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Far back in the world's history a fracture of the earth's crust took place in the region which is now Egypt, and the sea filled the valley as far as a point not much north of Assouan. Into this fiord ran several rivers from the high ground east and west, bearing down with them heaps of detritus, and forming small deltas like the plain of Kom-Ombos. On the sea-bottom were laid down deposits of sand and gravel, and then the land began to rise. Meantime the volcanic movements of East Central Africa had shaped the country into its present configuration, and the rivers which drained from the great lakes and swamps of the south, and those which flowed down from the high plateau on the east, combining their waters somewhere about Khartoum, pushed their marvellous course northwards, and began the creation of the fertile soil of Egypt. From this time onwards the climatic conditions must have continued very much what they are to-day. Changes, of course, there have been in the level of the land; but the sea-valley had become a river-valley, and year by year the annual flood increased the cultivable soil, and refreshed it with moisture, just as it would be doing to-day if left untrammelled by the devices of man.

Late in the history of the river-valley, but very early in the history of humanity, this favoured strip of country became the home of men, who doubtless cast their seed upon the slime left by the retreating waters, and reaped their crops long before the dawn of history. It is remarkable and characteristic of the conditions of the country that tradition ascribes to the earliest King of Egypt, Menes, the first King of the First Dynasty, the first attempts to regulate the flow of the river--in other words, the first scheme of irrigation proper.

If it were possible to divert the river from its course, and effectually to bar its way before it reached the boundaries of Egypt, what an appalling catastrophe would follow--no mere disaster, but absolute annihilation! On the coast lands of the Mediterranean a sparse population might still eke out a miserable existence by storing the scanty rainfall, but nowhere else. The very oases of the desert would be dried up, and in a short time the shifting sands of the Sahara would have overlaid the deposits in the river-valley, and buried out of sight even the ruins of the past. The waters of the Nile are, and ever have been, the sole giver of all life in Egypt.

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