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Along its length, the Nile has long been used to transport goods. Winter winds blow south, upriver, so ships could use the river’s flow to go upriver and downriver. Even though the majority of Egyptians still live in the Nile Valley, the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1970 brought an end to the summer floods and allowed the fertile soil to reappear, fundamentally altering farming practices.

Egyptians are able to live in otherwise inhospitable Saharan regions because the Nile provides for a significant portion of the population that lives along its banks. The Cataracts of the Nile, which prevent boats from navigating, cause the flow of the river to be disrupted at several points. The Sudd also makes it hard to navigate and makes it hard for water to flow, to the point where Sudan tried once to build the Jonglei Canal around it.

Nile urban areas incorporate Khartoum, Aswan, Luxor (Thebes), and the Giza – Cairo conurbation. At Aswan, north of the Aswan Dam, is the first cataract, which is the one closest to the river’s mouth. Cruise ships and feluccas, which are traditional wooden sailing boats, frequent this section of the river, which is a popular tourist destination. Between Luxor and Aswan, numerous cruise ships make pit stops at Edfu and Kom Ombo. For many years, cruising on the northernmost point has been restricted by security concerns.