The Suez Canal - 100 Wonders of the World

This series of blog posts is based on the book 100 Wonders of the World by Michael Hoffman and Alexander Krings.

The Suez Canal is a man-made sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

Opened in November 1869, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigating around Africa. The northern terminus is Port Said and the southern terminus is Port Tawfik at the city of Suez.

The canal is 192 km (119 mi) long. It consists of the northern access channel of 19.5 km/12.1 mi, the canal itself of 162.25 km/100.82 mi and of the southern access channel of 8.5 km/5.3 mi.

It is single-lane and contains no locks; seawater flows freely through the canal. The canal is owned and maintained by Egypt.

Construction by Suez Canal Company

In 1854 and 1856 Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained a concession from Sa'id Pasha, the viceroy of Egypt, to create a company to construct a canal open to ships of all nations. The company was to operate the canal for 99 years from its opening.

The excavation took some 10 years using forced labour of Egyptian workers. Some sources estimate that over 30,000 people were working on the canal at any given period, that altogether more than 1.5 million people from various countries were employed and that thousands of laborers died on the project.

The British government had opposed the project of the canal from the outset to its completion. The British Empire was the major global naval force and officially condemned the forced work and sent armed bedouins to start a revolt among workers.

The canal opened to shipping on 17 November, 1869. The final cost was more than double the original estimate.

The canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade. Combined with the American transcontinental railroad completed six months earlier, it allowed the entire world to be circled in record time.

It played an important role in increasing European colonisation of Africa. External debts forced Said Pasha's successor, Isma'il Pasha, to sell his country's share in the canal for £4,000,000 to the United Kingdom in 1875, but French shareholders still held the majority.

Suezmax is a naval architecture term for the largest ships capable of transiting the Suez Canal fully loaded, and is almost exclusively used in reference to tankers. Improvements are planned to increase draft to 22 m (72 ft) by 2010, allowing passage of fully laden supertankers.

By 1955 approximately two-thirds of Europe's oil passed through the canal. About 7.5% of world sea trade is carried via the canal today. In 2008, a total of 21,415 vessels passed through the canal and the receipts from the canal totaled $5.381 billion - one of Egypt's most important source of capital. Average cost per-ship is roughly $250,000.00

Suez Canal. Wikipedia.
Colonialism and the 'scramble for Africa' -

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