In celebration of the annual Egyptian Wafaa Al-Nil Festival — a tribute to the Nile — which is held on 15 August, Ahram Online is republishing this article that was first posted on Sunday 25 August 2013.
The feast that dates back to the ancient Egyptians brings to the fore a lot of intangible heritage regarding how Egyptians have perceived the crucial river throughout the ages.
Every year Egypt used to pay tribute to the Nile river
(Wafaa Al Nil). Adopting the same gesture of gratitude, Ahram Online reviews what, why, and how such a celebration was conducted through the lens of old archived Ahram newspapers.
Al Ahram Newspaper (0014)pdf
28 August, 1957
When the Nile married the land of Egypt
Wrote: Kamal El Malakh
'Do not freak out if you heard cannon fire at 5:30 pm. Actually, you have to be prepared to celebrate Wafaa Al Nil, (the flooding of the Nile festival). Tomorrow is a holiday for Cairo residents only, which makes no sense because the Nile runs through all Egypt.
Today the boat named Karim, after being designed in Pharonic style, shall sail carrying the cannon from Abbass bridge to Maadi. According to the old myth, the Nile was a man who originally reached Egypt in order to marry her. Then came a flood that fertilised the dark land (Kemet), which in turn provided a prosperous harvest .
According to other ancient beliefs, this day concerning the flood water is none other than the tears of Isis, who was mourning the death of her beloved husband Osiris, whilst trying to put together his body parts that were shredded to pieces by his evil brother Set.
However, the Nile wasn't only a source of great mythology. It was a significant scientific site, by which ancient Egyptians created their Calendar
. The rising of the Sirius star towards the East was the sign of the Nile Flood, and the flood was in turn the beginning of the new ancient Egyptian Year (now known as the Egyptian Agrarian Year). The ancient Egyptian year is divided into three seasons: flooding, planting and harvesting, each taking four months. Due to the importance of the Nile flood, ancient Egyptians created two Nile-meters to measure water levels in Aswan.'
Al Ahram newspaper
Flooding of the Nile Festival (003pdf) (excerpt)
23 August, 1909
'Yesterday afternoon the Wafaa Al Nil (Flooding of the Nile) celebration was brilliant. The Umma, with its various social classes gathered to celebrate in gratitude for it’s generous source of prosperity and wealth : (The Nile)
From 3:30pm, a large crowd of high-ranked employees and the cream of society cued on the Boulak marina and sailed in the Al Aqaba boat. The boat, which was decorated beautifully, sailed amidst cries of joy, cannon guns and music, lapped by the Nile until it reached Al Rouda bridge at sunset.'
Al Ahram Newspaper
Flooding of The Nile Festival (001pdf) (excerpt)
19th August, 1981
'This date also commemorated the marriage of the ancient Egyptian Gods: Amoun (creator deity, often affiliated with the sun), Mut (mother goddess) and their son Khonso (moon god).
On this occasion, Egyptians have never thrown a human sacrifice into the Nile (often referred to as the 'bride of the Nile'). On the contrary, they would send wooden dolls of Amoun, Mout and Khonso, as well as the current Pharaoh, and let them sail to Karnak against the tide so they would reach the source of the Nile (the origin of the flood) as a gesture of gratitude, respect and hope for the sustenance of prosperity.'