The Nile Quest

The Nile Quest tells the fascinating story of the longest, most mythical and politically intriguing river in the world. It depicts a river of beauty journeying upstream from its mouth to its sources. It shows the peoples and animals that live in its basin and analyses the power struggle that currently takes place regarding control of the river.

This series unravel the dramatic quest for controlling the Nile and presents new perspectives on the Nile and its important role in the current affairs. Professor Terje Tverdt takes the viewer on a voyage through 5000 years of history up the river from the Mediterranean to the sources of the Nile in the heart of Africa.

Today the Nile plays the main role in a drama that is of world historical significance. The Nile has been controlled by Pharaohs, Roman emperors, Turkish sultans, Napoleon, and the British Empire – from Queen Vitoria to Winston Churchill. Now, it binds eleven countries even closer together in a common destiny they cannot escape. They must apportion the water of the river they share.

This series on the longest and most fabled river in the world is unique in two ways. Unlike all other films on the Nile it tells the fascinating story about the most revolutionary period in the river’s long history; it covers those years in our modern history when the relationship between the populations of the eleven Nile countries and the river changed fundamentally and with enormous far-reaching consequences.

Professor Tvedt takes the viewer on a voyage through deserts, swamps and rainforests, visiting on the way the offices of presidents and prime ministers and talking to people living on the banks of the river.

Produced by Panopticon AS in cooperation with the University of Bergen.

Profits from the sale of films will go to a fund for scholarships for young researchers who study the relationship between social development and water.

Category: Documentary, 2014
Duration: 3 x 52 min.
Format: HD
Soundtrack and subtitles: English, Norwegian


Episode 1: The River of History
The first episode describes how Egypt and Sudan gradually made themselves more and more dependent on the Nile River. The journey, however, starts in Rome because the Nile is not only Africa’s river; it is deeply integrated in the world’s history. The Fountain of the Four Rivers created in 1651 depicts the Nile as the river of paradise; it represents the Nile as a blindfolded demigod, because its mystical source had not yet been discovered. Today, the secrets of the Nile have been revealed, and this series describes how the uncertainty about the river’s future is greater than ever.

We head up the river to one of the warmest and driest areas of the planet to understand the river’s importance to Egypt – from the time of the Pharaohs to the developments of today. The water that every autumn burstout of a dry desert created one of the most fertile areas in the world – and one of history’s greatest civilizations.

We continue upriver through the fabled Nubia to what was the world’s largest cotton farm not far from Khartoum and look at the Nile’s importance to the British Empire.  The downstream countries Egypt and Sudan gradually acquired a monopoly on the Nile water, for long arguing that they had historical rights to all the water in the river.

Episode 2: Revolt at the Sources
Nearly 7,000 kilometres from where the Nile River enters the Mediterranean, Tvedt sets out through the jungle to look for the source of the Nile, the very place so many explorers sacrificed their lives to find. He travels up the White Nile through the world’s largest swamp and into the rainforests of central Africa to see how the countries along this part of the river have started to challenge Egypt’s domination of the Nile.

We visit the mountain gorillas that live around the source of the Nile in the rainforests of Rwanda. We sail on a giant inland sea in Uganda, and travel by hot air balloon over Maasai territories, the location for the most spectacular animal migration in the world.

Tvedt tells the stories of places that evolve and change, and that increasingly challenge the established schemes for how Nile water has been used.

Episode 3: War or Peace
In the final episode of the series Tvedt sets out for the Blue Nile from a sinking city on the Mediterranean, by boat through the desert of Sudan, board a train for an amazing journey through Eritrea, and flying a fast helicopter up the Blue Nile to the Nile’s water tower, Ethiopia. Here we meet monks on an island in the holy Lake Tana, and people who raise water from 40 meter deep wells.

Tvedt talks with the political leadership in Addis Ababa and describes the radical changes in power relations unfolding in the Nile basin – changes that will have significance far beyond its riverbeds. From a performance of the love-drama Aida at the Cairo Opera, he draws parallels to very important power struggle about the construction of Africa’s biggest dam on the Nile.