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There is little fertile land between the Second and Dal cataracts. This region is known as the Batn el-Hagar, or "Belly of Rocks". Here the Nile channel is broken up by erosion-resistant igneous and metamorphic rocks that make navigation difficult during the dry season. Travel by land along the Nile's banks is also difficult. Above the Batn el-Hagar, there are more fertile areas.

Between the Third and Fourth Cataracts, the stretch of the Nile known as the Dongola reach, the river flows through a single sandstone channel. At Karmah there is a large basin which holds enough floodwater during the wet season to allow crops to be grown. Elsewhere below Debba, the the fertile areas are relatively continuous but narrow. Above Debba, where the river flows southwest for about 100 kilometers below the Fourth Cataract, there are broad, silty floodplains where the amount of arable land can vary greatly from year to year. Beyond these are sandy or gravelly plains with few hills.

Between the Fourth and Fifth Cataracts, the Nile flows through a narrow bed between tough igneous and metamorphic rocks. Here there is very little arable land, and between the Fourth Cataract and the bend where the Nile's course changes from northeast to southwest, the prevailing winds blow in the direction of the current, making upstream navigation with sails difficult. In ancient times, travel between the Dongola reach and the Shendi reach above the Fifth Cataract usually crossed the Bayuda desert instead.

Outside of the Nile valley, the deserts of Nubia are virtually empty of plants, animals, and humans alike. Nearer to the river, there were small animals such as rabbits, gazelles, birds, and hyenas. Crocodiles were a common danger in the river, along with cobras, vipers, and scorpions on land.

Wawat and Kush probably had a combined population of around 400,000 during ancient times, about a tenth of Egypt's 4 million.

Agriculture and Economy

As in Egypt, farming in Kush depended on the annual flooding of the Nile and produced only one crop per year. The major crops were wheat, barley, millet, and various fruits and vegetables. Date palms grew in Nubia and were highly prized elsewhere in the ancient world. They were exported to Egypt and were the major cash crop of the region. Animal husbandry was nearly as important as agriculture. Wild grasses grew in the floodplains most of the year and extra fodder was only necessary during the inundation.

Gold mining was an important industry in the eastern deserts, especially in the Wadi el-Allaqi in Wawat. Diorite and semi-precious stones were mined on both sides of the Nile, and the acacia trees that grew at the mouths of the wadis were used for timber and charcoal. The region was also important due to its location on the Nile, the only trade route between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. The ivory, skins, and slaves that entered Egypt from Punt passed through Kush. However, little of this wealth remained behind to enrich the Kushites; it passed into Egypt and left the people of Kush relatively poor.

Aurelien Joly is a Tunahead.