A view of Cairo at night shows floating nightspots, five-star hotels and luxury residential and office buildings on the Nile River.

Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

The Nile Today

Despite Egypt's fairly inhospitable physical environment, it's the second most populated country in Africa -- thanks in large part to the Nile River. In fact, more than 95 percent of Egypt's population lives on the banks of the Nile, despite the fact t­hat the area makes up only 5 percent of Egypt's land mass. As such, the Nile River Valley is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, boasting an average of 3,820 people per square mile [source: National Geographic].

The Nile remains the lifeblood of the countries through which it courses. Farmers produce a wide variety of crops, including citrus fruits, cotton, wheat, sugarcane, legumes and sorghum. Despite a relatively successful agriculture program, the countries through which the Nile flows remain poor and have ever-increasing populations. The Nile Basin Initiative was started in 1999 to help each of these countries utilize the Nile and its benefits.

The Nile is also being used to further hydroelectric power capabilities. Although plans are still underw­ay to continue developing electricity production in the area, several dams have already been built to control flooding and generate hydroelectric power.

The Nile River has also been depicted repeatedly in television programs and major motion pictures, including "The Jewel of the Nile" (1985) and "The Simpsons." The mystique of the Nile River captures the world's imagination.

For more information about Egypt, the Nile and related topics, visit the next page.