The Major Rivers Of North Africa

The Nile Basin covers 11 African nations.
The Nile Basin covers 11 African nations.

Africa is one of the largest continents in the world and it spans an area of roughly 11,730,000 square miles. The northern region of Africa is usually made up of the countries on the continent's northern end such as Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia. The northern section of the African continent is relatively drier than the rest of the continent; however, some major rivers flow through this section such as the Nile and the Draa River.

Major Rivers of North Africa

River Nile

The Nile is arguably the most well-known river on the African continent due to its massive length as it stretches over a distance of roughly 4,258 miles. Although the main body of the Nile flows through four countries, its catchment area covers 11 different nations which have resulted in difficulties in sharing the waters of the Nile. Several countries such as Kenya and Uganda have complained that Egypt is unfairly treated in the sharing of the Nile's water. Experts often disagree on the exact source of the Nile; however, some believe that it originates in Uganda from Lake Victoria while others believe that it originates in Rwanda or Burundi.

Tributaries of the Nile

The tributaries of the Nile are some of the most important rivers located in the northern region of Africa. One of the Nile's most significant tributaries is the Blue Nile which begins in one of Ethiopia's most important lakes, Lake Tana. Experts have estimated that during the rainy season, close to 80% of the Nile's waters come from the Blue Nile. Most of the silt in the Nile also originates from the Blue Nile. The exact length of the Blue Nile has long been disputed with some experts believing that the river is 910 miles long while others believe that it is 990 miles long. Another major tributary of the Nile is the Atbara River which also begins in Ethiopia. The Atbara covers a length of roughly 500 miles from Ethiopia before joining the main body of the Nile in the Sudanese city of Atbara. During the drier seasons, the Atbara usually has very little water, however, during the rainy season, the amount of water in the Atbara increases tremendously. The Atbara is one of the most famous tributaries of the Nile and it was the site of one of the most critical battles of 1898 between the British and the Egyptians on one side and the Sudanese on the other. Other important tributaries of the Nile include the Sobat and Bahr el Ghazal.

Draa River

The Draa River, covering a length of roughly 680 miles, is one of North Africa's major rivers. The Draa is the longest river flowing within Morocco. The Draa River begins at the meeting point of two of Morocco's most important rivers the Imini and the Dades and flows in a generally southeastern direction to the Atlantic Ocean. From time immemorial, several communities have settled along the Draa such as the Saadi, Almoravids, and Alaouites. Some famous people came from these communities with Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh from the Saadi community being the most popular. The Draa was also extremely important during the colonial era since part of it separated the areas under French rule from the regions under the control of the Spanish. In the 21st century, more than 200,000 people lived in the 8900 square mile Draa river valley. The people that live within this valley mainly rely on the waters of the Draa River for irrigation and the main crop that they grow include dates. The valley is often referred to as Morocco's date basket and close to 20 unique date varieties thrive there. Apart from dates, farmers in the Draa River Valley also grow vegetables, fruits, and henna.

Bou Regreg

Morocco is also home to another important river the Bou Regreg which covers a length of roughly 150 miles. The Bou Regreg flows from the Atlas Mountains and passes through several cities such as Sale and Rabat before emptying its waters into the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, several communities made their home along the banks of the Bou Regreg such as the Carthaginians as well as the Phoenicians. In the modern era, the health of the Bou Regreg has been declining rapidly due to contamination from farm chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers.

Moulouya River

Another major river in North Africa is the Moulouya River which is situated in Morocco and flows covering a distance of 320 miles. In the past, the Romans referred to the river as the Malva. In the modern era, the Moulouya is primarily used for irrigation. The Moroccan government constructed two dams along the Moulouya, the Mohamed V dam, and the Hassan II Dam. Several species of wildlife make their home in the Moulouya such as fish and flamingoes. The pollution of the Moulouya has resulted in the death of vast numbers of fish in the river.

Chelif River

The Chelif is one of the most significant rivers in North Africa since it covers a length of roughly 450 miles. The river is the longest river in Algeria. In the past, the Chelif was known as the Sig River. The Chelif begins flowing in the Saharan Atlas, passes the Tell Atlas and eventually drains in the Mediterranean Sea. The amount of water in the Chelif fluctuates significantly due to the climate of the region. The waters of the Chelif are used mainly to irrigate crops in the area.

Oum Er-Rbia River

Another major river in North Africa is the Oum Er-Rbia River situated in Morocco. The Oum Er-Rbia flows for roughly 345 miles beginning in the Middle Atlas and flows through several cities such as Khénifra and finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, the Oum Er-Rbia was referred to as the Asif n Isaffen.

The Importance of Rivers in North Africa

Due to the climate of the northern region of Africa, the rivers in that region are vital to the countries located there. The rivers are used for different purposes such as irrigation and the generation of electricity.


More in Environment