The Source of the Nile – Lake Tana

The source of the river Nile remains a matter of debate.

South of Aswan and Abu Simbel near the Egypt-Sudan border, the river passes through Lake Nasser and Lake Nubia and winds through Sudan.

In Khartoum, the Nile splits, with the White Nile continuing south to Lake Victoria and a source point in either Rwanda or Burundi, and the Blue Nile heading southeast into Ethiopia to the source point at Lake Tana near Bahir Dar.

Lake Tana is a big lake – it takes 8-9 hours to cross by ferry boat. It is home to exactly the wildlife you would expect to find along the Nile – pelicans, lammergeyer eagles, hippos and crocodiles.

Its many islands are home to more than 37 monasteries. Of those 37, only three are open to women. And at one of these three (Debre Mariam), you can peruse a 900 year old sheepskin bible with your very own hands written in Geez, the oldest language in Ethiopia (similar to Aramaic).

900 year old bible in language you probably don’t speak, thankfully illustrated to help you guess what verses you’re looking at.

While you browse this incredibly old book (which maybe should have better security), you can hear about local patron saints such as the man totally covered in hair who communed with animals or Pantaleon who stood for 48 years leaning on his prayer stick.

For me, the true moment of feeling like I had reached the source of the Nile was visiting Tis Abay, the Blue Nile Falls.

Tis Abay, ‘the Water that Smokes’ – Blue Nile Falls.

Here you watch the brown waters of Lake Tana turn white and thunder down to the Blue Nile below.

Here you can watch the water begin its long journey north through Sudan to Egypt and feel like you have found the very beginning of the mighty Nile river.

2 thoughts on “The Source of the Nile – Lake Tana

    • I found it really interesting because the lake was brown, the falls were white and the Blue Nile was (as the name suggests) blue. Neat to see the same water in so many different ways.

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