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. The film takes the viewer on a voyage through deserts, swamps and rain forests, visiting on the way the offices of presidents and prime ministers and talking to people living on the banks of the river.

Professor Tvedt 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. This series unravel the dramatic quest for controlling the Nile and presents new perspectives on the Nile and its important role in current affairs.

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. This series on the longest and most fabled river in the world is unique in two ways. Unlike 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 far-reaching consequences.

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


Episode 1: The River of History
The first episode deals with and 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 this happened but also 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 burst out 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
This episode travels up the White Nile through the world’s largest swamp and into the rain forests 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 rain forests 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 and Nile policies 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, but starts at a sinking city on the Mediterranean coast in Egypt, sailing up the Rosetta, through the desert of Sudan, board a train for an amazing journey through Eritrea, and flying up the Blue Nile to the Nile’s water tower, Ethiopia. Here we meet monks on an island in the Lake Tana.
Tvedt talks with the political leadership in these Eastern Nile countries 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.