Egypt opens the Suez Canal

Egypt opens the Suez Canal

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Following Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Egyptian territory, the Suez Canal is reopened to international traffic. However, the canal was so littered with wreckage from the Suez Crisis that it took weeks of cleanup by Egyptian and United Nations workers before larger ships could navigate the waterway.

The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas across Egypt, was completed by French engineers in 1869. For the next 88 years, it remained largely under British and French control, and Europe depended on it as an inexpensive shipping route for oil from the Middle East.

In July 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal, hoping to charge tolls that would pay for construction of a massive dam on the Nile River. In response, Israel invaded in late October, and British and French troops landed in early November, occupying the canal and other Suez territory. Under pressure from the United Nations, Britain and France withdrew in December, and Israeli forces departed in March 1957. That month, Egypt took over control of the canal and reopened it to commercial shipping. Ten years later, Egypt shut down the canal again following the Six Day War and Israel’s occupation of the Sinai peninsula. It remained closed for eight years, ending when Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat reopened it in 1975 after peace talks with Israel.

READ MORE: What Was the Suez Crisis?

The Suez Canal Opens

After ten years of construction and costs more than double the original estimate, the Suez Canal opened on November 17, 1869.

Stretching 101 miles across Egypt's Isthmus of Suez, from Port Said in the north to Suez in the south, the waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean.

In 1888 the Convention of Constantinople was signed—"respecting the free navigation of the Suez Maritime Canal" and opening the canal to ships of all nations. The longest canal in the world without locks, the Suez Canal is one of the world's most heavily traveled shipping lanes and the fastest crossing from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans.

The Suez Canal is a canal in Egypt. Opened in November 1869, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigating around Africa or carrying goods overland between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The northern terminus is Port Said, with the southern terminus being near Suez. Ismailia is located halfway between Port Said and Suez.

The canal is 192 km (119 mi) long. The maximum depth of the canal is 66 feet (20 m). It is single-lane with 4 passing places north and south of the Great Bitter Lake, and links the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea. It contains no locks seawater flows freely through the canal into the Great Bitter Lake from both the Red Sea in the south and the Mediterranean in the north, replacing evaporation.

The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Canal of the Pharaohs: The Forerunner to The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal may be a marvel of modern engineering, but there is nothing modern about digging canals. Navigable waterways have been dug since ancient times, even across deserts in Northern Africa. The Suez Canal is only the most recent of these manmade waterways that once snaked their way across Egypt. Dug under the patronage of different Egyptian pharaohs under different time periods, they connected—unlike their modern version—the Red Sea with the Nile River.

According to Aristotle, the first attempt to dig a canal connecting the Red Sea and the Nile River was made by the legendary Egyptian Pharaoh Sesostris (who could either be Senusret III of the 12th Dynasty, circa 1800 BC, or Ramesses II of the much later 19th Dynasty, circa 1200 BC). Aristotle also notes that construction of the canal was stopped when the pharaoh discovered “that the sea was higher than the land”. The pharaoh feared that opening the Nile River to the Red Sea would cause the salty sea water to flow back into the river and spoil the Egyptian’s most important source of hydration.

According to Greek historians Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, after Sesostris, work on the canal was continued by Necho II in the late 6th century BC, but he did not live to see the canal completed. Later, Darius the Great picked up from where Necho II left, but like Sesostris, he too stopped short of the Red Sea when he was informed that the Red Sea was at a higher level and would submerge the land if an opening was made. It was finally Ptolemy II who finished the canal connecting Nile with the Red Sea. According to Strabo the canal was nearly 50 meters wide and of sufficient depth to float large ships. It began at the village of Phacusa and traversed the Bitter Lakes, emptying into the Gulf or Arabia near the the city of Cleopatris.

Route of the modern Suez Canal. Image: NCERT

However, according to Herodotus, the canal was completed by Darius and that it was wide enough for two triremes to pass each other with oars extended. By Darius's time a natural waterway passage possibly existed between Bitter Lakes and the Red Sea, but it had become blocked with silt. Darius, employing a vast army of slaves, cleared it out so as to allow navigation once again. Darius was so pleased with the results and with himself that he left several inscriptions on pink granite boasting of this accomplishment. One of these inscription discovered in the mid-19th century read: 

King Darius says: I am a Persian setting out from Persia I conquered Egypt. I ordered to dig this canal from the river that is called Nile and flows in Egypt, to the sea that begins in Persia. Therefore, when this canal had been dug as I had ordered, ships went from Egypt through this canal to Persia, as I had intended.

In the late 19th century, another stela called the ‘Stone of Pithom’ provides evidence that Ptolemy constructed a navigable lock, with sluices, at the Heroopolite Gulf of the Red Sea, which allowed the passage of vessels but prevented salt water from the Red Sea from mingling with the fresh water in the canal. There is evidence that in ancient times the Red Sea and its Gulf of Suez extended as far northward as the Bitter Lakes of Egypt. The Red Sea has gradually receded away over the centuries, with its coastline slowly moving southward away from Lake Timsah and the Great Bitter Lake, so that two hundred years later, the eastern end of the canal that opened in the Red Sea became chocked with silt.

The canal existed in one form or the other up to the 8th century, until it was closed shut by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur in 767 to prevent his enemies and rebels from using the canal to ship men and supplies from Egypt to his detractors in Arabia. Lack of maintenance caused the canal to slit up and it disappeared into the desert and from people’s memory as well.

The Suez Canal in 1869. Engraving from "Appleton's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art", Wikimedia Commons

The canal was rediscovered by Napoleon in 1798 during the French campaign in Egypt and Syria. Napoleon had its motives to search for the canal, because if the canal could be reconstructed it would allow France to monopolize trade with India. With this design Napoleon instructed his chief civil engineer, Jacques-Marie Le Pére, to make a topographical survey of the Isthmus of Suez while looking for vestiges of the ancient canal. Le Pére and his fellow engineers were able to follow and eventually trace the “Canal of the Pharaohs” from the Red Sea all the way to the Nile. Later, when Napoleon became the Emperor, he asked his chief engineer to find a way to reopen the canal, but Le Père, like his predecessors two thousand years ago, erroneously reported to Napoleon that the Red Sea was higher than the Mediterranean, and locks would be needed to prevent a catastrophic mingling of waters.

Construction of the Suez Canal wouldn't begin until fifty years later in 1859. Excavation was conducted using forced labor, just like under the pharaohs. Some sources estimated that tens of thousands of laborers died from diseases such as cholera and other epidemics, although a conservative estimate puts death at fewer than 3,000. The canal has no locks, for the sea level is the same. Its route, unlike the “Canal of the Pharaohs” goes through the isthmus passing through the Great Bitter Lakes northward until it opens in the Mediterranean near the port city of Suez.

Despite blockage crisis, Suez Canal achieves record revenues

CAIRO — The Suez Canal recorded the highest monthly revenue in its history in April, more than half a billion dollars, despite the blockage of navigation in late March caused by a giant Panama-flagged vessel.

Navigation in the Suez Canal was blocked at the end of March when the Ever Given cargo ship ran aground on a narrow passageway of the international canal. It took six days for salvage crews to free the ship, after which navigation resumed in the canal.

In a report presented at a Cabinet meeting June 3 on the performance of the Egyptian economy, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala al-Saeed said the Suez Canal had made an unprecedented achievement in recording its highest monthly revenue in April — $553.6 million, compared with $476 million in April 2020. This was an increase of 16%, despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the ship blockage crisis in late March. She said this increase was due to the introduction of multiple alternatives to cater to the international shipping institutions, ship owners and operators, with flexible price packages for canal transit fees.

The Suez Canal is a 193-kilometer (120-mile) waterway linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. It is the fastest and safest sea passage in the global trade movement between East and West, and one of the main sources of Egyptian national income.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a press statement May 24 that April canal revenues were not driven down by the crisis of the stranded Ever Given.

Wael Kaddour, a former member of the board of directors of the canal authority, told Al-Monitor over the phone that the ship was stranded and disrupted navigation for six days, causing a traffic jam with more than 400 ships waiting to pass through the waterway. He said that as soon as the ship was floated, the other ships crossed the canal, and the fees they paid helped boost revenues to the unprecedented amount.

Kaddour, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the canal authority's management of negotiations with the Ever Given over compensation Egypt demanded more than $900 million before the amount was reduced. He said this mismanagement will have future negative repercussions on the canal and must be remedied.

The canal authority has been negotiating with the owner of the Ever Given, demanding it pay financial compensation for expenses and losses incurred by the canal after the ship blocked the waterway. On May 30, the Ismailia Economic Court postponed examination of the case to June 20 to make way for further negotiations amid the dispute over the amount to be paid. The canal authority reduced the requested compensation from $916 million to $550 million the ship owner has offered to pay $150 million.

Kaddour said the Suez Canal has the right to compensation for the damages it suffered as a result of the ship's grounding, but without exaggeration of the losses.

He expected the annual revenue of the canal for the fiscal year 2020-21, which ends in June, to reach $5.8 billion.

Ahmed el-Shamy, an adviser to the Ministry for Maritime Transport Affairs, said that despite the global economy’s decline of up to 4.4% and the fall in global trade by 10% in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Suez Canal is still achieving record numbers and high revenues. This is a very important and positive matter for the national economy, he said.

Shamy told Al-Monitor over the phone that the canal authority's achievement of the historic revenue in April indicates that the Suez Canal is still the safest, fastest and most attractive maritime passage in the world and a major hub for global trade movement. He expected revenue for the current fiscal year to reach $6.2 billion — a little more than what Kaddour expects.

Shamy said the increase in the revenues of the Suez Canal is not a coincidence but rather the result of great efforts from the Egyptian state and the canal authority, which developed a good marketing policy and provided incentives and reductions in ship passage fees. This contributed to an increase in the number of ships going through the canal, which was reflected in an increase in revenues. For example, 1,814 ships transited teh canal in April, up from 1,731 ships during the same month in 2020.

He said improvements are regularly made to the canal, with the latest plan calling for widening and deepening the southern part of the canal where the blockage occurred. He said Egypt has huge locomotives and dredgers in preparation for any future crisis besetting the canal. The ports surrounding the canal are also developed constantly to remain attractive for investment, he added.

Rashad Abdo, director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Strategic Studies, said he does not believe the Ever Given crisis is having any impact on canal revenues. April's revenue numbers are a positive harbinger for the national economy, he told Al-Monitor.

Abdo added that the global vaccination campaigns against the coronavirus contributed to the replenishment of the global trade movement and the rise in oil prices. As a result, the revenues of the Suez Canal have increased, as have the ships passing through it, he said.

Abdo called for the development of a flexible marketing policy, and a good study of the global market, to maintain the increase in the Suez Canal revenues.

Egypt’s Suez Canal: A history of the key route

Here is a look back at stages in the enlargement of the key waterway for international maritime trade.

Egypt’s Suez Canal, where frantic efforts were being made on Wednesday to free a giant container ship, opened 150 years ago.

Since then, it has been regularly expanded and modernised and today is capable of accommodating some of the world’s largest supertankers.

Here is a look back at key stages in the enlargement of the waterway, which handles roughly 10 percent of international maritime trade.


When the sea-level canal was first opened in 1869, it was 164km (102 miles) long and eight metres (26 feet) deep.

It could accommodate ships weighing up to 5,000 tonnes with a draft (measurement of the submerged part of the ship) of up to 6.7 metres (22 feet), which was the bulk of the world’s fleet at the time, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

In 1887, the canal was modernised to allow navigation at night, which doubled its capacity.

Growth in the 1950s

It was not until the 1950s that the waterway was substantially expanded, deepened and lengthened, following demands from shipping companies.

By the time it was nationalised by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956, it was 175km (109 miles) long and 14 metres (46 feet) deep, and could take tankers with a capacity of 30,000 tonnes and a draft of up to 10.7 metres (35 feet).

21st century

A major expansion in 2015 took the length of the waterway to 193.30km (120 miles) and its depth to 24 metres (79 feet).

It meant that the canal could handle supertankers with a capacity of 240,000 tonnes, some of the biggest in the world, with a draft of up to 20.1 metres (66 feet) deep in the water.

In 2019, approximately 50 ships used the canal daily, compared with three in 1869.

Traffic is expected to almost double by 2023, with two-way circulation also reducing waiting times, the authority says.

Fastest route

The majority of oil transported by sea passes through the Suez Canal, which is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean via the Mediterranean and Red Seas, but it demands hefty passage tolls.

The journey between ports in the Gulf and London, for example, is roughly halved by going through Suez – compared with the alternate route around the southern tip of Africa.

Most of the cargo travelling from the Gulf to Western Europe is oil. Manufactured goods and grain also pass through the canal often between Europe and North America and the Far East and Asia.

The first time was in 1956 after a British-French-Israeli invasion.

Egypt wanted to nationalize the canal in an effort to go against European colonial domination. President Nasser said he was angered by "the imperialists who have mortgaged our future." Britain and France, on the other hand, were suspicious of Egypt's growing political influence.

In an attempt at a solution, the United States proposed the creation of an international consortium that would leave operating powers in the hands of 18 maritime nations, the history page says. All parties declined to support this idea.

Britain and France collaborated with Israel in secret military consultations to take control of the canal from Egypt by force. Israeli forces then attacked an Egyptian peninsula and advanced 10 miles toward the Suez Canal, and British and French troops eventually arrived at the scene as well.

Suez Canal makes record revenues in 2018/2019 fiscal year

A cargo ship passes through the New Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt, January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The head of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) Mohab Mamish announced on Tuesday that revenues of the Suez Canal in the fiscal year 2018/ 2019 reached LE104.2 billion.

During a press conference on Tuesday celebrating the fourth anniversary for the New Suez Canal’s inauguration, Mamish said that this figure for revenues is the highest in the Suez Canal’s history.

“Today we are not just celebrating the four-year anniversary of the opening, but rather the success of the new Suez Canal project. The best evidence for its success is the growing revenues of the canal and the number of transiting ships,” he added.

“On Friday, 81 ships crossed the Suez Canal, the largest number of transit ships in the history of the canal,” he said.

Mamish said that the Suez Canal has achieved record numbers in tonnages and numbers of ships passing through the waterway, adding that the Suez Canal revenues go to the state treasury and thereby benefit the Egyptian people.

The Suez Canal is the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia, and serves one of the Egyptian government’s main sources of foreign currency.

Mamish previously announced on July 27 that the SCZone’s budget has earned its highest revenues for the second consecutive year on June 30, 2019.

In a statement, Mamish said that the revenues of SCZone for the fiscal year 2018/2019 amounted to LE3.69 billion with a net profit of LE2.198 billion, an increase of LE568 million over the previous year at roughly 35 percent.

Egypt opens new Suez Canal

Egypt staged a show of international support on Thursday as it inaugurated a major extension of the Suez Canal which President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi hopes will power an economic turnaround in the Arab world’s most populous country.

The former armed forces chief, who led a military takeover two years ago but ran for president as a civilian last year, told a ceremony attended by leaders of France, Russia, Arab and African states that Egypt would defeat terrorism.

The $8-billion New Suez Canal project was completed in just one year instead of three on Al Sissi’s orders.

“Work did not take place in normal circumstances, and these circumstances still exist and we are fighting them and we will defeat them,” Al Sissi said after signing an order allowing ships to cross the new stretch of waterway.

“Egypt during this year stood against the most dangerous terrorist threat that would burn the world if it could.”

The spectacular inauguration was also intended to bolster his international standing in the presence of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, French President Francois Hollande, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, King Abdullah of Jordan, the emir of Kuwait and the king of Bahrain.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo on Aug. 2 for a strategic dialogue with Egypt, but no top-level representative of the Obama administration attended the ceremony.

In the presence of @HHShkMohd, Egyptian President El Sisi officially announces the opening of the New Suez Canal— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) August 6, 2015

Pics: @HHShkMohd attending inauguration ceremony and launch of the new Suez Canal in Egypt— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) August 6, 2015

President Al Sissi arrives at Suez Canal opening ceremony on the iconic ship Al Mahroosah. #مصر_بتفرح— Mohammed Almezel (@Almezel) August 6, 2015

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi stands in boat on the Suez Canal as he attends the celebration of an extension of the Suez Canal. Reuters

UAE congratulates Egypt

The UAE delegation accompanying Shaikh Mohammad includes Lt. General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, Minister of State, and other senior officials.

In a number of tweets, Shaikh Mohammad congratulated the people of Egypt, saying: "I was honoured to join the people of Egypt in their historic celebrations in opening the new Suez Canal. Today, Egypt welcomed the world and the world rejoiced with Egypt."

He added: "Just as Egypt had opened to the world via its first Suez Canal new and vast commercial and trade horizons, today, through its second canal, it has opened to its people and the region a new hope and a promising future."

In another tweet, the Dubai ruler said: "The accomplishment of the Suez Canal in this very quick pace proves to the world that the Egyptian people do not know the impossible and they do not recognise despair. Congratulations to the Egyptian people."

تشرفت بمشاركة الشعب المصري أفراحه التاريخية بافتتاح قناة السويس الثانية..مصر استقبلت العالم اليوم وفرح معها العالم— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) August 6, 2015

سيدي الشيخ محمد بن راشد فوق قناة السويس بإتجاه المشاركه في حفل إفتتاح القناة.— سيف بن زايد آل نهيان (@SaifBZayed) August 6, 2015

Pic: @HHShkMohd attending the opening of the New Suez Canal— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) August 6, 2015

Dr. Al Jaber, who is also the head of the UAE-Egypt Liaison Office, congratulated Egypt’s government and people on the completion of the new Suez Canal.

“We would like to congratulate the leadership, government and people of Egypt for this monumental achievement that has brought into fruition the strategic vision of President of Egypt, Abdul Fattah Al Sissi. His unwavering insistence that this project is finalisd in one year, truly reflects the resilience of the Egyptian people,” he said in a statement.

Public holiday

The Suez Canal Authority expects a windfall of additional revenue -- $13.23 billion in annual revenue by 2023 from just over $5 billion in 2014, with the number of daily vessels rising from 49 to 97 over the same period.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon praised the project as a "modern wonder".

Thursday was declared a public holiday. Cairo and other cities were decked out in bunting, with fairy lights hung from the Nile river bridges and banners proclaiming "From the mother of the world (Egypt) to the whole world".

Tents for the festivities in Esmailia were erected on the east bank of the Canal. A giant statue of a toiling canal worker with shovel in hand looks over the waterway.

A towering statue of the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic goddess Isis with wings splayed looks out over the new channel, behind it fly the flags of the world.

Nationalist songs by military brass blared.

Newly delivered French Rafale fighters and US F-16 warplanes staged a flypast, while helicopters flew overhead and naval vessels escorted the yacht in the televised ceremony.

The government believes the New Suez Canal and an industrial zone to be developed around it will seal Egypt's deliverance from economic distress.

The project involved extending a waterway parallel to part of the 19th century canal connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, as well as deepening and widening the old channel -- the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Earlier Al Sissi, in full military regalia, sailed up the canal, flanked by a young boy in military fatigues waving the Egyptian flag, aboard the yacht Al Mahrousa, the first ship to pass through the Suez Canal when it was opened in November 1869.

The yacht was an ambivalent symbol, since King Farouk, the last monarch to rule Egypt, sailed into exile in Italy aboard it after being ousted by the military in 1952.

The new canal project involved extending a waterway parallel to part of the 19th century canal connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, as well as deepening and widening the old channel - the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Egyptian military planes perform during a ceremony on August 6, 2015 to unveil the new Suez Canal, in the port city of Ismailiya. (AFP)

The project has been billed as a national accomplishment on par with President Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalisation of the original Suez Canal in 1956 and building of the Aswan Dam. State television broadcast shots of the new canal to the theme of the popular television series Game of Thrones.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square a crowd of about 300 gathered in the square honking horns with the colour of the Egyptian flag.

“This isn't just for me, it's for my children and grandchildren. This is for the whole world," said 50-year-old Gamal Amin.

Egypt kicks off ceremony inaugurating Suez canal extension

Egypt unveiled a major extension of the Suez Canal that President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has billed as an historic achievement needed to boost the country's ailing economy after years of unrest.

Egyptians wave the national flag in front of a military vehicle to celebrate the Suez Canal opening in Tahrir square, Cairo. AP

Al Sissi, wearing his ceremonious military uniform and trademark dark sunglasses, flew to the site aboard a military helicopter and immediately boarded a monarchy-era yacht that sailed to the venue of the ceremony.

The yacht was flanked by navy warships as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft flew over. Al Sissi, standing on the vessel’s upper deck, waved to well-wishers and folklore dance troupes performing on shore.

For Egypt rulers past and present, Suez a symbol of glory

An insecure Egyptian ruler, bullied as a child for his weight, was persuaded that a canal connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea would bring him glory - a monument rivalling those of his more illustrious predecessors.

Saeed Pasha, ruler of Egypt and Sudan from 1854 to 1863, never saw the completion of the canal, which opened six years after his death. He is remembered as the man who sold the rights to the waterway to the then-imperialist powers France and Britain.

Stay tuned for our Live Coverage of @HHShkMohd's participation in the opening of the New Suez Canal in Egypt— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) August 6, 2015

A canal from the Nile river to the Red Sea existed in the times of ancient Egypt, but was lost over the ages. The idea was revived by French Consul Ferdinand de Lesseps, who persuaded Said Pasha to grant him a concession for building a waterway.

Obese child

Saeed Pasha was an obese child to the severe dismay of his demanding father, the great Mohammad Ali Pasha, who subjected the boy to arduous exercises. He was befriended by de Lesseps and the consul reportedly sealed the bond with surreptitious plates of spaghetti, according to University of California-LA historian Afaf Lutfi Al Sayyid Marsot.

“Though Saeed did become famous it was more for his gullibility in signing an unfavourable concession” that saddled the country, then nominally under Ottoman control, with foreign debt, Marsot has written. The canal, completed by de Lesseps’s Suez Canal Company, opened on November 17, 1869. Thousands of Egyptian workers died digging it.

In 1882, partly worried that the nationalist rebel leader Colonel Ahmad Urabi would seize power, defaulting on the country’s debt and taking over the canal, Britain invaded. The British eventually withdrew from Egypt, leaving behind a pliant monarchy, but they continued to control the Suez Canal Company along with France, something that rankled another Egyptian colonel, Jamal Abdul Nasser.

Charismatic Nasser

Nasser was one of the leaders of a popular military coup that toppled the monarchy in 1952, and swiftly became president of the new republic. Like every great Egyptian leader, or at least every Egyptian leader who aspired to greatness, he forthwith decided on a monumental project, the Aswan Dam. But the pan-Arabist firebrand could get no foreign funding on his own terms. He increasingly rattled Britain, France and the Israeli regime with his support for Algerian rebels and his bellicosity towards the Israelis.

Suez canal revenues were meanwhile filling other countries’ coffers.

On July 26, 1956, the charismatic Nasser gave an address to the nation, railing against the United States, Britain and France and what he denounced as a plot to keep his country subjugated. Nasser recounted a meeting with the head of the World Bank, Eugene Black, to secure funding for the dam. “I started looking at Mr Black, as he sat before me on a chair, and I imagined that I was sitting in front of Ferdinand de Lesseps,” Nasser said. The name of the French consul was a codeword to troops to seize the canal.

British premier Anthony Eden and French counterpart Guy Mollet were predictably enraged and began contemplating military intervention. Together with Israeli prime minister David Ben Gurion, Eden and Mollet gathered in a villa outside Paris and hatched a plan. Israel would invade Egypt, and France and Britain would drop troops in a show of intervening, conveniently seizing the Suez Canal in the process. The eeting was detailed in a study by Oxford University historian Avi Shlaim.

The operation began in October 1956, and went smoothly enough for the invaders until the United States, in part seeking to avoid a confrontation with the pro-Nasser Soviet Union, led global efforts that forced France, Britain and Israel to withdraw.

President to unveil 'new Suez Canal'

President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi on Thursday inaugurates a "new" Suez Canal in a lavish and heavily secured ceremony, as Egypt seeks to boost its economy and international standing.

The event in the port city of Ismailiya is due to be attended by several heads of state.

Pictures: Ships cross Egypt’s New Suez Canal in first test-run

Al Sisi broke ground on the canal project last August after being elected president after he promised to strengthen security and revive a dilapidated economy.

Initial estimates suggested the new route would take up to three years to build, but Al Sisi set an ambitious target of 12 months to finish the project.

It has been touted as a landmark achievement, rivalling the digging of the original 192-kilometre canal, which opened in 1869 after almost a decade of work.

The new section, built at a cost of $9 billion and funded entirely by Egyptian investors, runs part of the way alongside the existing canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

History: A look at Egypt's Suez Canal over the years

"It's an achievement for the people who managed to fund it as a national project and accomplished it through perseverance and hard work," Al Sisi's office has said.

It involved 37 kilometres of dry digging, creating what is effectively a "second lane", and widening and deepening another 35 kilometres of the existing canal.

It will cut the waiting period for vessels from 18 hours to 11.

By 2023 the number of ships using the canal will increase to 97 per day from 49 now, the government hopes.

Facts about Egypt's 'new Suez canal'

The canal, opened in 1869 after almost a decade of work, has been a main revenue earner for Egypt and a 20th century symbol of independence.

The pan-Arabist president Jamal Abdul Nasser nationalised the canal in 1956, which was until then run by the British- and French-owned Suez Canal Company, sparking the Suez crisis in which Britain, France and Israel invaded parts of Egypt.

The waterway has continued to play a key role in global commerce and is an important route for oil traffic.

In 2013, 4.6 per cent of global oil and petroleum products passed through the Suez Canal or the SUMED pipeline that provides an alternative route from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, according to the US Energy Information Agency.

In 2007, traffic through the canal amounted to 7.5 per cent of global maritime trade, according to the World Shipping Council.

The 72-kilometre long expansion is projected to cut the waiting period for ships from 18 hours to 11 hours and allow two-way passage.

It was built in less than a year for about $9 billion, mostly financed by investment certificates sold to Egyptians.

The project consists of 37 kilometres of new, parallel waterway and 35 kilometres of deepening and widening of the existing canal.

A maximum 49 ships a day can pass through the canal at present. The Suez Canal Authority says the expansion could almost double the number by 2023.

The government hopes the project will more than double revenues from Suez Canal tolls, a key income generator for Egypt, from the $5.3 billion projected for 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2023.

Experts say it is not yet clear, however, what impact the improvements to the 192 kilometre waterway will have on world trade.

Egyptians celebrate into the early morning hours at Tahrir Square the opening of the new Suez Canal. #مصر_بتفرح— Mohammed Almezel (@Almezel) August 6, 2015

UAE projects benefit 8m Egyptians

The UAE government on Tuesday handed over hundreds of successfully completed projects undertaken by the UAE in Egypt.

The projects in critical sectors-- such as health, education, transport and infrastructure -- are part of a massive UAE development assistance programme pledged a year ago.

A new canal and a new era for Egypt

Egypt’s official and private TV stations are featuring countdown clocks for the inauguration of a new waterway built alongside the historic Suez Canal, with the comment: “Egypt’s gift to the world”.


The Suez Canal Corridor Developing Project dates back to the 1970s when Hassaballah El Kafrawy (former Minister of Housing) proposed the project to President Anwar al Sadat, but due to various problems, the project failed to start. He proposed the project again to Hosni Mubarak in the 1990s, but to no avail. Engineer Hassaballah El Kafrawy sought to turn the canal corridor into an important international logistics region rather than just a passageway for ships.

In 2008, the former Minister of Transportation Mohamed Mansour again proposed the project. However, the Egyptian government again did not take any serious steps to initiate the project.

In 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood introduced a development project for the Suez Canal region during the presidential elections. In 2013, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil began studying the project and announced that the government would begin planning for the project.

New Suez Canal Edit

The New Suez Canal (Egyptian Arabic: قناة السويس الجديدة ‎ Kanāt El Sewēs El Gedīda) is an artificial waterway project in Egypt which created a second shipping lane along part of the Suez Canal, and deepened and widened other stretches. The project was inaugurated by the Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish in the presence of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on 5 August 2014. [3] The new canal was opened one year later in a ceremony attended by several international dignitaries including the then French President François Hollande.

The New Suez Canal is expected to expand trade along the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The new canal allows ships to sail to both directions at the same time. This decreases transit time from 18 to 11 hours for most ships. The expansion is expected to double the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. [3]

The New Suez Canal is 72 km (45 mi) long, including 35 km (22 mi) of dry digging, and 37 km (23 mi) of "expansion and deep digging" to provide a second shipping lane in the existing 164-kilometre-long (102 mi) canal, allowing for separated passing of ships in opposite directions. It also includes the deepening and expansion of a 37-kilometre-long (23 mi) section of the existing canal. [4] [5] The construction, which was scheduled to take three years, was instead ordered by the President to be completed in a year. The chairman of the Suez Canal Authority announced that the revenues from the Suez Canal (after the completion of the New Suez Canal) will jump from 5 billion dollars to 12.5 billion dollars annually. The Egyptian government said that these revenues will be used to transform the cities along the Canal (Ismaïlia, Suez, and Port Said) into international trading centers. The government has also said that many new projects in the Suez province are being studied as a result of enlarging the Suez Canal capacity, such as building a new industrial zone, fish farms, and the completion of the valley of technology (wadi al thechnologia).

The project cost around 30 billion Egyptian pounds (approximately 4.2 billion dollars) and no foreign investors were allowed to invest in the project, but rather Egyptians were urged to participate in funding the project through bank certificates of deposit initially yielding 12%, later raised to 15.5%. [6] The Egyptian Armed Forces participated in the project by helping in digging and designing the canal. [7]

The enlarged capacity allows ships to sail in both directions at the same time over much of the canal's length. Beforehand, much of the canal was only one shipping lane wide, with limited wider basins for passing. This is expected to decrease waiting time from 11 hours to 3 hours for most ships, [4] [8] and to increase the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. [ needs update ]

Progress Edit

Technical difficulties initially arose, such as the flooding of the new canal through seepage from the existing canal. [9] Nevertheless, work on the New Suez Canal was completed in July 2015. [10] [11] The channel was officially inaugurated with a ceremony attended by foreign leaders and featuring military flypasts on 6 August 2015, in accordance with the budgets laid out for the project. [12] [13]

Benefits, costs, and risks Edit

Egyptian officials especially the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Vice-Admiral Mohab Mamish stated that the $8.2 billion project, which expands capacity to 97 ships per day, will more than double annual revenues to some $13.5 billion by 2023. That, however, would require yearly growth of 10%. A recent forecast from the IMF suggests that in the decade up to 2016 the annual rate of growth for global merchandise trade will have averaged 3.4%. [14]

About 18 scientists writing in the academic journal Biological Invasions in 2014 expressed concern about the project impacting the biodiversity and the ecosystem services of the Mediterranean Sea. They called on Egypt to assess the environmental effects that the canal expansion could cause, a request echoed by the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. [15] Over 1,000 invasive species have entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal since its original construction in the mid-19th century, [16] with human activities becoming a leading cause of the decline of the sea's biodiversity, according to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre. [17]

Initially, the project was to be financed through a stock market IPO, allowing partial private ownership of the project. However, the government quickly changed its financing strategy, relying on interest-bearing investment certificates that do not confer any ownership rights to investors. [18] The certificates were issued by the Suez Canal Authority with an interest rate of 12%. [ citation needed ]

Revenues Edit

The government blocked access to the official revenues reports for three months after the opening. It then published two reports for August and September, which showed consecutive decreases in the total Suez Canal revenues by 10% or $150 million. [19]

Seven new tunnels Edit

In 2014 the chairman of the Suez Canal authority announced that seven new tunnels will be dug to connect the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptian homeland. Three tunnels will be dug in Port Said (two for cars and one for railways) and four will be dug in Ismaïlia (two for cars, one for railways, and one for other special uses).

The tunnels will cost 4.2 billion dollars (approximately about 30 billion Egyptian pounds). The first three tunnels will cost 18 billion Egyptian pounds and Arab Contractors and Orascom are the builders for this project. [20] [21]

Floating bridge Edit

The Al-Nasr floating bridge to enable easy travel between Port Said and Port Fouad was built successfully and inaugurated in late 2016. The bridge extends from opposite banks, with the help of tugboats that push both parts until they connect to form a bridge that can be traversed by cars. It is 420 metres (1,380 ft) long. [22] [23] This was an important step towards the efficient movement of equipment and manpower. [24]

Technology Valley Edit

The technology valley is an old project that has stopped for about 17 years and now [ when? ] the government announced to re-continue the project. The project's location lies on the eastern part of Ismaïlia city and consists of four stages: the first stage covers 3,021 acres (1,223 ha), the second stage covers 4,082 acres (1,652 ha), the third stage covers 4,837 acres (1,957 ha), and the fourth stage covers 4,160 acres (1,680 ha). However, when the project started it completed only 108 acres and then stopped for seventeen years.

The technology valley will be the first step in starting Egypt's electronics industry for manufacturing technological devices.

Industrial Zone Edit

This project will cover 910 acres of land north west of the Gulf of Suez. The first stage of the project covers 132 acres and it is done with a cost of 20 million Egyptian pounds. The second stage is 132 acres and it is not yet done. Currently there are 23 factories operating and 56 still under construction. upon finishing the project it will provide 9386 work opportunities.

The chairman of the Suez Canal authority also said that shipyards and services will be built along the Suez Canal corridor which includes: catering and services center for ships, ship manufacturing and repair center, a center for manufacturing and repairing containers, and logistic redistribution centers. [25]

New Ismailia City Edit

This project will create "New Ismailia City", which will cover 16,500 acres of land. This new city will be created to accommodate approximately 500,000 Egyptians in order to relieve the pressure from the crowded towns of Cairo and the delta cities. The location of this city is designed to accommodate the workers of the nearby Wadi Al-technologiya (Technology Valley) which will be built in the following years.

Fish Farming Edit

The National Project for Fish Farming, new fish farms were built on the eastern side of the Suez Canal. The project includes twenty three tanks that cover 120 square km with depth of 3-5m. It covers the area from southern Tafrea to the gulf of Suez. This project is designed to produce high quality fish for food. [26] [27]

Russian Industrial Zone Edit

During a state visit to Russia in 2014, President Sisi said that he had agreed with his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin to establish a Russian industrial zone in the new project. [28] In May 2018, Egypt and Russia signed a 50-year agreement to construct the new industrial zone. [29]

Western Port-said Port Edit

Western Port-said Port lies on the northern entrance of the Suez Canal and is considered one of the most important ports in Egypt because of its location on the entrance of the Suez Canal.

The port covers an area of 2.9 square km (the land area is 1.2 square km and the remaining 1.7 square km is water area). The port contains 37 docks which includes docks for passengers, yachts, and general goods. The port is divided into stations and each station contains a number of docks with its own working area (that includes repairing centers, equipment center, and stores). The maximum capacity of the port is 12 million tons yearly.

East Port-said Port Edit

Eastern Port-said Port lies on the north western entrance of the Suez Canal branch which is a unique location because it connects 3 continents. The design of the port is geometrically ideal. The port was built in 2004 to serve international trading and act as a transit center between the continents.

The port borders the Mediterranean Sea from the north, the industrial zone from the south, the salty lakes from the east, and the Suez Canal branch from the west. The port covers an area of 35 square km.

The port authority plans to build docks that will reach 12 km long and an industrial zone south of the port covering 78 square km. Three stages are still remaining to fully complete and improve the port:

  • Stage one is creating 8 stations with docks 8 km long
  • Stage two is creating 15 station with docks 16 km long
  • Stage three is creating 21 stations with docks 25 km long

El-Sokhna Port Edit

El-Sokhna Port lies on the southern entrance of the Suez Canal.

The port's total size is 24,919,337.85 square m:

  • 3,400,000 square m is the water area
  • 21,519,337 square m is the land area
  • 1,000,000 square m is the Customs center
  • The largest dock's size is 7 km long and 5.5 km wide

In 2008, an Emirati company bought the port and announced the plan to build a new 1.3 km dock to work with more than 1 million containers yearly. It also said that a general goods center will be built. [ citation needed ]

The port serves the oil and gas fields in the region. It exports products from the petrochemicals and refining factories in Ein al Sokhna region. It also exports the products of a ceramic factory, ammonia factory, and a sugar factory.

Arish Port Edit

Arish Port lies on the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Arish city. in 1996 the port was transformed from a fishing port to a trading ships port.

The port contains a dock which is 242m long that can serve huge ships. There is another dock which is 122m long that serves smaller ships. The port also includes covered storage areas which cover 2 square km and non-covered storage areas which cover more than 2.7 square kilometres (1.0 sq mi). On 5 June 2014 the port was no longer controlled by the Port Said port authority, the Ministry of Defence took control of it due to its sensitive location. The port contains a lighthouse that can be seen from up to 18 miles (29 km). The main importance of the port is that it exports Sinai products to the Mediterranean countries.

  • Build a 2 km dock which will include containers station and a general goods station
  • Build new storage areas
  • Build a dock for yachts
  • Build new logistic centers

El-Adabiya Port Edit

El-Adabiya Port lies on the western side of the Suez Canal, about 17 km from Suez city. The Red Sea Ports Authority in Egypt controls the port.

El-Adabiya Port consists of 9 docks which reach 1840m long and 42–27 feet (12.8–8.2 m) deep. the water area is about 158 square km (which is also shared with the Suez Canal port and Petroleum Dock port) and the land area is 0.8 square km. The maximum carrying capacity of the port reaches 6.7 million tons yearly.

In 2014, the Suez Canal Corridor Project Authority announced that El-Adabiya Port will be improved after the completion of the new Suez Canal to serve more ships. [ citation needed ]

Egypt opens the Suez Canal - HISTORY

UEZ (suweis), the port of Egypt on the Red Sea and southern terminus of the Suez Canal (see below), situated at the head of the Gulf of Suez in 29° 58' 37" N. lat. and 32° 31' 18". E. long. The new harbors and quays are about 2 miles south of the town, with which they are connected by an embankment and railway, crossing a shallow which is dry at low water: the terminal lock of the fresh water canal is on the north of the town near the English hospital and the storehouses of the Peninsular and Oriental Company.

The site is naturally an absolute desert, and till the water of the Nile was introduced by the freshwater canal in 1863 the water-supply of Suez was brought across the head of the gulf from the “wells of Moses” on the Arabian coast, or else carried on camels, an hour’s journey, from the fortified brackish well of Bir Suweis. Thus, in spite of its favorable position for commerce, Suez before the canal was but a small place. While the canal was in progress the population rose from 5000 to 15,000, but has since declined. The canal, in fact, carries traffic past Suez rather than to it and with its mean bazaar and mosques and mongrel population the town makes an unfavorable impression on the visitor, save for the imposing view over the gulf, with the Sinai Mountains on its eastern and Mount Ataka on its western shore.

A canal from the Nile to the Red Sea, the indispensable condition for the existence of a prosperous trading station at Suez, appears to have existed in very early times. Classical writers say that it was first planned by Sesostris (Raineses II), and again undertaken by Darius I., but first completed by the Ptolemies (Arist., Meteor ., i. 14 Strabo, xiv. 25). The town at its terminus was Arsinoe or Cleopatris. The work was renewed by Trajan under the name Augustus amnis, but the trade from the East with Egypt still went mainly overland from Myus Hormus or from Berenice on the Red Sea, below the Gulf of Suez, to Coptus in Upper Egypt. Instead of Arsinoe later writers name the port of Clysma, which the Arabs corrupted into Kolzum, calling the Red Sea the Sea of Kolzum.

On the Moslem conquest of Egypt the canal was restored, and is said to have remained open more than a century, till the time of Mansur. According to Mas'tidi ( Morúj , iv. 98), Harun al-Rashid projected a canal across the isthmus of Suez, but was persuaded that it would be dangerous to lay open the coasts of Arabia to the Greek navy. Kolzum retained some trade long after the closing of the canal, but in the 13th century it lay in ruins, and the neighboring Suez, which had taken its place, was, as Yákút tells us, little better than a ruin. From Mokaddasi, p. 196, it maybe inferred that the name of Suez originally denoted Bir Suweis. Throughout the Middle Ages, as in Roman times, the main route from Giiro to the Red Sea was up the Nile to Kús, and then through the desert to Aidháb.

With the Ottoman conquest Suez became more important as a naval and trading station. Ships were built there from the 16th century onwards, and in the 18th century an annual fleet of nearly twenty vessels (Niebuhr) sailed from it to Jiddah, the port of correspondence with India. When the French occupied the town in 1798, and Bonaparte was full of his canal project, Suez was much decayed, and the conflicts which followed on its occupation in 1800 by an English fleet laid a great part of the town in ruins. The overland mail route from England to India by way of Suez was opened in 1837. The regular Peninsular and Oriental steamer service began a few years later, and in 1857 a railway was opened from Cairo through the desert. This line is now abandoned in favor of the railway which follows the canal from Suez to Ismailia, and then ascends the Wády Tumeilát to Zakázåik, whence branches diverge to Cairo and Alexandria. [22.652-53].


“Egypt.” The Encylopædia Britanica or Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. Philadelphia: Maxwell Sommervile: 1881. 25 vols. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaigne Library. Web. 13 August 2020.