Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Nile

Academic journal article African Studies Review

The Nile

Article excerpt

GEOGRAPHY, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND DEMOGRAPHY Robert O. Collins. The Nile. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. xii + 260 pp. Maps. Photographs. Diagrams. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $39.95. Cloth.

What is the Nile? The volume reviewed here, a lush compendium of images and ideas, provides some answers.

This is a story of water-water raised by the sun from the surface of the warm Atlantic and guided across the continent of Africa by unseen aerial currents, water precipitated in cool mists and gray torrential sheets onto the East African highlands, waters from countless alpine sources that begin as diverse highland freshets, become rushing and tumbling mountain streams, and eventually flow northward as a mighty river to the Mediterranean far away.

This is an evocation of landforms-the timeless tectonic agony of grinding plates punctuated by buckling, uplift, the rending of great faults or the brief and wrathful release of volcanoes, the slow decay and crumbling to sand and soil of mighty massifs corrupted by the chemistry of vegetation and the mechanics of rain and frost, the sculpture by relentless winds of unforgiving desert landscapes of sand and stone, and the gathering of precious highland topsoil for redistribution in favored lowlands far away or to be devoured, in the end, by the insatiable maw of a rising salt sea.

This is a colorful and eloquent tribute to the staggering biological fecundity of the Nile watershed, from the giant worts of Ruwenzori and gorillas of the Virunga to gigantic mezzodiluvian sanctuaries of birds and crocodiles of the sublacustrine swamps and the tame, productive fields of food and fiber crops in the cultivated, irrigated lands below. …

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