South of Khartoum, Sudan, where the White and Blue Nile Rivers join, a dizzying arrangement of irrigated fields stretches out across the state of El Gezira. Given the semi-arid climate of the surrounding area, this geometrical spectacle of fertile green fields depends on thousands of kilometers of canals and ditches that connect the region to the Blue Nile in the west. The manmade rivers and streams are part of an irrigation project called the Gezira Scheme, which the British started in the colonial era to grow cotton for export back to Europe.
The area shown in this scene is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) north-northeast of the city of Al Mansqil, and it is nearly 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the river. Several bare-looking patches (bottom center, lower left corner) are small villages, while the large bare patch north of image center appears to be open land that has either been abandoned for crop growing or has yet to be intensively cultivated. A field with a purple tinge at upper right may be flooded. This image was captured by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite on December 25, 2006.
NASA image provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS,and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.
Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum, translates as “Elephant’s Trunk.” The name describes the shape of the Nile where the Blue and the White Nile Rivers unite to form the single Nile River that flows northward into Egypt. This image shows the rivers near the end of the dry season. The White Nile (western branch) runs through Sudan from Uganda. It originates in equatorial regions, where rainfall occurs throughout the year, and as a result it runs at a nearly constant rate throughout the year. The Blue Nile, nearly dry this time of year, flows out of the Ethiopian highlands, where rainfall is more seasonal. It swells in the late summer and early fall with rains from the summer monsoons. The flow at these times can be so great that the volume is too much for the river’s channel, causing the Nile to flow backward at the junction.