Suez Canal

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Image:SuezCanal ElBallah.JPG
Ships moored at El Ballah during transit

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

The canal allows two-way north-to-south water transport, most importantly between Europe and Asia without circumnavigation of Africa. Before its opening in 1869, goods were sometimes transported by being offloaded from ships and carried overland between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

The canal comprises two parts, north and south of the Great Bitter Lake, linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea.


[edit] History

[edit] 12th Dynasty

Image:Suez Canal drawing 1881.jpg
1881 drawing of the Suez Canal.

Perhaps as early as the 12th Dynasty, Pharaoh Senusret III (1878 BC - 1839 BC) may have had a west-east canal dug through the Wadi Tumilat, joining the Nile with the Red Sea, for direct trade with Punt, and thus allowing trade indirectly between the Red Sea and Mediterranean. Evidence indicates its existence by the 13th century BC during the time of Ramesses II (see [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]).

[edit] Repair by Necho, Darius I and Ptolemy

It later fell into disrepair, and according to the Histories of the Greek historian Herodotus, about 600 BC, Necho II undertook re-excavation but did not complete it.

The canal was finally completed by Darius I of Persia, who conquered Egypt. According to Herodotus, the completed canal was wide enough that two triremes could pass each other with oars extended, and required 4 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, 130 miles from Pie. 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. [6]

It was again restored by Ptolemy II about 250 BC. Over the next 1000 years it was successively modified, destroyed and rebuilt, until finally being put out of commission in the 8th century by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur.

Construction of the canal

[edit] Napoleon considers repair

At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte, while in Egypt, contemplated the construction of a canal to join the Mediterranean and Red Seas. But his project was abandoned after a first survey erroneously concluded that the Red Sea was 10 meters higher than the Mediterranean, making a giant locks-based canal much too expensive and very long to construct. The Napoleonic survey commission's error came from fragmented readings mostly done during wartime, which therefore resulted in imprecise calculations.

[edit] Re-construction by Suez Canal Company

In 1854 and 1856 Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained a concession from Said Pasha, the viceroy of Egypt, to create a company to construct a maritime canal open to ships of all nations, according to plans created by Austrian engineer Alois Negrelli. The company was to operate the canal by leasing the relevant land, for 99 years from its opening for navigation. De Lesseps had used his friendly relationship with Said, 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 December 15 1858.

The excavation took nearly 11 years, mostly through the forced labor of Egyptian workers — a form of labor which was not unique to the French, nor the British before them. Some sources estimate that over 30,000 people were forced to work on the canal. [7] But others estimate that 120,000 people died from the work. [8]

The British recognized the canal as an important trade route and perceived the French project as a direct menace to their geopolitical and financial interests. The British Empire was the major global naval force and its power had increased during the American Civil War. So the British government officially condemned the forced work and sent armed bedouins to start a revolt among workers. Involuntary labor on the project ceased, and the Viceroy soon condemned the slavery, and the project stopped.<ref>Le Fabuleux Destin Des Inventions : Le Canal de Suez. TV documentary produced by ZDF and directed by Axel Engstfeld (Germany, 2006).</ref>

One of the first traverses in the 19th century.

Angered by the British opportunism, de Lesseps sent a letter to the British government remarking on the British lack of remorse only a few years earlier when 80,000 [9] Egyptian forced workers died in similar conditions while building the British railtrack in Egypt.

At first, international opinion was sceptical and the Suez Canal Company shares did not sell well overseas. Britain, United States, Austria and Russia did not buy any shares. 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 canals receipts [...] could ever by 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)

The canal finally opened to traffic on November 17, 1869. Although numerous technical, political (due to the British rivalry), and financial problems had been overcome, 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 allowd the entire world to be circled in record time. It played an important role in increasing European penetration and colonization 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 (UK) in 1875, but France still remained the majority shareholder.

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. Under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the UK insisted on retaining control over the canal. But in 1951, Egypt repudiated the treaty, and by 1954 the UK had agreed to pull out.

[edit] Suez Crisis

After the UK and the United States withdrew their pledge to support the construction of the Aswan Dam, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Canal in 1956, intending to finance the dam project using revenue from the Canal. This provoked the week-long Suez Crisis, in which a military alliance between the UK, France, and Israel invaded Egypt. The threat of intervention on behalf of Egypt by the Soviet Union and pressure from the United States ended the crisis.

As a result of damage and sunken ships, the canal was closed until April 1957, when it had been cleared with United Nations (UN) assistance. A UN force (UNEF) was established to maintain the neutrality of the canal and the Sinai Peninsula.

[edit] Arab-Israeli War of 1967

After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the canal was closed until June 5, 1975. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, the canal was the scene of a major crossing by the Egyptian army into Israeli-occupied Sinai; later, the Israeli army crossed the canal westward.

After a UN mandate expired in 1979, negotiations for a new observer force produced the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), stationed in Sinai in 1981 in coordination with a phased Israeli withdrawal. It is not there under UN auspices but under agreements between the US, Israel, Egypt, and other nations. (Multinational Force and Observers)

[edit] Operation

Image:Bainbridge in Suez.jpg
USS Bainbridge, an American warship in the Suez Canal

The canal has no locks because the terrain through which it passes is flat, and sea level at both ends is the same.

The canal allows the passage of ships of up to some 150,000 tons displacement, with cargo. It permits ships of up to 16 m (53 ft) draft to pass, and improvements are planned to increase this to 22 m (72 ft) by 2010 to allow supertanker passage. Presently, supertankers can offload part of their cargo onto a canal-owned boat and reload at the other end of the canal. There is one shipping lane with several passing areas.

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 and await the passage of the northbound convoy. The northbound convoy passes the second southbound convoy, which moors to the canal bank in a by-pass, in the vicinity of El Qantara. The passage takes between 11 and 16 hours at a speed of around 8 knots. The low speed helps prevent erosion of the canal banks by ship's wakes.

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) reported that in 2003 17,224 ships passed through the canal. The canal averages about 8% of the world shipping traffic.

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. Receipts from the canal July 2005 to May 2006 totaled $3,246m. In 2005, 18,193 vessels passed through the canal. [10]

[edit] 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.

[edit] Timeline

Suez Canal, seen from Earth orbit, courtesy of NASA.
  • Circa 1799 — Napoleon I of France conquered Egypt and ordered a feasibility analysis. This reported a supposed 10 metre difference in sea levels, and a high estimated cost, so the project was set on standby.
  • Circa 1840 — A second survey demonstrated that the first one was erroneous; a direct link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea would be possible and would not be as expensive as expected.
  • Circa 1854 — The French consul in Cairo, Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, created the "Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez".
  • 25 Apr 1859 — The French were officially allowed to begin the canal construction (Said Pacha acquired 22% of the Suez Canal Company, the rest of the shares were controlled by French private holders).
  • 16 Nov 1869 — The Suez Canal opened; operated and owned by Suez Canal Company.
  • 25 Nov 1875 — Britain became a minority share holder in the Suez Company, acquiring 44% of the Suez Canal Company. The rest of the shares were controlled by French syndicates.
  • 25 Aug 1882 — Britain took control of the canal.
  • 14 Nov 1936 — Suez Canal Zone established, under British control.
  • 13 Jun 1956 — Suez Canal Zone restored to Egypt.
  • 26 Jul 1956 — Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.
  • 5 Nov 1956 to 22 Dec 1956 — French, British, and Israeli forces occupied the Suez Canal Zone.
  • 22 Dec 1956 — Restored to Egypt.
  • 5 June 1967 to 5 June 1975 — Canal closed and blockaded by Egypt.
  • 10 April 1975 — Suez Canal reopened.

[edit] Administration

Full translation of the Behistun Inscription

[edit] Presidents of the Suez Canal Company

Before nationalization:

[edit] Chairmen of the Suez Canal Authority

Since nationalization:

  • Dr.Mohamed Helmy Bahgat Badawy, 26 Jul.1956 - 9 Jul.1957
  • Eng. Mahmoud Younis, 10 Jul.1957 - 10 Oct.1965
  • Eng.Mashhour Ahmed Mashhour, 14 Oct.1965 - 31 Dec.1983
  • Eng.Mohamed Ezzat Adel, 1 Jan.1984 - Dec.1995
  • General Ahmed Ali Fadel, 22 Jan. 1996 - current

[edit] Port Suez

British Vice-Counsuls
  • 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
  • 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

[edit] Governors of the Suez Canal Zone

[edit] Supreme Allied Commander

During the Suez Crisis:

  • 5 Nov 1956 - 22 Dec 1956: Sir Charles Frederic Keightley (s.a.)

[edit] Popular culture

A popular film, Suez was made in 1938 and starred Tyrone Power as de Lesseps and Loretta Young as a love interest. A sweeping epic, it is very loosely based on history.

Suez Canal was recently featured in the video game Battlefield 2142 made by EA Games. The European Union and Pan-Asian forces fight each other for control of the canal after a futuristic ice age.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] External links

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Suez Canal

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