The Nubian Swell


We use the name Nubian Swell to refer to a complex, east-west trending structural high in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. This 500 km wide zone of uplifted Neoproterozoic crystalline basement and Paleozoic sediments and parallel troughs extend westward for more than 800 km from the flanks of the Red Sea Hills. The Nile in this region is called the Cataract Nile and is in a youthful stage, particularly in northern Sudan where it is incised in the Neoproterozoic crystalline basement. The northern Cataract Nile flows through the rapids of the Batn el Hajar or 'Belly of Stones' region, characterized by structurally controlled 90° turns, frequent bifurcation and disruption by several cataracts, and near-absence of floodplains. Orbital imaging radar has advanced our understanding of the Nubian Swell, through the discovery and mapping of paleochannels and faults that indicate tectonic uplift during Cenozoic time. Earthquakes in southern Egypt during the early 1980s provide evidence that portions of the Nubian Swell are still tectonically active, with recent seismic activity concentrated where E-W trending structures intersect N-S trending structures of the Aswan corridor. We conclude that the Nubian Swell is an important tectonic feature of North Africa, with episodic but continuing uplift.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Earthquakes; Egypt; Geodynamics; NIle River; Paleozoic; Plate Tectonics; Sudan

Document Type

Article - Journal

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