand Canyon of Arizona.....but nowhere near as well known !! 

Yet, the Blue Nile Gorge is 4000 metres deep in places and 1500 metres deep over much of its length. So, it is almost a mile deep, just like the Grand Canyon.

It is therefore, just like the Grand Canyon, one of the true, spectacular wonders of the natural world!