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Egypt is the most populous country in the world's most unstable region. It is the key to Middle East peace, the voice of the Arab world and the crossroads between Europe and Africa. Its historical and strategic importance is unparalleled. In short, Egypt matters. And the key to Egypt - its colourful past, chaotic present and uncertain future - is the Nile...From Herodotus's day to the present political upheavals, the steady flow of the Nile has been Egypt's heartbeat. It has shaped its geography, controlled its ecomy and moulded its civilisation. The same stretch of water which conveyed Pharaonic battleships, Ptolemaic grain ships, Roman troop-carriers and Victorian steamers today carries modern-day tourists past bankside settlements in which rural life - fishing, farming, flooding - continues much as it has for millennia. At this most critical juncture in the country's history, foremost Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson takes us on a journey up the Nile, rth from Lake Victoria, from Cataract to Cataract, past the Aswan Dam, to the delta. The country is a palimpsest, every age has left its trace: as we pass the Nilometer on the island of Elephantine which since the days of the Pharaohs has measured the height of Nile floodwaters to predict the following season's agricultural yield and set the parameters for the entire Egyptian ecomy, the wonders of Giza which bear the scars of assault by nineteenth-century archaeologists and the modern-day unbridled urban expansion of Cairo - and in Egypt's earliest art (prehistoric images of fish-traps carved into cliffs) and the Arab Spring (fought on the bridges of Cairo) - the Nile is our guide to understanding the past and present of this unique, chaotic, vital, conservative yet rapidly changing land.
Toby Wilkinson read Egyptology at Cambridge University and has been hailed by The Daily Telegraph as 'the foremost Egyptologist of his time'. Since January 2004 he has been a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. He is a member of the international editorial board of the Journal of Egyptian History, and has broadcast on radio and television in the UK and abroad on topics connected with Egypt, ancient and modern. He is the author of seven books including The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt (2010) which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was recommended as a book of the year by critics on both sides of the Atlantic. He is currently Head of the International Strategy Office at the University of Cambridge and lives in Suffolk.