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A river runs through it

Rivers have played an important part in human history, as a vital source of fresh water for survival, irrigation for crops, infrastructure for commerce and even as the fundamental basis for the birth and growth of empires.

Even though the era when rivers like the Thames acted as primary highways is past its glory days, major waterways still have an important role in people's lives. Some hold immense religious significance, others still act as transportation corridors in areas where roads and rails cannot go. Plus rivers have the serious potential to be a source of eco-friendly power.

The Flexicover Team look at five rivers that have made big splashes in the history of mankind!

The Nile, East Africa and Egypt

The Nile is the longest river in the world, flowing south to north for 6,650 km into the Mediterranean Sea. Its two major tributaries, the White Nile and Blue Nile, flow from Rwanda and Ethiopia, through several countries, before merging at Khartoum and heading into the sea via Egypt. This mighty river played a crucial role in the development of Egyptian civilization and most of Ancient Egypt’s historical sites are located along its banks including the cities of Luxor and Cairo, making it a huge tourist draw. And it continues to be important – around half of Egypt’s population live in the Nile Delta region. In an otherwise inhospitable desert region of North Africa, the silt deposits mean the surrounding land is extremely fertile making it possible to cultivate wheat and other crops. In fact, Egypt is one of the largest exporters of potatoes to the UK!

Yangtze River, China

The Yangtze, one of the world’s busiest waterways in the world with barges transporting passengers and vital goods along its 6,300km length, is the longest river in China and third longest in the world. It originates from a glacier on the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau and passes through the spectacular Yangtze Gorges, a 193 km section that due to its natural beauty is the most popular stretch for river cruising, before emptying into the East China Sea. The river also houses the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. Despite the controversy of its construction, it offers effective flood control, improved barge capacity and power generation to counter China’s dependency on coal. No surprise that the Yangtze is such a huge tourist draw!

Mississippi River, USA

This legendary river in the American Midwest is the largest river system in North America. Starting at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, it winds 3,730 km through 10 states before gushing into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans. It’s synonymous with steamboats which, for around 100 years from the 1820s, transported cotton, timber and food. Some of these riverboats were famed for their gambling dens, which gained popularity as the police cracked down on gaming houses in cities. The river is featured heavily by author Mark Twain who worked as a Mississippi riverboat pilot for a few years and his most famous work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is largely a journey down the Mississippi, showcasing its different meanings including independence, escape, freedom and adventure. If you get the chance, travel its waters in this way for some traditional fun!.

The Danube, Germany and Eastern Europe

Europe’s second longest river flows east for around 2,850 km from the Black Forest in Germany, through four capital cities before emptying into the Black Sea on the Romanian coast. It’s one of the most important rivers in Europe and delineates borders for 10 countries as well as once marking the northern border of the Roman Empire. Today it’s a very popular river cruising destination with some 70 cruise liners operating on it and there’s plenty to see as the banks are lined with castles, fortresses and historical sites from various eras. For a real trans-continental experience, you can travel from the Black Sea all the way to Rotterdam on the North Sea coast. It’s also possible to trace the river’s path through Europe by train or, for the more energetic, by bike on the EuroVelo 6 cycle route!

The Ganges, India

Originating in the western Himalayas, the Ganges crosses northern India and Bangladesh before finishing in the Bay of Bengal, a distance of some 2,510 km. The river holds great religious significance – the city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges is considered one of the holiest cities in Hinduism. Hindus believe life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganges at least once in a lifetime and every day thousands of people line the banks for the chance to wash away their sins in the sacred waters. It’s also considered sacred to be cremated on the banks of the river and have the ashes scattered in the Ganges. If you travel to the city, a sunset boat ride to see the cremations in progress on the banks and watch the evening aarti (ritual offerings of lamplight) is an amazing experience!

Wherever your travels may take you, irrespective of which river you may be lucky enough to sail on this year, we at Flexicover are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.

Safe Travels!