Interesting facts about the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس, Qanā al-Suways) is a navigable lockless canal in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The canal zone is considered a conditional border between the two continents, Africa and Eurasia. The shortest waterway between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea area in the Atlantic Ocean (an alternative route is 8 thousand km longer). The Suez Canal was opened to shipping on November 17, 1869. The main ports are Port Said and Suez.

Located west of the Sinai Peninsula, it is 163 kilometers long and 20 meters deep. The canal is located in Egypt between Port Said (Bur Sa'id) on the Mediterranean and Suez (al-Suways) on the Red Sea. On the eastern side of the canal, opposite Port Said, is Port Fuad (Boer Fuad), where the Suez Canal Authority is located. On the eastern side of the canal, opposite the Suez, is Port Taufik (bur taufiq). On the channel, in the area of ​​Crocodile Lake (Timsah), is the third largest city in Egypt and a large industrial center - Ismailia.

The canal allows water transport to pass in both directions between Europe and Asia without skirting Africa. Before the opening of the canal, transportation was carried out by unloading ships and by land transportation between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas.

The canal consists of two parts - north and south of the Big Bitter Lake, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea.

According to the Suez Canal Administration, revenues from its operation in 2010 amounted to 4.5 billion dollars. USA, which makes it the second most important source of budget replenishment after tourism, which brought in 13 billion US dollars. In 2011, revenues amounted to $ 5.22 billion, while 17, 799 ships passed through the canal, which is 1.1 percent less than a year earlier.

Perhaps even during the Twelfth Dynasty, Pharaoh Senusret III (1878 BC - 1888 BC) laid a canal from west to east, dug through the Wadi Tumilat, connecting the Nile with the Red Sea, for unhindered trade with Punt.

Later, the construction and restoration of the canal was carried out by the powerful Egyptian pharaohs Ramses II and Necho II.

Herodotus (II. 158) writes that Necho (609-594) began to build a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea, but did not finish it.

The canal was completed around 500 BC by King Darius the First, the Persian conqueror of Egypt. In commemoration of this event, Darius erected granite steles on the banks of the Nile, including one near Carbet, 130 kilometers from Pie.

In the III century BC. e. the canal made Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–247) navigable. It is mentioned by Diodorus (I. 33. 11 −12) and Strabo (XVII. 1. 25), he is mentioned in the inscription on the stele from Pythom (16th year of the reign of Ptolemy). It began somewhat higher upstream of the Nile than the former canal, in the Fakussa region. It is possible, however, that under Ptolemy the old canal was cleared, deepened and extended to the sea, supplying the lands of Wadi Tumilat with fresh water. The fairway was wide enough - two triremes could freely disperse in it.

Emperor Trajan (98-117) deepened the canal and increased its navigability. It was known as the "Trajan River", it provided navigation, but then it was abandoned again.

In 776, by order of the Caliph Mansur, it was completely covered up in order not to divert trade routes from the center of the Caliphate.

In 1569, by order of the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed Sokollu, a plan was developed to restore the canal, but it was not implemented. He commissioned a special commission headed by engineer Lepère to carry out preliminary surveys. The commission came to the erroneous conclusion that the water level of the Red Sea is 9, 9 m higher than the water level in the Mediterranean Sea, which would not allow building a canal without locks. According to Leper's project, it was supposed to go from the Red Sea to the Nile, partly along the old route, cross the Nile near Cairo and end in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria. Leper considered it impossible to reach a particularly significant depth; his channel would be unsuitable for deep-seated ships. Leper's commission calculated the costs of the digging at 30-40 million francs. The project did not crash due to technical or financial difficulties, but to political events; it was completed only at the end of 1800, when Napoleon was already in Europe and finally gave up the hope of conquering Egypt. Accepting Leper's report on December 6, 1800, he said: “This is a great thing, but I am not in a position to carry it out at the present time; perhaps the Turkish government will take it up someday, thereby creating glory for itself and strengthening the existence of the Turkish Empire. "

In 1841, British officers conducting surveys on the isthmus proved the fallacy of Leper's calculations regarding the water level in two seas - calculations against which Laplace and the mathematician Fourier had already protested, based on theoretical considerations. In 1846, the international Société d'etudes du canal de Suez was formed, partly under the patronage of Metternich, in which the most prominent figures were the French engineers Talabo, the Englishman Stephenson and the Austrian Negrelli. Luigi Negrelli, on the basis of new, independent research, developed a new project, which, however, in general terms, was a repetition of the old one, Leper's. Around the same time, the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, not making new independent research, but relying only on the research of his predecessors, attacked the idea of ​​building the canal in a completely different way - so that it would be an "artificial Bosphorus" directly between the two seas, sufficient for the passage of the deepest ships.

In 1855, Ferdinand de Lesseps received concessions from Said Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt, whom de Lesseps met as a French diplomat in the 1830s. Said Pasha approved the creation of a company for the purpose of building a sea channel open to ships of all countries.

In the same 1855, Lesseps achieved the approval of the firman from the Turkish sultan, but only in 1859 was he able to establish a company in Paris. In the same year, construction began on the canal, led by Lesseps' General Suez Canal Company. The Egyptian government received 44% of all shares, France - 53% and 3% was acquired by other countries. Under the terms of the concession, shareholders were entitled to 74% of the profits, Egypt - 15%, the founders of the company - 10%.

Its fixed capital was equal to 200 million francs (this amount was calculated by Lesseps all the costs of the enterprise), divided into 400 thousand shares of 500 francs each; Said Pasha subscribed to a significant part of them. The British government, led by Palmerston, fearing that the Suez Canal would lead to the liberation of Egypt from the rule of Turkey and to the weakening or loss of England's domination over India, put all sorts of obstacles on the way to the implementation of the enterprise, but had to give in to the energy of Lesseps, especially since his enterprise was patronized by Napoleon III and Said Pasha, and then (since 1863) by his heir, Ismail Pasha.

The technical difficulties were enormous. I had to work under the scorching sun, in a sandy desert, completely devoid of fresh water. At first, the company had to use up to 1, 600 camels just to deliver water to workers; but by 1863 she had completed a small freshwater canal from the Nile, which ran in approximately the same direction as the ancient canals (the remains of which were used in some places), and intended not for navigation, but solely for the delivery of fresh water - first to workers, then and settlements that were to arise along the canal. This freshwater canal runs from the Zakazik at the Nile to the east to Ismailia, and from there to the southeast, along the sea channel, to the Suez; channel width 17 m on the surface, 8 - along the bottom; its depth is on average only 2¼ m, in some places even much less. Its opening made the work easier, but still the mortality rate among the workers was great. The workers were provided by the Egyptian government, but European workers also had to be used (in total, from 20 to 40 thousand people worked on the construction).

The 200 million francs, determined according to the original Lesseps project, soon ended, especially due to the enormous spending on bribery at the courts of Said and Ismail, on widespread advertising in Europe, on the costs of representing Lesseps himself and other tycoons of the company. They had to make a new bond issue of 166, 666, 500 francs, then others, so that the total cost of the canal reached 475 million by 1872 (by 1892 - 576 million). In the six-year period in which Lesseps promised to complete the work, the canal was not built. Excavation work was carried out using forced labor of the poor in Egypt (in the early stages) and took 11 years.

The first was the northern section through the swamp and Lake Manzala, then the flat section to Lake Timsakh. From here, the excavation went to two huge depressions - the long-dried Gorky Lakes, the bottom of which was 9 meters below sea level. After filling the lakes, the builders went to the southern end section.

The canal officially opened to shipping on November 17, 1869. On the occasion of the opening of the canal, the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was ordered to the opera Aida, the first production of which took place on December 24, 1871 at the Cairo Opera House.

The channel has had an immediate and invaluable impact on global trade. Six months earlier, the First Transcontinental Railroad had been in operation, and the entire world could now be circled in record time. The channel played an important role in the expansion and further colonization of Africa. External debts forced Ismail Pasha, who replaced Said Pasha, to sell his share in the channel to Great Britain in 1875. The General Suez Canal Company essentially became an Anglo-French enterprise, and Egypt was removed from both canal management and profits. England became the actual owner of the channel. This position was further strengthened after she occupied Egypt in 1882.

In 1888, an International Convention was signed in Istanbul (Constantinople) with the aim of creating a certain system designed to guarantee all states free navigation on the canal.

During the First and Second World Wars, navigation on the canal was actually regulated by Great Britain.

On July 26, 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the channel. This led to the invasion of British, French and Israeli troops and the start of the week-long Suez War of 1956. The canal was partially destroyed, some of the ships were sunk, as a result, shipping was closed until April 24, 1957, until the canal was cleared with the help of the UN. The UN Peacekeeping Force (UNEF) was introduced to maintain the status of the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal as neutral territories.

After the 1967 Six Day War, the channel was closed again. During the next Arab-Israeli war in 1973, the Egyptian army successfully crossed the canal; later the Israeli army made a "retaliatory crossing". After the end of the war, the canal was cleared of mines by the forces of the Soviet Navy and opened for use on June 5, 1975.

The canal has no locks due to the absence of sea level differences and elevations. The channel allows loaded ships with a displacement of up to 240, 000 tons, a height of 68 meters and a width of 77.5 meters (under certain conditions) to pass. The head of the Suez Canal Administration, Ahmed Ali Fadel, said that the next stage of dredging work has been completed, and the depth of the canal is 66 feet (20.1 m). In the future, it is planned to ensure the passage of supertankers with a draft of up to 22 meters. Currently, supertankers can move some of the cargo to ships belonging to the canal and receive it back at the other end of the canal. The channel has one fairway and several sections for the divergence of ships.

The Suez Canal is one of Egypt's main sources of income, along with oil and tourism.

The Egyptian Suez Canal Authority (SCA) reported that in 2009, 17, 155 ships passed through the canal, which is 20% less than in 2008 (21, 170 ships). For the Egyptian budget, this meant a reduction in revenues from the operation of the channel from $ 5.88 billion in the pre-crisis 2008 to $ 4.29 billion in 2009.

According to the head of the Canal Administration Ahmad Fadel, 17, 799 ships passed through the Suez Canal in 2011, which is 1.1 percent less than a year earlier. At the same time, the Egyptian authorities earned $ 5.22 billion on the transit of ships ($ 456 million more than in 2010).

In December 2011, the Egyptian authorities announced that tariffs for the transit of goods, which have not changed over the past three years, will rise by three percent from March 2012.

According to 2009 data, about 10% of the world's maritime traffic passes through the canal. The passage through the canal takes about 14 hours. On average, 48 ships pass through the canal per day.

Since April 1980, in the area of ​​the city of Suez, an automobile tunnel has been operating, passing under the bottom of the Suez Canal, and connecting the Sinai and continental Africa. In addition to technical excellence, which made it possible to create such a complex engineering project, this tunnel attracts with its monumentality, is of great strategic importance and is rightfully considered a landmark of Egypt.

In 1998, a power line was built over the canal in Suez. The pillars of the line, standing on both banks, are 221 meters high and are located 152 meters from each other.

On October 9, 2001, a new bridge was opened in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak on the highway connecting the cities of Port Said and Ismailia. The opening ceremony of the bridge was attended by the then President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. Before the opening of the Miillau viaduct, this structure was the world's tallest cable-stayed bridge. The height of the bridge is 70 meters. The construction lasted 4 years, with the participation of one Japanese and two Egyptian construction companies.

In 2001, traffic was opened on the El Ferdan railway bridge, 20 km north of the city of Ismailiyya. It is the longest swing bridge in the world, and its swing sections are 340 meters long. The previous bridge was destroyed in 1967 during the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The opening of the Suez Canal was attended by the Empress of France Eugenia (wife of Napoleon III), the Emperor of Austria-Hungary Franz Joseph I with the Minister-President of the Hungarian government Andrássy, the Dutch prince with the princess, the Prussian prince. Never before has Egypt known such celebrations and received so many distinguished European guests. The celebration lasted seven days and nights and cost Khedive Ismail 28 million gold francs. And only one point of the celebration program was not fulfilled: the famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi did not manage to finish the opera “Aida” ordered for this occasion, the premiere of which was supposed to enrich the opening ceremony of the channel. Instead of the premiere, a large festive ball was held in Port Said.