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Confluence of the White and Blue Niles - A view from our expert author


bend river nile khartoum sudan africa by İnebolulu Wikipedia© İnebolulu, Wikipedia

The two Niles are distinct colours (or at least shades of muddy grey) on account of the silts they carry, and you can see the streams flow next to each other before mixing to complete the mighty river.

Known locally as Al Mogran, the confluence of the Nile is one of Africa’s geographical highlights. From here you can look east along the fast and narrow Blue Nile stretching to Ethiopia; turning south you are faced with the White Nile, wide and lazy, exhausted by its passage from Lake Victoria through the swamps of the Sudd. The two Niles are distinct colours (or at least shades of muddy grey) on account of the silts they carry, and you can see the streams flow next to each other before mixing to complete the mighty river.

During the summer months when the Blue Nile is at its highest level, the flow of water is so strong that it causes the White Nile to back up, flooding parts of southern Khartoum in bad years. The difference in colour between the two rivers is particularly noticeable at this time.

In 1772 the Scottish explorer James Bruce passed through, claiming to have found the source of the Nile in Ethiopia. He had traced the Blue Nile from its source at Lake Tana, and was disheartened to reach the confluence to find an equally mighty river joining the waterway. It would take nearly 100 years more for the source of the White Nile to be located by John Hanning Speke.

In many countries, a site like the Nile Confluence would be heralded with signposts and viewpoints. The Sudanese are happy to let things like this pass, as unhurried to draw attention to it as the lazy waters of the river itself. In fact, the less attention drawn to it the better as far as the security forces are concerned. Anyone pulling out a camera on the White Nile Bridge overlooking the confluence is likely to be approached by a security guard (probably dressed as a civilian). The bridge is regarded as ‘strategic’, so photography (even with a permit) is expressly forbidden. Strangely, the postcard sellers outside the main post office will happily sell you a snap of the bridge, although this irony seems to have gone unnoticed by the authorities.

For photography, try the Mogran Family Park next to the bridge (open: 10.0023.00, rides from 15.00; admission SDG3). For the best view of the confluence, take a ride on the Ferris wheel. You should be able to snap away happily from up there. Alternatively, hop on a ferry to Tuti Island and walk to its northern tip, where the blending of the Nile waters is at its strongest.

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