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Between the floodplain and the hills is a variable band of low desert that supported a certain amount of game. The First Cataract at Aswān, where the riverbed is turned into rapids by a belt of granite, was the country’s only well-defined boundary within a populated area.
West of the Nile was the arid , broken by a chain of oases some 125 to 185 miles (200 to 300 km) from the river and lacking in all other resources except for a few minerals.
Pets included dogs, which were also used for hunting, cats, and monkeys.
In addition, the Egyptians had a great interest in, and knowledge of, most species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish in their environment.
The eastern desert, between the Nile and the Red Sea, was more important, for it supported a small nomadic population and desert game, contained numerous mineral deposits, including gold, and was the route to the , from which came turquoise and possibly copper, and with southwestern Asia, Egypt’s most important area of cultural interaction, from which were received stimuli for technical development and cultivars for crops.
Immigrants and ultimately invaders crossed the isthmus into Egypt, attracted by the country’s stability and prosperity. The fertility of the land and general predictability of the inundation ensured very high productivity from a single annual crop.