Ancient Egypt /
Upper and Lower Egypt
Ancient Egyptian: Te-Shemau (Upper); Ta-Mehu (Lower)
The two parts are defined by the direction of the Nile; Upper reflects upstream, Lower downstream. No exact border has ever existed. The northernmost border is between the Nile Delta and the Nile Valley; this even appears to be the most common definition.
The southern border of Upper Egypt is traditionally at Aswan, in ancient times Yabu, now on the island of Elephantine. Other definitions set it Abu Simbel, 280 km further south along the Nile.
Though this definition deprives Lower Egypt of a part in most of Egypt's impressive history, the Nile Delta has always been home for about half of Egypt's population.
An often used border is placed in the region south of Fayoum Oasis and north of Abydos, a full stretch of 400 km along the Nile.
Even after unification, the cultural division of Egypt persisted, thereby keeping the definition of Egypt as a unity of its Upper and Lower parts through most of Ancient Egyptian history.
The understanding of a unified country of two separate parts remained important throughout much of Egypt's ancient history. Kings would wear either crowns of each part in different settings, later being replaced by the double crown, in which the two crowns were merged into one shape. The very important festival of Heb-Sed, involved the king seeking recognition from both parts of the country.
Upper Egypt was in ancient times called Te-Shemau and divided into 22 nomes, regions, then including areas stretching all the way to Memphis.
Lower Egypt was known as Ta-Mehu, which was divided into a varying number of nomes. Most commonly the number is set to 20.
People of Upper and Lower Egypt understood each other, but spoke different dialects, their cultures were different and identities strongly linked to their home regions.
The intermediary periods of Egypt, first 22th-21st centuries BCE and then 17th-16th century, were periods of Upper and Lower Egypt being split.
Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Ancient Egypt in
Where to begin?