Suez Canal – Joining Two Seas for a Shortcut
The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways that people have ever made. The idea to connect the Red and Mediterranean seas appeared in the Ancient World. Egyptian pharaoh Necho II (609-595 BC) tried to do it … and 120 thousand slaves died. Persian king Darius dug the canal from the Red Sea only to the Nile, as witnessed on the stone tablets. Later the canal was filled with sand.
The construction of this artificial 161-kilometer-long sea route also excited the French Emperor Louis XIV, and later Napoleon. The project, as the court advisers proved, promised considerable benefits. Merchant ships from the Indian Ocean could enter the Mediterranean, to the shores of France and further to the Atlantic Ocean. They would not have to go around Africa and the way would be 8-15 thousand km shorter. If the trade route connects the three continents – Asia, Africa and Europe, the one who owns the canal, becomes the richest man, will become the ruler of the world.
But neither Louis XIV nor Napoleon could implement a promising project. Technically, everything turned out to be much more complicated. And yet there was a Frenchman, a diplomat, a lawyer, who was obsessed with the idea – Ferdinand de Lesseps.
To raise funds, Lesseps created the General Company of the Suez Canal, in which he was a chairman. The authors of the technical project were two French engineers and one Italian. In April 1859 in the north, off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a tent city for workers appeared.
Lesseps, despite the difficulties, led the company. The town Port Said, named in honor of the Pasha, was founded and there were 7 thousand inhabitants in the first years of construction. A total of 60,000 Egyptians worked on the construction site every month.
The construction of the Suez Canal was completed in the autumn of 1869. On November 17, it was open for shipping. In honor of this event, ships from the participating countries – France, Prussia, Austria and Russia – arrived in Port Said. On the occasion of the festival, the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was ordered an opera, and he wrote the famous Aida.
In connection with the economic difficulties in 1875 Egypt sold its shares to the British government. In 1880 the canal became an Anglo-French enterprise.
Nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt led to the 1956 Suez War where England, France and Israel were against Egypt. The canal was partially destroyed, part of the ships sunk. In April 1957 the canal was cleared with the help of the UN. As a result of the Six-Day War of 1967, the canal was again closed. After the end of the next Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the canal was cleared with the help of the USSR Navy and opened for navigation on June 5, 1975.
Today, the Suez Canal is the property of Egypt.
On average, 50 ships cross through the Suez Canal each day.