The motorways of the sea, rivers are imperative to the world in which we live. Great civilisations were built around them, economies flourished because of them, and life thrives as a result of them. They have had a hugely profound effect on the world as we know it, influencing everything from folklore, to food, and even faith. They are more than a stretch of water, or a route from A to B; they are the Earth's very own circulatory system, the lifeblood of civilisation. Read on as we scour the globe and discover 5 of the World's Most Important Rivers:
One of Europe's most iconic rivers, the indomitable Danube played a major role in the formation of some of the most powerful empires in history. Stretching a massive 1,770 miles and weaving its way through no less than 10 countries, the Danube has long acted as a link between central and south east Europe. From its source in the Black Forest of Germany to its estuary at the Black sea, its influence is far reaching. Indeed, the Danube played a pivotal role throughout the history of the region, including marking the northern border of the mighty Roman Empire, acting as a site of constant conflict for the Ottoman Empire and being seized by the Nazis in World War II.
Today, the Danube is used for hydro-electric power, trade, industry and transportation. It is also a popular attraction for tourists with Danube cruises proving extremely popular.
Travelling a distance of 1,557 miles through India, Nepal and Bangladesh, the river Ganges is one of the most religiously significant places in the world, drawing millions of pilgrims to her banks every single year. Hindu mythology states that the Ganges flows from heaven, sent by Lord Shiva to purify people on Earth. Because of this, Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges rids them of sin, a process which is celebrated every June when worshipers from all over the world descend on the Ganges to celebrate the avatarana - the coming of the Ganges from heaven to Earth.
The third longest river in the world, the Yangtze flows some 3,998 miles through the very heart of China to the east coast where it meets the East China Sea. The river is of enormous historical and cultural significance having acted as a borderline between North and South China in the past. In economic terms, the river plays a major role in the nation's growing prosperity with the Yangtze River Delta creating as much as 20% of China's GDP. The river also plays host the world's largest hydro-electric power plant, the impressive Three Gorges Dam, which accounts for a staggering 11% of the country's power output alone.
As the longest, and perhaps most historically significant, river in the world, the Nile requires no introduction. Stretching a gargantuan 4,180 miles long, the Nile follows an epic route through East of Africa, originating at Lake Victoria before snaking north through Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and culminating in Egypt where it eventually joins the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, Egypt itself is often referred to as the 'Gift of the Nile' because, without it, Egypt as we know it would most likely not exist. In the past, annual flooding of the river ensured that fertile soil was dispersed far and wide, ensuring crops were plentiful on land that was once predominantly desert. The all-conquering Ancient Egyptian Empire was founded and flourished on the banks of the Nile which provided a source of sustenance, a means of transport and a gateway for trade.
Carrying more water than any other river in the world, the Amazon River accounts for a massive 20% of the fresh water flowing into the world's oceans. Travelling 4,000 miles through Brazil, Columbia and Peru, the river is the second longest in the world. Reaching over 30 miles wide during wet season, the Amazon discharges more water than the combined total of the next seven of the world's largest rivers.