Terminology - "Upper" and "Lower" Egypt
The confusing terminology describing the lands of "Upper" and "Lower" Egypt derives from the flow of the Nile. The Nile flows from the higher, or upper, lands of Africa in the south of Egypt down to the lower lands to the Mediterranean Sea in the north.
Lower Egypt = Nile Delta region of the northUpper Egypt = Nile Valley region of the south
The Nile Delta spans 22015 sq. km (8,500 sq. miles) and is fringed by lagoons, wetlands, lakes and sand dunes.
Border between Lower and Upper Egypt
The ancient Egyptians did not define the exact border between Lower and Upper Egypt, however, its lands around Nile river stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to Aswan and its border with Kush (Nubia), now Sudan.
Lower: The Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt in the north emptied into the Mediterranean Sea
Upper: The Nile Valley region of Upper Egypt had higher altitudes and terminated at the First Cataract where the lands of Kush, or Nubia, began
The southern boundary was traditionally held to be the First Cataract
Map of Lower and Upper Egypt
The following map shows the approximate location Lower and Upper Egypt, the southern border of Nubia and the major ancient cities.
Major Ancient Cities of Lower and Upper Egypt
The major ancient cities of Lower Egypt were Memphis, Alexandria, Hermopolis, Giza, Esna (Letopolis), Busiris, Avaris, Crocodilopolis, Tanis, Leontopolis, Sais, Bubastis and Heliopolis. The main cities of Upper Egypt (in the south) were Thebes, Abydos, Thinis, Khmun (Hermopolis), Dendera, Hierakonpolis, Koptos, Edfu, Elephantine and Aswan.
For additional information and interesting facts about the cities
refer to the Ancient Egyptian Cities.
Major Ancient Cities
Ancient Cities of the north:
Ancient Cities of the south:
Major Ancient Cities
Lower and Upper Egypt - The Inundation of the Nile
The River Nile flowed through both Lower and Upper Egypt and the annual floods, or inundation of the Nile, resulted in lush green, fertile swamps. Every year a torrent of water overflowed on to the banks of the River Nile leaving a thick rich mud (called black silt) and alluvial soil that fertilized the land, making farming possible surrounding the banks of the River Nile, an otherwise desert region.
Lower and Upper Egypt - The River Nile
The River Nile flowed through both Lower and Upper Egypt. The River Nile is 4160 (6,670 km) miles long and is the longest river in the world. The river Nile comes from the meeting of three rivers from Sudan (Nubia), Uganda and Ethiopia. Upper Egypt (the south) bordered on the land known as Kush also referred to as Nubia or Ethiopia and is now called Sudan. In ancient times, the lands of Lower and Upper Egypt extended from the Nile Delta to the first cataract.
Lower and Upper Egypt - The Cataracts of the River Nile
There were six cataracts along the River Nile. Only one cataract was in Egypt, at Aswan. The other treacherous stretches of the Nile were in Nubia (aka Kush or Ethiopia), now Sudan. A cataract consists of rocky islets, waterfalls, whirlpools, or white water rapids. The cataracts were so dangerous that they were impassable except in seasons of high flood. The island called Elephantine, located in the Nile was just north of the first cataract bordering Nubia.
Lower and Upper Egypt - The Yearly CycleAkhet was the time of the River Nile flood (June - September)
The annual inundation (flooding) of the Nile was of such importance that the Egyptians of Lower and Upper Egypt based their lives around its yearly cycle:
Peret was the sowing time in Lower and Upper Egypt (October - January)Shemu was the harvest time (February - May)
Lower and Upper Egypt - The Black Land and the Red Land
The domains of Lower and Upper Egypt consisted of two parts, the Black Land and the Red Land. The area next to the River Nile was called the Black Land, further away from the river was the Red Land. The 'Black Lands' were the farming areas on the banks of the Nile. The 'Red Lands' were the desert areas. Both were extremely important to the economy and civilisation of ancient Egypt.
Lower and Upper Egypt - The Black Land
The Black Land: The 'Black Lands' of Lower and Upper Egypt were the fertile lands surrounding the banks of the River Nile where nearly all ancient Egyptians lived. This was the only land in ancient Egypt that could be farmed because of the layer of rich, black silt and and alluvial soil that was deposited every year following the annual inundation of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians called the Nile river 'Ar or Aur' meaning “Black,” in allusion to the color of the deposits carried by the river when it was in flood. The Black Lands produced crops such as cereals, wheat and barley (for beer). Other vital plants included: Flax which was used to make linen and rope and Papyrus used to make paper, boats and maps. The Nile was also the source of a major supply of food - fish
Lower and Upper Egypt - The Red Land
The Red Land: The 'Red Lands' of Lower and Upper Egypt were the burning deserts on both sides of the Nile which were virtually uninhabited. The red land protected Egypt on two sides and separated ancient Egypt from neighbouring countries and invading armies. The Red Lands were rich in raw materials such as stone and precious metals such as gold, silver and copper and semi-precious stones. The Western Desert, as indicated in the map of Lower and Upper Egypt, stretched westward to the Sahara desert. The Eastern Desert stretched eastward through the Libyan Desert to the Red Sea
The Kings and Pharaohs of Lower and Upper Egypt
In early Ancient Egypt there were two pharaohs, one that ruled Upper Egypt and one that ruled the lands covering Lower Egypt. The kings had their own regalia including a crown that was specific to the part of Egypt that they ruled. The 'Hedjet' or White Crown for Upper Egypt and the 'Deshret' or Red Crown for Lower Egypt. In approximately 3100BC, Lower and Upper Egypt were united when King Narmerdefeated the army of Lower Egypt and the crowns were combined in the Pshent crown that symbolized a united kingdom.
The Red Crown was called the Deshret the symbol that represented Lower Egypt (north)The White Crown was called the Hedjet, the symbol that represented Upper Egypt (southern)
The Pshent was the red and white Double Crown that represented a unified Egypt
Lower Egypt (the North)
Upper Egypt (the South)
The Gods and Goddesses of Lower and Upper Egypt
The most famous gods and goddesses of Egypt had political backing which led to large followings and cult centers. Priests vied for position and there were religious cults in Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, before the country was unified. The Egyptian Priests evolved a Creation myths attempting to explain how some of the major Egyptian Gods and Goddesses came into being and the creation of mankind. The names of the cults indicated the number of major gods worshipped in the cult and the location of the cult center. The major cults of ancient Egyptian religion were the Ennead of Heliopolis, the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, the Triad of Thebes, the Triad of Memphis and the Elephantine Triad of gods. Wadjet, the cobra goddess and Nekhbet the vulture goddess were two ancient goddesses who together were referred to as the 'Two Ladies' and they symbolized the unification of Egypt.
Names of Gods and Goddesses of Lower Egypt Cult Centers
The names of the gods and goddesses of the Ennead of Heliopolis were were Atum, Geb, Isis, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Set, Shu and Tefnut. The Triad of Memphis centred around the cult of the god Ptah, his wife Sekhmet, lioness of war and their son Nefertem.
Names of Gods and Goddesses of Upper Egypt Cult Centers
The names of the gods and goddesses of the Triad of Thebes consisted of Amun, his consort Mut, the mother goddess and her son, Khonsu. The gods and goddesses of the Ogdoad of Hermopolis (Khmunu) consisted of 4 pairs of aquatic gods represented by frogs and the goddesses represented by snakes or cobras. The names of the Ogdoad were Amun and Amaunet, Heh and Hehet, Kek and Keket, and Nun and Naunet. The cult center of the Elephantine Triad was situated at Aswan standing at the border between Egypt and Nubia for the worship of Khnum, Satet the war goddess of the flood or inundation and their daughter Anuket, the goddess of the cataracts.