In the fourth century BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote in his Histories that “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.” Then as now, Egypt receives virtually no rain, and so all of its water comes solely from the Nile River. But while the Nile basin in Sudan and Egypt is rainless, the southern sections of the river in the highlands of Ethiopia regularly experience heavy rain. These waters make their way downstream flooding so regularly that the ancient calendar was based on the flood season. The three seasons of the Nile, each consisting of four months of thirty days each, were called Akhet, Peret, and Shemu. Akhet, which means inundation, was the time of the year when the Nile flooded. Peret was the growing season, and Shemu, the last season, was the harvest season when there were no rains.
The yearly deposited layers of silt made the land around the Nile very fertile. Wheat, flax, papyrus and other crops were grown around the Nile. Wheat was a crucial crop in the famine-plagued Mediterranean area and the trade in wheat ensured Egypt’s diplomatic relationships with other countries and contributed to economic stability.