In this zone, the Nile finds a voice. Here in the land of the cataracts, in the region of the loop which crosses four degrees of latitude, the Nile begins to rush and storm, and along some stretches to thunder. These granite ridges and bars which, in the primeval times before the Nile burst through, may have formed great inland lakes, and have yielded only after millions of years of the duel between the water and the granite, are polished, big and small, from one year to the next, and in the neverending battle yield their strength to the victorious water only in the form of tiny particles, of gravel. For the noise of battle cannot but arise when the river, among a thousand islands and rocks, forges its way onward in mile-long rapids. A Roman writer declared that the inhabitants emigrated because they lost their hearing, but the mighty voices of the Berbers prove to us today that necessity strengthens any organ, for their call carries over the rushing river from bank to bank, while white men can hardly hear each other at ten paces' distance.

And the ear, in these wild, romantic stretches of the Nile, is surprised in another way when the camel-rider approaches the river along some desert track, without seeing in the distance the tops of the palm-trees or the masts of the sailing-boats, for then only a remote roar rises to delight him, and he hails it in the desert as the Greeks once hailed the sea. Or again, as he rides along the river in flood-time, he can distinguish amid the roar the perpetual rattling of the little stones which the rising water loosens from the bank.


Emil Ludwig, The Nile, The Life-Story of a River, trans. by Mary H. Lindsay, The Viking Press, New York, 1937, p.250-251.

PLACE: The Nile, in the region of the cataracts, between Khartoum and Aswan.

TIME: Any time.

CIRCUMSTANCE: The flow of the Nile waters increases in the region of the loop.