“It is recorded that Egypt was the first country to dig a canal across its land with a view to activate world trade. The Suez Canal is considered to be the shortest link between the east and the west due to its unique geographic location; it is an important international navigation canal linking between the Mediterranean sea at Port said and the red sea at Suez. The idea of linking the Mediterranean sea with the red sea by a canal dates back to 40 centuries as it was pointed out through history starting by the pharaohs era passing by the Islamic era until it was dredged reaching its current condition today. It is considered to be the first artificial canal to be used in Travel and Trade. The Whole Idea of establishing a canal linking between the red sea and the Mediterranean dates back to the oldest times, as Egypt dredged the first artificial canal on the planet’s surface. The pharaohs dredged a canal link in between river Nile and the red sea.” – www.suezcanal.gov.eg
“The Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس Qanāt al-Suways) is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. It was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, after 10 years of construction, it was officially opened on November 17, 1869. The canal offers watercraft a shorter journey between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean and Red seas by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans, in turn reducing the journey by approximately 7,000 kilometres (4,300 miles). It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi), including its northern and southern access channels. In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal (47 per day).
“The canal is a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no locks system, with seawater flowing freely through it. In general, the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. South of the lakes, the current changes with the tide at Suez.
“The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt. Under the Convention of Constantinople, it may be used “in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.
“In August 2014, construction was launched to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass for 35 km (22 mi) to speed the canal’s transit time. The expansion was planned to double the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. At a cost of $8.4 billion, this project was funded with interest-bearing investment certificates issued exclusively to Egyptian entities and individuals. The “New Suez Canal”, as the expansion was dubbed, was opened with great fanfare in a ceremony on 6 August 2015.” – Wikipedia
Before we transited the Panama Canal last year, we read David McCullough’s excellent historical account of the challenges of building the canal across Central America, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914. The “King of France”, as Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps was known after he successfully built the Suez Canal, attempted to repeat his earlier success in Central America and was defeated by the terrain and malaria. McCullough gives a brief history of the Suez Canal construction project and notes that it was (in my terms) “a walk in the park” compared to the challenges of building a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in Central America. We highly recommend his book. The following brief introduction to de Lesseps is from the Suez Canal Authority.
“Then, in 1833, a group of French intellectuals known as the Saint-Simoniens arrived in Cairo and they became very interested in the Suez project despite such problems as the difference in sea levels. Unfortunately, at that time Mohammed Ali had little interest in the project, and in 1835, the Saint-Simoniens were devastated by a plague epidemic. Most of the twenty or so engineers returned to France. They did leave behind several enthusiasts for the canal, including Ferdinand de Lesseps (who was then the French vice-consul in Alexandria) and Linant de Bellefonds
“In Paris, the Saint-Simoniens created an association in 1846 to study the possibility of the Suez Canal once again. In 1847, Bourdaloue confirmed that there was no real difference in the levels between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and it was Linant de Bellefonds that drew up the technical report. Unfortunately, there was considerable British opposition to the project, and Mohammed Ali, who was ill by this time, was less than enthusiastic.
“In 1854 the French diplomat and engineer Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps succeeded in enlisting the interest of the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha in the project. In 1858 La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal) was formed with authority to cut a canal and to operate it for 99 years, after which ownership would return to the Egyptian government. The company was originally a private Egyptian concern, its stock owned chiefly by French and Egyptian interests. In 1875 the British government purchased Egypt’s shares.” – www.suezcanal.gov.eg