Suez Canal: Wikis


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Suez Canal, as seen from Earth orbit
Original Owner Suez Canal Company (Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez)
Construction Began April 1859
Date Completed November 1869
Locks 0
Status Open
Navigation Authority Suez Canal Authority

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 with Ismailia, on the west bank, 3 km (1.9 mi) north of the half-way point.[1] 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.[2]

It is single-lane with passing places in Ballah By-Pass and in the Great Bitter Lake.[3] It contains no locks; seawater flows freely through the canal. In general, the Canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the lakes changes with the tide at Suez.[4]

The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority[5] (SCA) of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Under international treaty, 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."[6]


History of Suez Canal

Ancient west-east canals have facilitated travel from the Nile to the Red Sea.[7][8][9] One smaller canal is believed to have been constructed under the auspices of either Senusret II[10] or Ramesses II.[7][8][9] Another canal probably incorporating a portion of the first[7][8] was constructed under the reign of Necho II and completed by Darius.[7][8][9]

2nd millennium BC

The legendary Sesostris (likely either Pharaoh Senusret II or Senusret III of the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt[10][11]) is suggested to have perhaps started work on an ancient canal joining the River Nile with the Red Sea (1897 BC–1839 BC). (It is said that in ancient times the Red Sea reached northward to the Bitter Lakes[7][8] and Lake Timsah.[12][13])

In his Meteorology, Aristotle wrote:

One of their kings tried to make a canal to it (for it would have been of no little advantage to them for the whole region to have become navigable; Sesostris is said to have been the first of the ancient kings to try), but he found that the sea was higher than the land. So he first, and Darius afterwards, stopped making the canal, lest the sea should mix with the river water and spoil it.[14]

Strabo also wrote that Sesostris started to build a canal, and Pliny the Elder wrote:

165. Next comes the Tyro tribe and, on the Red Sea, the harbour of the Daneoi, from which Sesostris, king of Egypt, intended to carry a ship-canal to where the Nile flows into what is known as the Delta; this is a distance of over 60 miles. Later the Persian king Darius had the same idea, and yet again Ptolemy II, who made a trench 100 feet wide, 30 feet deep and about 35 miles long, as far as the Bitter Lakes.[15]

French cartographers discovered the remnants of an ancient north-south canal running past the east side of Lake Timsah and ending near the north end of the Great Bitter Lake in the second half of the 19th century.[16] (This ancient, second, canal may have followed a course along the shoreline of the Red Sea when the Red Sea once extended north to Lake Timsah.[13][16]) In the 20th century the northward extension of this ancient canal was discovered, extending from Lake Timsah to the Ballah Lakes,[17] which was subsequently dated to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt by extrapolating the dates of ancient sites erected along its course.[17] However it remains unknown whether or not this is the same as Sesostris' ancient canal and whether it was used as a waterway or as a defence against the east.

The reliefs of the Punt expedition under Hatshepsut 1470 BC depict seagoing vessels carrying the expeditionary force returning from Punt. This has given rise to the suggestion that, at the time, a navigable link existed between the Red Sea and the Nile.[18][19] Evidence seems to indicate its existence by the 13th century BC during the time of Ramesses II.[7][20][21][22]

Canals dug by Necho, Darius I and Ptolemy

Remnants of an ancient west-east canal, running through the ancient Egyptian cities of Bubastis, Pi-Ramesses, and Pithom were discovered by Napoleon Bonaparte and his cadre of engineers and cartographers in 1799.[8][23][24][25][26]

According to the Histories of the Greek historian Herodotus,[27] about 600 BC, Necho II undertook to dig a west-east canal through the Wadi Tumilat between Bubastis and Heroopolis,[8] and perhaps continued it to the Heroopolite Gulf and the Red Sea.[7] Regardless, Necho is reported as having never completed his project.[7][8]

Herodotus was told that 120,000 men perished in this undertaking, but this figure is doubtless exaggerated.[28] According to Pliny the Elder, Necho's extension to the canal was approximately 57 English miles,[8] equal to the total distance between Bubastis and the Great Bitter Lake, allowing for winding through valleys that it had to pass through.[8] The length that Herodotus tells us, of over 1000 stadia (i.e., over 114 miles), must be understood to include the entire distance between the Nile and the Red Sea[8] at that time.

With Necho's death, work was discontinued. Herodotus tells us that the reason the project was abandoned was because of a warning received from an oracle that others would benefit by its successful completion.[8][29] In fact, Necho's war with Nebuchadrezzar II most probably prevented the canal to be continued.

Necho's project was finally completed by Darius I of Persia, who conquered Egypt. We are told that by Darius's time a natural[8] waterway passage which had existed[7] between the Heroopolite Gulf and the Red Sea[30] in the vicinity of the Egyptian town of Shaluf[8] (alt. Chalouf[31] or Shaloof[13]), located just south of the Great Bitter Lake,[8][13] had become so blocked[7] with silt[8] that Darius needed to clear it out so as to allow navigation[8] once again. According to Herodotus, Darius's canal was wide enough that two triremes could pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse. Darius commemorated his achievement with a number of granite stelae that he set up on the Nile bank, including one near Kabret, and a further one a few miles north of Suez. The Darius Inscriptions read:

Saith King Darius: I am a Persian. Setting out from Persia, I conquered Egypt. I ordered this canal dug from the river called the Nile that flows in Egypt, to the sea that begins in Persia. When the canal had been dug as I ordered, ships went from Egypt through this canal to Persia, even as I intended.[32]

The canal left the Nile at Bubastis. An inscription on a pillar at Pithom records that in 270 or 269 BC it was again reopened, by Ptolemy II Philadelphus.[33] In Arsinoe,[8] Ptolemy constructed a navigable lock, with sluices, at the Heroopolite Gulf of the Red Sea[30] which allowed the passage of vessels but prevented salt water from the Red Sea from mingling with the fresh water in the canal.[8]

Receding Red Sea and the dwindling Nile

The Red Sea is believed by some historians to have gradually receded over the centuries, its coastline slowly moving farther and farther southward away from Lake Timsah[12][13] and the Great Bitter Lake[7][8] to its present coastline today. Coupled with persistent accumulations of Nile silt, maintenance and repair of Ptolemy's canal became increasingly cumbersome over each passing century.

Two hundred years after the construction of Ptolemy's canal, Cleopatra seems to have had no west-east waterway passage,[7][8] because the Pelusiac branch of the Nile River, which had fed Ptolemy's west-east canal, had by that time dwindled, being choked with silt.[7][8]

Topographic map, northern Gulf of Suez, route to Cairo, 1856.

Old Cairo to the Red Sea

By the 8th century, a navigable canal existed between Old Cairo and the Red Sea,[7][8] but accounts vary as to who ordered its construction—either Trajan or 'Amr ibn al-'As, or Omar the Great.[7][8][8] This canal reportedly linked to the River Nile at Old Cairo[8] and ended near modern Suez.[7][34]

The Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur is said to have ordered this canal closed so as to prevent supplies from reaching Arabian detractors.[7][8]

Repair by Tāriqu l-Ḥākim

Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah is claimed to have repaired the Old Cairo to Red Sea passageway,[7][8] but only briefly, circa 1000 AD,[7][8] as it soon "became choked with sand."[8] However, we are told that parts of this canal still continued to fill in during the Nile's annual inundations.[7][8]

Napoleon discovers an ancient canal

Napoleon Bonaparte's interest in finding the remnants of an ancient waterway passage[35] culminated in a cadre of archaeologists, scientists, cartographers and engineers scouring the area beginning in the latter months of 1798.[36] Their findings, recorded in the Description de l'Égypte, include detailed maps that depict the discovery of an ancient canal extending northward from the Red Sea and then westward toward the Nile.[35][37]

The Suez Canal at Ismailia, c. 1860. The Ismailia segment was completed in November 1862.

Napoleon had contemplated the construction of another, modern, north-south canal to join the Mediterranean and Red Sea. But his project was abandoned after the preliminary survey erroneously concluded that the Red Sea was 10 metres (33 ft) higher than the Mediterranean, making a locks-based canal too expensive and very long to construct. The Napoleonic survey commission's error came from fragmented readings mostly done during wartime, which resulted in imprecise calculations.[38]

1881 drawing of the Suez Canal.

Though by this time unnavigable,[8] the ancient route from Bubastis to the Red Sea still channeled water in spots as late as 1861[8] and as far east as Kassassin.

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, according to plans created by Linant de Bellefonds, a French engineer and high level official of the Egyptian administration of canals, bridges and roads, and by Austrian engineer Alois Negrelli. The company was to operate the canal for 99 years from its opening. De Lesseps had used his friendly relationship with Sa'id, which he had developed while he was a French diplomat during the 1830s. The Suez Canal Company (Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez) came into being on 15 December, 1858 and work started on the shore of the future Port Said on 25 April 1859.

The excavation took some 10 years using forced labour (Corvée) of Egyptian workers during a certain period. 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.[39][40]

The British government had opposed the project of the canal from the outset to its completion. As one of the diplomatic moves against the canal, it disapproved the use of slave labor on the canal (slaves had been banned throughout Europe and Russia by 1723). 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. Involuntary labour on the project ceased, and the viceroy condemned the Corvée, halting the project.[41]

Angered by the British opportunism, de Lesseps sent a letter to the British government remarking on the British lack of remorse a few years earlier when forced workers died in similar conditions building the British railway in Egypt.

Initially international opinion was skeptical and Suez Canal Company shares did not sell well overseas. Britain, the United States, Austria and Russia did not buy any significant number of shares.[42] All French shares were quickly sold in France. A contemporary British sceptic claimed:

One thing is sure... our local merchant community doesn't pay practical attention at all to this grand work, and it is legitimate to doubt that the canal's receipts... could ever be sufficient to recover its maintenance fee. It will never become a large ships accessible way in any case. (reported by German historian Uwe A. Oster)
One of the first traverses in the 19th century.
Suez Canal in February 1934. Air photograph taken by Swiss pilot and photographer Walter Mittelholzer.

The canal opened to shipping on 17 November, 1869. Although numerous technical, political, and financial problems had been overcome, the final cost was more than double the original estimate.[43]

After the opening of the canal, the Suez Canal Company was in financial difficulties. The remaining works were completed only in 1871, and traffic was below expectations in the first two years. Lesseps therefore tried to increase revenues by interpreting the kind of net ton referred to in the second concession (tonneau de capacité) as meaning a ship's real freight capacity and not only the theoretical net tonnage of the Moorsom System introduced in Britain by the Merchant Shipping Act in 1854. The ensuing commercial and diplomatic activities resulted in the International Commission of Constantinople establishing a specific kind of net tonnage and settling the question of tariffs in their protocol of 18 December 1873.[44] This was the origin of the Suez Canal Net Tonnage and the Suez Canal Special Tonnage Certificate still used today.

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. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was accused by William Ewart Gladstone of undermining Britain's constitutional system, due to his lack of reference or consent from Parliament when purchasing the shares with funding from the Rothschilds.[45]

The Convention of Constantinople in 1888 declared the canal a neutral zone under the protection of the British; British troops had moved in to protect it during a civil war in Egypt in 1882. They were later to defend the strategically important passage against a major Ottoman attack in 1915.[46] Under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the United Kingdom insisted on retaining control over the canal. In 1951 Egypt repudiated the treaty, and in 1954 the UK agreed to remove its troops, and withdrawal was completed in July 1956.

Suez Crisis

After the United Kingdom and the United States withdrew their pledge to support the construction of the Aswan Dam due to Egyptian overtures towards the Soviet Union, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the canal in 1956 and transferred it to the Suez Canal Authority, intending to finance the dam project using revenue from the canal. This provoked the Suez Crisis, in which the UK, France and Israel planned to invade Egypt. The intention was for Israel to invade on the ground, and for the Anglo-French partnership to give air and other support, later to intervene to resolve the crisis and control the canal.[citation needed]

To stop the war from spreading and to save the British from what he thought was a disastrous action, Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson, proposed the creation of the very first United Nations peacekeeping force to ensure access to the canal for all and an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. On 4 November 1956, a majority of nations at the United Nations voted for Pearson's peacekeeping resolution, which mandated the UN peacekeepers to stay in the Sinai Peninsula unless both Egypt and Israel agreed to their withdrawal. The United States backed this proposal by putting pressure on the British government by selling Pounds, which would cause it to depreciate. Britain then agreed to withdraw its troops. Pearson was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As a result of damage and ships intentionally sunk under orders from Nasser[47] the canal was closed until April 1957, when it was cleared with UN assistance. A UN force (UNEF) was established to maintain the neutrality of the canal and the Sinai Peninsula.

Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973

In May 1967 President Nasser ordered the UN peacekeeping forces out of the Sinai Peninsula, including the Suez Canal area. Despite Israeli objections in the United Nations, the peacekeepers were withdrawn and the Egyptian army took up positions on the Israeli border, closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The canal itself had been closed to Israeli shipping since 1949, except for a short period in 1951-1952.

These actions were key factors in the Israeli decision to launch a pre-emptive attack on Egypt in June 1967, and to capture the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, also called the Six Day War, the canal was closed by an Egyptian blockade until 5 June 1975. As a result, fourteen cargo ships known as "The Yellow Fleet" remained trapped in the canal for over eight years. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, the canal was the scene of a major crossing by the Egyptian army into Israeli-occupied Sinai, and in the later stage of the war, a crossing by the Israeli army into mainland Egypt. Much wreckage from this conflict remains visible along the canal's edges.[citation needed]

A US Navy RH-53D sweeping the Suez Canal in 1974.

In reaction to the Yom Kippur War the United States initiated Operation Nimbus Moon. The helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) was sent to the Canal, carrying twelve RH-53D minesweeping helicopters of HM-12. These cleared the Suez Canal between May and December 1974. When the operations were completed, the Suez Canal and its lakes were considered 99% clear of mines.[48] The Canal was then reopened in 1975.

The UNEF mandate expired in 1979. Despite the efforts of the United States, Israel, Egypt, and others to obtain an extension of the UN role in observing the peace between Israel and Egypt, as called for under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, the mandate could not be extended because of the veto by the USSR in the security council, at the request of Syria. Accordingly, negotiations for a new observer force in the Sinai produced the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), stationed in Sinai in 1981 in coordination with a phased Israeli withdrawal. It is there under agreements between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and other nations.[49].


Ships moored at El Ballah during transit

The canal allows passage of ships up to 19 m (62 ft) draft or 210,000 deadweight tons and up to a maximum height of 68 m (223 ft) above water level and a maximum beam of 254 ft 3 (77.5 m) in (under certain conditions).[50][51] Improvements are planned to increase draft to 22 m (72 ft) by 2010, allowing passage of fully laden supertankers.[52]

Some supertankers are too large. Others can offload part of their cargo onto a canal-owned boat to reduce their draft, transit, and reload at the other end of the canal.


The main alternative is travelling around Cape Agulhas at the south of the African continent. This was the only route before the canal was constructed, and—more recently—when the canal was closed. It is still the only route for ships which are too large for the canal. In the early twenty-first century the long route has enjoyed increased popularity because of increasing piracy in Somalia and high canal tolls.[citation needed]

Before the canal's opening in 1869 goods were sometimes offloaded from ships and carried overland between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.[citation needed]


USS Bainbridge, an American warship in the Suez Canal

The canal has no locks due to the flat terrain, and the minor sea level difference between each end is inconsequential for shipping.

There is one shipping lane with passing areas in Ballah-Bypass near El Qantara and in the Great Bitter Lake. On a typical day, three convoys transit the canal, two southbound and one northbound. The first southbound convoy enters the canal in the early morning hours and proceeds to the Great Bitter Lake, where the ships anchor out of the fairway, awaiting passage of the northbound convoy. The northbound convoy passes the second southbound convoy, which moors in Ballah-Bypass . The passage takes between 11 and 16 hours at a speed of around 8 knots (15 km/h; 9 mph). The low speed helps prevent erosion of the canal banks by ships' wakes.

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.[50] Average cost per-ship is roughly $250,000.00

New Rules of Navigation that constitute an improvement over the older ones were passed by the board of directors of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) to organise vessels’ and tankers’ transit that came into force as at 1 January 2008.

The most important amendments to the Rules include allowing vessels with 62-foot (19 m) draught to transit and increasing the allowed breadth from 32 metres (105 ft) up to 40 metres (130 ft) following improvement operations, as well as imposing a fine on vessels using divers without permission from outside the SCA inside the canal boundaries.

The amendments also allow vessels loaded with dangerous cargo, such as radioactive or inflammable materials, to transit after bringing conformity with the latest amendments provided by international conventions.

The SCA will also have the right to determine the number of tugs required to assist warships transiting the Canal to achieve the highest degree of safety during transit.[53]

The vast canal can handle more ship traffic and larger ships than the Panama Canal.

Connections between the shores

From north to south connections are:

A railway on the west bank runs parallel to the canal for its entire length.

Environmental impact

Map of the Red Sea

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 created the first salt-water passage between the Mediterranean and Red seas. Although the Red Sea is about 1.2 m (3.9 ft) higher than the eastern Mediterranean,[54] the current between the Mediterranean and the middle of the canal at the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the Bitter Lakes is tidal, varying with the height of tide at Suez.[4] The Bitter Lakes, which were hypersaline natural lakes, blocked the migration of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean for many decades, but as the salinity of the lakes gradually equalised with that of the Red Sea, the barrier to migration was removed, and plants and animals from the Red Sea have begun to colonise the eastern Mediterranean. The Red Sea is generally saltier and more nutrient-poor than the Atlantic, so the Red Sea species have advantages over Atlantic species in the salty and nutrient-poor eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly, most Red Sea species invade the Mediterranean biota, and only few do the opposite. This migratory phenomenon is called Lessepsian migration (after Ferdinand de Lesseps) or Erythrean invasion. The construction of the Aswan High Dam across the River Nile in the 1960s reduced the inflow of freshwater and nutrient-rich silt from the Nile into the eastern Mediterranean, making conditions there even more like the Red Sea, worsening the impact of the invasive species.

Invasive species originated from the Red Sea and introduced into the Mediterranean by the construction of the canal have become a major component of the Mediterranean ecosystem, and have serious impacts on the Mediterranean ecology, endangering many local and endemic Mediterranean species. Currently about 300 species from the Red Sea have been identified in the Mediterranean Sea, and there are probably others yet unidentified. The Egyptian government's intent to enlarge the canal have raised concerns from marine biologists, fearing that this will worsen the invasion of Red Sea species in the Mediterranean.[55].

Construction of the Suez Canal was preceded by cutting a small fresh-water canal from the Nile delta along Wadi Tumilat to the future canal, with a southern branch to Suez and a northern branch to Port Said. Completed in 1863, these brought fresh water to a previously arid area, initially for canal construction, and subsequently facilitating growth of agriculture and settlements along the canal.[56]


  • Circa 1799 — Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Egypt and ordered a feasibility analysis. This reported a supposed 10-metre (33 ft) difference in sea levels and a high cost, so the project was set on standby.
  • Circa 1840 — A second survey found the first one incorrect. A direct link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea would be possible and not be as expensive as expected.
  • 30 November 1854 - The former French consul in Cairo, Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, obtained the first licence for the construction and subsequent operation during 99 years from the Viceroy.
  • 6 January 1856 - Lesseps was provided with a second, more detailed licence.
  • 15 December 1858 - Lesseps established the "Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez" (Said Pacha acquired 22% of the Suez Canal Company, the remainder controlled by French private holders).
  • 25 April 1859 — Official start of the canal construction.
  • 16 November 1869 — The Suez Canal opened; operated and owned by Suez Canal Company.
  • 18 December 1873 - The International Commission of Constantinople establishes the Suez Canal Net Ton and the Suez Canal Special Tonnage Certificate (as they are called today)
  • 25 November 1875 — Britain became a minority share holder in the Suez Company, acquiring 44% of the Suez Canal Company. The remainder were controlled by French syndicates.
  • 25 August 1882 — Britain took control of the canal.
  • 2 March 1888 — The Convention of Constantinople renewed the guaranteed right of passage of all ships through the Suez Canal during war and peace (which rights were already part of the licences awarded to Lesseps.
  • 14 November 1936 — Suez Canal Zone established, under British control.
  • 13 June 1956 — Suez Canal Zone restored to Egypt.
  • 26 July 1956 — Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal; all Egyptian assets, rights and obligations of the Suez Canal Company were transferred to the Suez Canal Authority.
  • 5 November 1956 to 22 December 1956 — French, British, and Israeli forces occupied the Suez Canal Zone.
  • 22 December 1956 — Restored to Egypt.
  • 5 June 1967 to 10 June 1975 — Canal closed and blockaded by Egypt, against Israel, sparking the Six-Day War.
  • 10 June 1975 — Suez Canal reopened.
  • 1 January 2008 — New rules of navigation passed on by the Suez Canal Authority come into force.

Presidents of the Suez Canal Company (1858-1956)

Before nationalisation:

Chairmen of the Suez Canal Authority (1956-present)

Since nationalisation:

British Vice-Consuls of Port Suez (1922-1941)

  • G. E. A. C. Monck-Mason, 1922 – 1924
  • G. C. Pierides (acting), 1924 – 1925
  • Thomas Cecil Rapp, 1925 – 1926
  • Abbas Barry (acting), 1926 – 1927
  • E. H. L. Hadwen (acting to 1930), 1927 – 1931
  • A. N. Williamson-Napier, 1931 – 1934
  • H. M. Eyres, 1934 – 1936
  • D. J. M. Irving, 1936 – 1940
  • R. G. Dundas, 1940 – 1941

British Consuls of Port Suez (1941-1956)

  • R. G. Dundas, 1941 – 1942
  • H. G. Jakins, 1942 – 1944
  • W. B. C. W. Forester, 1944 – 1946
  • Frederick Herbert Gamble, 1946 – 1947
  • E. M. M. Brett (acting), 1947 – 1948
  • C. H. Page, 1948 – 1954
  • F. J. Pelly, 1954 – 1955
  • J. A. D. Stewart-Robinson (acting), 1955 – 1956
  • J. Y. Mulvenny, 1956

Governors of the Suez Canal Zone

Supreme Allied Commander

During the Suez Crisis:

Popular culture

  • Suez, a film made in 1938, starred Tyrone Power as de Lesseps and Loretta Young as a love interest. An epic, it is very loosely based on history.
  • The Suez Canal appears in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, where it marks the end of T. E. Lawrence's march across the Sinai Peninsula to report to his superiors in Cairo.
  • The Suez crisis is mentioned in the 1989 hit song, "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel
  • Michael Palin visited the Suez Canal in 1988 as part of his TV adventure series, Around the World in 80 Days.
  • The Suez Canal is also a map in the game Battlefield 2142.
  • The idea of the Suez Canal is mentioned in the Asterix book, Asterix and Cleopatra, when Asterix offers the future assistance of the Gaulish people should Egypt consider a passage linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. 1900 years later, this offer was taken up!
  • In the novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, the Nautilus travels through an underwater passage beneath the Suez Canal.

See also


  1. ^ Suez Canal guide
  2. ^ Characteristics of the canal
  3. ^ Suez Canal Authority
  4. ^ a b The Red Sea Pilot. Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson. 1995. pp. 266. 
  5. ^ Official Web Site of the Suez Canal Authority
  6. ^ Constantinople Convention of the Suez Canal of 2 March 1888 still in force and specifically maintained in Nasser's Nationalisation Act.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, s.v. "Suez Canal". Accessed 8 August 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Rappoport, S. (Doctor of Philosophy, Basel). History of Egypt (undated, early 20th century), Volume 12, Part B, Chapter V: "The Waterways of Egypt," pages 248-257. London: The Grolier Society.
  9. ^ a b c Hassan, F. A. & Tassie, G. J. Site location andhistory (2003). Kafr Hassan Dawood On-Line, Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organization. Accessed 08 August 2008.
  10. ^ a b Please refer to Sesostris#Modern research.
  11. ^ J. H. Breasted attributes the ancient canal's early construction to Senusret III, up through the first cataract. Please refer to J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part One, Chicago 1906, §§642-648
  12. ^ a b The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, s.v. "Suez Canal". Accessed 14 May 2008.
  13. ^ a b c d e Naville, Édouard. "Map of the Wadi Tumilat" (plate image), in The Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus (1885). London: Trubner and Company.
  14. ^ Meteorology (1.15)
  15. ^ The Elder Pliny and John Healey Natural History (6.33.165) Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (5 Feb 2004) ISBN 978-0140444131 p.70 [1]
  16. ^ a b Carte hydrographique de l'Basse Egypte et d'une partie de l'Isthme de Suez (1855, 1882). Volume 87, page 803. Paris. See [2].
  17. ^ a b Shea, William H. "A Date for the Recently Discovered Eastern Canal of Egypt," in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 226 (April 1977), pp. 31-38.
  18. ^ Sanford (1938), p.72; Garrison (1999), p.36.
  19. ^ Recent excavations in Wadi Gawasis appear to indicate that Egypt's maritime trade started from ports on the Red Sea and did not require a canal.
  20. ^ Hess, Richard S. Rev. of Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, by James K. Hoffmeier. The Denver Journal 1 (1 January 1998). Accessed 14 May 2008.
  21. ^ Hassan, Fekri A. Kafr Hassan Dawood On-line, 17 August 2003. Accessed 14 May 2008.
  22. ^ (Spanish) Martínez Babon, Javier. "Consideraciones sobre la Marinay la Guerra durante el Egipto Faraónico". Accessed 14 May 2008.
  23. ^ Descriptions de l'Égypte, Volume 11 (État Moderne), containing Mémoire sur la communication de la mer des Indes à la Méditerranée par la mer Rouge et l'Isthme de Sueys, par M. J.M. Le Père, ingénieur en chef, inspecteur divisionnaire au corps impérial des ponts et chaussées, membre de l'Institut d'Égypte, p. 21 - 186
  24. ^ Their reports were published in Description de l'Égypte
  25. ^ Montet, Pierre. Everyday Life In The Days Of Ramesses The Great (1981), page 184. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  26. ^ Silver, Morris. Ancient Economies II (Apr. 6, 1998), "5c. Evidence for Earlier Canals." ANCIENT ECONOMIES II, retrieved Aug. 8, 2008. Economics Department, City College of New York.
  27. ^ Herodotus ii.158.
  28. ^ "The figure ‘120,000’ is doubtless exaggerated. Mehemet Ali lost only 10,000 in making the Mahmûdieh Canal (from the Nile to Alexandria)." remarked W. W. How and J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus.
  29. ^ According to Herodotus, work on the project was "stayed by a prophetic utterance that he [Necho] was toiling beforehand for the barbarian. The Egyptians call all men of other languages barbarians." (Herodotus, eo. loc..)
  30. ^ a b Apparently, Ptolemy considered the Great Bitter Lake as a northern extension of the Red Sea, whereas Darius had not, because Arsinoe, Egypt, is located north of Shaluf, Egypt. (See Naville, "Map of the Wadi Tumilat," referenced above.)
  31. ^ Please refer to Darius the Great's Suez Inscriptions.
  32. ^ Darius' Suez Inscriptions
  33. ^ F. W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World 1981:202. Ptolemy II Philadelphus's lifespan was 309 BC–246 BC.
  34. ^ Petermann, A. Karte Der Bai Von Súes (1856). Nach der Engl. Aufnahme v. Comm. Mansell. [3]
  35. ^ a b Linda Hall Library, Kansas City, Missouri. The Search for the Ancient Suez Canal, accessed August 20, 2008. [4]
  36. ^ Please refer to Description de l'Égypte.
  37. ^ Descriptions de l'Égypte, Volume 11 (État Moderne), containing Mémoire sur la communication de la mer des Indes à la Méditerranée par la mer Rouge et l'Isthme de Sueys, par M. J.M. Le Père, ingénieur en chef, inspecteur divisionnaire au corps impérial des ponts et chaussées, membre de l'Institut d'Égypte, p. 21 - 186
  38. ^ Wilson, The Suez Canal
  39. ^ Arnold. T. Wilson, The Suez Canal
  40. ^ [5]
  41. ^ Oster (2006)
  42. ^ There are differing informations on the exact amounts
  43. ^ *Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, and Werner Rothengatter, Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition (Cambridge University Press, 2003). ISBN 0521009464
  44. ^ Protocol of the Commission (in french)
  45. ^ Stephen J. Lee, Gladstone and Disraeli. Routledge, 107
  46. ^ First World War - Willmott, H.P. Dorling Kindersley, 2003, Page 87
  47. ^ The Other Side of Suez (documentary) - 2003
  48. ^
  49. ^ (Multinational Force and Observers)
  50. ^ a b Suez Canal Authority
  51. ^ Egypt State Information Service,
  52. ^ A comparison shows that beam is no practical limitation: the largest Caribbean cruisers would be barred by their height, dito the largest aircraft carrier Enterprise. The former ULCC Hellespont Fairfax cannot pass fully laden, the largest container ship Emma Maersk has less beam and draught than allowed, the bulk (ore) carrier Berge Stahl, by its draught, is limited to travel between Rotterdam and a port in Bresil or a bay in South Africa. Even the semi-submersible heavy-lift ship Blue Marlin would have problems only because of the size of its cargo.
  53. ^ SC News
  54. ^ Madl, Pierre (1999). Essay about the phenomenon of Lessepsian Migration, Colloquial Meeting of Marine Biology I, Salzburg, April 1999 (revised in Nov. 2001).
  55. ^ Galil and Zenetos (2002)
  56. ^ Britannica (2007)


  • Britannica (2007) "Suez Canal", in: The new encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., 28, Chicago, Ill. ; London : Encyclopaedia Britannica, ISBN 1-59339-292-3
  • Galil, B.S. and Zenetos, A. (2002). "A sea change: exotics in the eastern Mediterranean Sea", in: Leppäkoski, E., Gollasch, S. and Olenin, S. (eds), Invasive aquatic species of Europe : distribution, impacts, and management, Dordrecht ; Boston : Kluwer Academic, ISBN 1-4020-0837-6 , p. 325–336
  • Garrison, Ervan G. (1999) A history of engineering and technology : artful methods, 2nd ed., Boca Raton, Fla. ; London : CRC Press, ISBN 0-84939-810-X
  • Oster, Uwe (2006) Le fabuleux destin des inventions : le canal de Suez, TV documentary produced by ZDF and directed by Axel Engstfeld (Germany)
  • Sanford, Eva Matthews (1938) The Mediterranean world in ancient times, Ronald series in history, New York : The Ronald Press Company, 618 p.

External links

Coordinates: 30°42′18″N 32°20′39″E / 30.705°N 32.34417°E / 30.705; 32.34417

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SUEZ CANAL. Before the construction of the Suez Canal there was no direct water communication between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, but at various eras such communication existed by way of the Nile. Trade between Egypt and countries to the east was originally overland to ports south of the Gulf of Suez; the proximity of the roadstead at the head of that gulf to Memphis and the Delta nevertheless marked it as the natural outlet for the Red Sea commerce of Lower Egypt. The fertile Wadi Tumilat extending east of the Nile valley almost to the head of the gulf (which in ancient times reached north to the Bitter Lakes) afforded an easy road between the Nile and the Red Sea, while the digging of a navigable canal connecting the river and the gulf gave the northern route advantages not possessed by the desert routes farther south, e.g. that between Coptos and Kosseir. Aristotle, Strabo and Pliny attribute to the legendary Sesostris the distinction of being the first of the pharaohs to build a canal joining the Nile and the Red Sea. From an inscription on the temple at Karnak it would appear that such a canal existed in the time of Seti I. (1380 B.C.). This canal diverged from the Nile near Bubastis and was carried along the Wadi Tumilat to Heroopolis, near Pithom, a port at the head of the Heroopolite Gulf (the Bitter Lakes of to-day). The channel of this canal is still traceable in parts of the Wadi Tumilat, and its direction was frequently followed by the engineers of the freshwater canal. Seti's canal appears to have fallen into decay or to have been too small for later requirements, for Pharaoh Necho (609 B.C.) began to build another canal; possibly his chief object was to deepen the channel between the Heroopolite Gulf and the Red Sea, then probably silting up. Necho's canal was not completed - according to Herodotus 120,000 men perished in the undertaking. Darius (520 B.C.) continued the work of Necho, rendering navigable the channel of the Heroopolite Gulf, which had become blocked. Up to this time there appears to have been no connexion between the waters of the Red Sea and those of the Bubastis-Heroopolis canal; vessels coming from the Mediterranean ascended the Pelusiac arm of the Nile to Bubastis and then sailed along the canal to Heroopolis, where their merchandise had to be transferred to the Red Sea ships. Ptolemy Philadelphus (285 B.C.) connected the canal with the waters of the sea, and at the spot where the junction was effected he built the town of Arsinoe. The dwindling of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile rendered this means of communication impossible by the time of Cleopatra (31 B.C.). Trajan (A.D. 98) is said to have repaired the canal, and, as the Pelusiac branch was no longer available for navigation, to have built a new canal between Bubastis and Babylon (Old Cairo), this new canal being known traditionally as Amnis Trajanus or Amnis Augustus. According to H. R. Hall, however, "It is very doubtful if any work of this kind, beyond repairs, was undertaken in the times of the Romans; and it is more probable that the new canal was the work of `Amr" (the Arab conqueror of Egypt in the 7th century). The canal was certainly in use in the early years of the Moslem rule in Egypt; it is said to have been closed c. A.D. 770 by order of Abu Ja`far (Mansur), the second Abbasid caliph and founder of Bagdad, who wished to prevent supplies from reaching his enemies in Arabia by this means. `Am y 's canal (of which the Khalig which passed through Cairo and was closed in 1897 is said to have formed part) had its terminus on the Red Sea south of the Heroopolite Gulf near the present town of Suez. In this neighbourhood was the ancient city of Clysma, to which in 'Amr's time succeeded Kolzum, perhaps an Arabic corruption of Clysma. The exact situation of Clysma is unknown, but Kolzum occupied the site of Suez, the hills north of which are still called Kolzum. After the closing of the canal in the 8th century it does not appear for certain that it was ever restored, although it is asserted that in the year r000 Sultan Hakim rendered it navigable. If so it must speedily have become choked up again. Parts of the canal continued to be filled during the Nile inundations until Mehemet Ali (A.D. 1811) ordered it to be closed; the closing, however, was not completely effected, for in 1861 the old canal from Bubastis still flowed as far as Kassassin. This part of the canal, after over 2500 years of service, was utilized by the French engineers in building the fresh-water canal from Cairo to Suez in 1861-1863. This canal follows the lines of that of 'Amr (or Trajan).

Maritime Canal Projects

Apart from water communication between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea by way of the Nile, the project of direct communication by a canal piercing the isthmus of Suez was entertained as early as the-8th century A.D. by Harun al-Rashid, who is said to have abandoned the scheme, being persuaded that it would be dangerous to lay open the coast of Arabia to the Byzantine navy. After the discovery of the Cape route to India at the close of the 5th century, the Venetians, who had for centuries held the greater part of the trade of the East with Europe via Egypt and the Red Sea, began negotiations with the Egyptians for a canal across the isthmus, but the conquest of Egypt by the Turks put an end to these designs. In 1671 Leibnitz in his proposals to LouisXIV. of France regarding an expedition to Egypt recommended the making of a maritime canal, and the Sheikh al-Balad Ali Bey (c. 1770) wished to carry out the project. Bonaparte when in Egypt in 1798 ordered the isthmus to be surveyed as a preliminary to the digging of a canal across it, and the engineer he employed, J. M. Lepere, came to the conclusion that there was a difference in level of 29 ft. between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. This view was combated at the time by Laplace and Fourier on general grounds, and was finally disproved in1846-1847as the result of surveys made at the instance of the Societe d'Etudes pour le Canal de Suez. This society was organized in 1846 by Prosper Enfantin, the Saint Simonist, who thirteen years before had visited Egypt in connexion with a scheme for making a canal across the isthmus of Suez, which, like the canal across the isthmus of Panama, was part of the Saint Simonist programme for the regeneration of the world. The expert commission appointed by this society reported by a majority in favour of Paulin Talabot's plan, according to which the canal would have run from Suez to Alexandria by way of Cairo.

injure British maritime supremacy, and that the proposal was merely a device for French interference in the East.

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Although the sultan's confirmation of the concession was not actually granted till 1866, de Lesseps in 1858 opened the subscription lists for his company, the capital of which was 200 million francs in 400,000 shares of Soo francs. each. In less than a month 314,494 shares were applied for; of these over 200,000 were subscribed in France and over 96,000 were taken by the Ottoman Empire. From other countries the subscriptions were trifling, and England, Austria and Russia, as well as the United States of America, held entirely aloof. The residue of 85,506 shares' was taken over by the viceroy. On the 25th of April 18 J9 the work of construction was formally begun, the first spadeful of sand being turned near the site of Port Said, but progress was not very rapid. By the beginning of 1862 the freshwater canal had reached Lake Timsa, and towards the end of the Longitudinal Section -®v % ?%???????? af`s '4 ' Bitter Lake T'msa (Topography only from L'Isthme et le Canal de Suez, by G. Charles-Roux, by permission of Messrs Hachette & Co.) For some years after this report no progress was made; indeed, the society was in a state of suspended animation when in 1854 Ferdinand de Lesseps came to the front as the chief exponent of the idea. He had been associated with the Saint Simonists and for many years had been keenly interested in the question. His opportunity came in 1854 when, on the death of Abbas Pasha, his friend Said Pasha became viceroy of Egypt. From Said on the 30th of November 1854 he obtained a concession authorizing him to constitute the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez, which should construct a ship canal through the isthmus, and soon afterwards in concert with two French engineers, Linant Bey and Mougel Bey, he decided that the canal should run in a direct line from Suez to the Gulf of Pelusium, passing through the depressions that are now Lake Timsa and the Bitter Lakes, and skirting the eastern edge of Lake Menzala. In the following year an international commission appointed by the viceroy approved this plan with slight modifications, the chief being that the channel was taken through Lake Menzala instead of along its edge, and the northern termination of the canal moved some 172 m. westward where deep water was found closer to the shore. This plan, according to which there were to be no locks, was the one ultimately carried out, and it was embodied in a second and amplified concession, dated the 5th of January 1856, which laid on the company the obligation of constructing, in addition to the maritime canal, a fresh-water canal from the Nile near Cairo to Lake Timsa, with branches running parallel to the maritime canal, one to Suez and the other to Pelusium. The concession was to last for 99 years from the date of the opening of the canal between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, after which, in default of other arrangements, the canal passes into the hands of the Egyptian government. The confirmation of the sultan of Turkey being required, de Lesseps went to Constantinople to secure it, but found himself baffled by British diplomacy; and later in London he was informed by Lord Palmerston that in the opinion of the British government the canal was a physical impossibility, that if it were made it would same year a narrow channel had been formed between that lake and the Mediterranean. In 1863 the fresh-water canal was continued to Suez.

So far the work had been performed by native labour; the concession of 1856 contained a provision that at least four-fifths of the labourers should be Egyptians, and later in the same year Said Pasha undertook to supply labourers as required by the engineers of the canal company, which was to house and feed them and pay them at stipulated rates. Although the wages and the terms of service were better than the men obtained normally, this system of forced labour was strongly disapproved of in England, and the khedive Ismail who succeeded Said on the latter's death in 1863 also considered it as being contrary to the interests of his country. Hence in July the Egyptian foreign minister, Nubar Pasha, was sent to Constantinople with the proposal that the number of labourers furnished to the company should be reduced, and that it should be made to hand back to the Egyptian government the lands that had been granted it by Said in 1856. These propositions were approved by the sultan, and the company was informed that if they were not accepted the works would be stopped by force. Naturally the company objected, and in the end the various matters in dispute were referred to the arbitration of the emperor Napoleon III. By his award, made in July 1864, the company was allowed 38 million francs as an indemnity for the abolition of the corvee, 16 million francs in respect of its retrocessions of that portion of the freshwater canal that lay between Wadi, Lake Timsa and Suez (the remainder had already been handed back by agreement), and 30 million francs in respect of the lands which had been granted it by Said. The company was allowed to retain a certain amount of land along the canals, which was necessary for purposes of construction, erection of workshops, &c., and it was put under the obligation of finishing the fresh-water canal between Wadi and 'These formed part of the 176,602 shares which were bought for the sum of 3,976,582 from the khedive by England in 1875 at the instance of Lord Beaconsfield (q.v.).

Suez to such dimensions that the depth of water in it would be 22 metres at high Nile and at least i metre at low Nile. The supply of Port Said with water it was allowed to manage by any means it chose; in the first instance it laid a double line of iron piping from Timsa, and it was not till 1885 that the original plan of supplying the town by a branch of the fresh-water canal was carried out. The indemnity, amounting to a total of 84 million francs, was to be paid in instalments spread over 15 years.

The abolition of forced labour was probably the salvation of the enterprise, for it meant the introduction of mechanical appliances and of modern engineering methods. The work was divided into four contracts. The first was for the supply of 250,000 cubic metres of concrete blocks for the jetties of Port Said; the second, for the first 60 kilometres of the channel from Port Said, involved the removal of 22 million cubic metres of sand or mud; the third was for the next length of 13 kilometres, which included the cutting through the high ground at El Gisr; and the fourth and largest was for the portion between Lake Timsa and the Red Sea. The contractors for this last section were Paul Borel and Alexandre Levalley, who ultimately became responsible also for the second or 60 kilometres contract. For the most part the material was soft and therefore readily removed. At some points, however, as at Shaluf and Serapeum, rock was encountered. Much of the channel was formed by means of dredgers. Through Lake Menzala, for instance, native workmen made a shallow channel by scooping out the soil with their hands and throwing it out on each side to form the banks; dredgers were then floated in and completed the excavation to the required depth, the soil being delivered on the other side of the banks through long spouts. At Serapeum, a preliminary shallow channel having been dug out, water was admitted from the fresh-water canal, the level of which is higher than that of the ship canal, and the work was completed by dredgers from a level of about 20 ft. above the sea. At El Gisr, where the soil, composed largely of loose sand, rises 60 ft. above the sea, the contractor, Alphonse Couvreux, employed an excavator of his own design, which was practically a bucketdredger working in the dry. A long arm projecting downwards at an angle from an engine on the bank carried a number of buckets, mounted on a continuous chain, which scooped up the stuff at the bottom and discharged it into wagons at the top.

In 1865 de Lesseps, to show the progress that had been made, entertained over 100 delegates from chambers of commerce in different parts of the world, and conducted them over the works. In the following year the company, being in need of money, realized io million francs by selling to the Egyptian government the estate of El Wadi, which it had purchased from Said, and it also succeeded in arranging that the money due to it under the award of 1864 should be paid off by 1869 instead of 1879. Its financial resources still being insufficient, it obtained in 1867 permission to invite a loan of Too million francs; but though the issue was offered at a heavy discount it was only fully taken up after the attractions of a lottery scheme had been added to it. Two years later the company got 30 million francs from the Egyptian government in consideration of abandoning certain special rights and privileges that still belonged to it and of handing over various hospitals, workshops, buildings, &c., which it had established on the isthmus. The government liquidated this debt, not by a money payment, but by agreeing to forego for 25 years the interest on the 176,602 shares it held in the company, which was thus enabled to raise a loan to the amount of the debt. Altogether, up to the end of the year (1869) in which the canal was sufficiently advanced to be opened for traffic, the accounts of the company showed a total expenditure of 432,807,882 francs, though the International Technical Commission in 1856 had estimated the cost at only 200 millions for a canal of larger dimensions.

The formal opening of the canal was celebrated in November 1869. On the 16th there was an inaugural ceremony at Port Said, and next day 68 vessels of various nationalities, headed by the "Aigle" with the empress Eugenie on board, began the passage, reaching Ismailia (Lake Timsa) the same day. On the 19th they continued their journey to the Bitter Lakes, and on the 20th they arrived at Suez. Immediately afterwards regular traffic began. In 1870 the canal was used by nearly 500 vessels, but the receipts for the first two years of working were considerably less than the expenses. The company attempted to issue a loan of 20 million francs in 1871, but the response was small, and it was only saved from bankruptcy by a rapid increase in its revenues. The total length of the navigation from Port Said to Suez is ioo m. The canal was originally constructed to have a depth of 8 metres with a bottom width of 22 metres, but it soon became evident that its dimensions must be enlarged. Certain improvements in the channel were started in 1876, but a more extensive plan was adopted in 1885 as the result of the inquiries of an international commission which recommended that the depth should be increased first to 82 metres and finally to 9 metres, and that the width should be made on the straight parts a minimum of 65 metres between Port Said and the Bitter Lakes, and of 75 metres between the Bitter Lakes and Suez, increasing on curves to 80 metres. To pay for these works a loan of loo million francs was issued. These widenings greatly improved the facilities for ships travelling in opposite directions to pass each other. In the early days of the canal, except in the Bitter Lakes, vessels could pass each other only at a few crossing places or gares, which had a collective length of less than a mile; but owing to the widenings that have been carried out, passing is now possible at any point over the greater part of the canal, one vessel stopping while the other proceeds on her way. From March 1887 navigation by night was permitted to ships which were provided with electric search-lights, and now the great majority avail themselves of this facility. By these measures the average time of transit, which was about 36 hours in 1886, has been reduced by half. The maximum speed permitted in the canal itself is ro kilometres an hour.

The dues which the canal company was authorized to charge by its concession of 1856 were 1c francs a ton. In the first instance they were levied on the tonnage as shown by the papers on board each vessel, but from March 1872 they were charged on the gross register tonnage, computed according to the method of the British Merchant Shipping Act 185 4. The result was that the shipowners had to pay more, and, objections being raised, the whole question of the method of charge was submitted to an international conference which met at Constantinople in 1873. It fixed the dues at To francs per net register ton (English reckoning) with a surtax of 4 francs per ton, which, however, was to be reduced to 3 francs in the case of ships having on board papers showing their net tonnage calculated in the required manner. It also decided that the surtax should be gradually diminished as the traffic increased, until in the year after the net tonnage passing through the canal reached 2,600,000 tons it should be abolished. De Lesseps protested against this arrangement, but on the sultan threatening to enforce it, if necessary by armed intervention, he gave in and brought the new tariff into operation in April 1874. By an arrangement with the canal company, signed in 1876, the British government, which in 1875 by the purchase of the khedive's shares, had become a large shareholder, undertook negotiations to secure that the successive reductions of the tariff should take effect on fixed dates, the sixth and last instalment of 50 centimes being removed in January 1884, after which the maximum rate was to be io francs per official net ton. But before this happened British shipowners had started a vigorous agitation against the rates, which they alleged to be excessive, and had even threatened to construct a second canal. In consequence a meeting was arranged between them and representatives of the canal company in London in November 1883, and it was agreed that in January 1885 the dues should be reduced to 92 francs a ton, that subsequently they should be lowered on a sliding scale as the dividend increased, and that after the dividend reached 25% all the surplus profits should be applied in reducing the rates until they were lowered to 5 francs a ton. Under this arrangement they were fixed at 74 francs per ton at the beginning of 1906. For ships in ballast reduced rates are in force. For passengers the dues remain at io francs a head, the figure at which they were originally fixed.

By the concessions of 1854 and 1856 the dues were to be the same for all nations, preferential treatment of any kind being forbidden, and the canal and its ports were to be open "comme passages neutres" to every merchant ship without distinction of nationality. The question of its formal neutralization by international agreement was raised in an acute form during the Egyptian crisis of 1881-82, and in August of the latter year a few weeks before the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, navigation upon it was suspended for four days at the instance of Sir Garnet Wolseley, who was in command of the British forces. At the international conference which was then sitting at Constantinople various proposals were put forward to ensure the use of the canal to all nations, and ultimately at Constantinople on the 29th of October 1888 Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia and Turkey signed the Suez Canal Convention, the purpose of which was to ensure that the canal should "always be free and open, in time of war as in time of peace, to every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag." Great Britain, however, in signing, formulated a reservation that the provisions of the convention should only apply so far as they were compatible with the actual situation, namely the "present transitory and exceptional condition of Egypt," and so far as they would not fetter the liberty of action of the British government during its occupation of that country. But by the Anglo-French agreement of the 8th of April 1904 Great Britain declared her adherence to the stipulations of the convention, and agreed to their being put in force, except as regards a provision by which the agents in Egypt of the signatory Powers of the convention were to meet once a year to take note of the due execution of the treaty. It was by virtue of this new agreement that the Russian warships proceeding to the East in1904-1905were enabled to use the canal, although passage was prohibited to Spanish warships in 1898 during the war between Spain and the United States.

L'Isthme et le Canal de Suez, historique, etat actuel, by J. CharlesRoux (2 vols., Paris 1901), contains reprints of various official documents relating to the canal, with plates, maps and a bibliography extending to 1499 entries.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Proper noun

Suez Canal


Suez Canal

  1. A canal linking the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.


Simple English

[[File:|right|thumb|Satellite view of Suez canal]]

The Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس, Qanā al-Suways, French: Le Canal de Suez) is a canal in Egypt. It lies west of the Sinai Peninsula. The canal is 163 km long (101 miles) and, at its narrowest point, 300 m wide (984 ft). It runs between Port Said (Būr Sa'īd) on the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez (al-Suways) on the Red Sea. It was built by a French company. The canal was started in 1859 and finished in 1869.


The canal allows boats/ships to travel from Europe to Asia without having to go the way around Africa. It was built to go from Egypt to the Indian ocean.


The canal consists of two parts, north and south of the Great Bitter Lake.


The Suez Canal was first built over 2,000 years ago.

In 1859, the Suez Canal was built again, by the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company, and took 10 years to build. The first ship to pass through the canal did so on 17 February 1867; Giuseppe Verdi wrote the famous opera Aida for this ceremony.

The canal made is possible to easily transport goods across the world. The canal also allowed Europeans to travel to East Africa, and this area was soon controlled by European powers.

The success of the canal encouraged the French to start building the Panama Canal.

After the Six Day War in 1967, the canal remained closed until June 5, 1975. A UN peacekeeping force has been stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1974, to avoid more wars.

About 15,000 ships pass through the canal each year, which is about 14 % of world shipping. Each ship takes up to 16 hours to cross the canal.rue:Суезькый канал

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