Magnificent Attractions You Didn’t Know They Exist Along Suez Canal, Egypt

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The Longest Chanel In The World, Suez

One of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes stretching at 193 km from Port Said (north) to Suez, (south) both cities in Egypt is the Suez Canal. This man-made waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Read Sea making a direct route from Europe to Asia. For us sailors, it effectively allows our passage from the North Atlantic into the Indian Ocean without going around the African continent.

Suez Canal divides most of Egypt into two from the Sinai Peninsula and it took 10 years to build, mostly by manual labor which was officially opened in November 14, 1869. Owned and operated by the Suez Canal Authority, the use of the canal was supposed to be open to all ships of all countries but unfortunately it has not been always the case. At some point this channel has been the center of conflict between Egypt and the combined forces of the UK, France and Israel (1956) and in the June 1967 Six Days War between Egypt and Israel.

Map showing Suez Canal in Egypt.

More than 50 ships pass through Suez Canal each day which give Egypt to collect a whooping US$5 billion of shipping toll fees at a year. Aboard on 6 different ships – Knock Muir (1996), Knock Dun (1999), Knock Clune (2002), IVS Leopard Sun (2013), IVS Kingbird (2014) and IVS Wentworth (2016) I was lucky to have traversed this famous canal. In all those travels, we usually hit off Port Said (opening) at dawn (3:00 A.M.) and as the ship was well underway through the morning, different sights along the canal would come to life, beautiful cities in one side and the vast Sinai Desert in one place. Read on the magnificent attractions you didn’t know they exist along Suez Canal, Egypt.

Alexandria, Pearl of the Mediterranean

A magnificent attraction you didn’t know it exist along Suez Canal, Egypt, Alexandria, sometimes known as the “Pearl of the Mediterranean” is the gateway to the canal. Though it is the country’s second largest city, its ambience is more of a Mediterranean than African (or Middle Eastern). It was founded by Alexander The Great in 331 B.C. of which this city was named after and has been Egypt‘s center of culture for centuries.

The backdrop of Cleopatra‘s and Mark Anthony‘s on and off affair, Alexandria was also the epicenter of learning during the ancient times. The city was best known for its lighthouse (Pharos), its Great Library, and the Necropolis…all of which were considered 7 wonders of the ancient world.

The Necropolis in Alexandria.

Popular as a tourist destination in Egypt, it also boasts Pompey’s Pillar, the only ancient monument left standing in modern times. Cleopatra’s Palace, another attraction in Alexandria is a sunken city that you have to explore underwater as it was submerged by an earthquake 1,400 years ago. Most of all, don’t miss Alexandria‘s icon, its waterfront, Corniche which is a sight to behold where you will also find other landmarks like Fort Quaitbey, Bibliothea and Mortazah Palace.

Alexandria’s waterfront, the Corniche.

Port Said and Its Breezy Charm

Starting point of the channel by the Mediterranean side (north) and a magnificent attraction you didn’t know it exist along Suez Canal, Egypt, Port Said is a city once dominated by Greek and Italian communities. Named after Muhammad Said, the Egyptian ruler at the time Suez Canal was constructed, this is a bustling seaport where sailors usually join ships or sign off from contracts. Full of remnants from its past, Port Said is a refreshing destination waiting to be discovered.

The Suez Canal Authority Building in Port Said.

Conceived on an Easter Monday in 1859 when the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps (director of the Suez Canal company) swung an axe at the Sinai Desert to commence the construction of the Suez Canal, Port Said has metamorphosed into a bustling town though it suffered numerous wars. In 1956, 1967 and 1973 this city endured Israeli-French-British aggression but declared a duty-free zone in 1976. It became then a shopping mecca for Egyptians as boutiques and shops offered goods that are rare in Cairo.

Pilgrims to the miraculous portrait of the Blessed Virgin at the Saint Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church in Port Said.

The Suez Canal Authority building constructed in 1895, is one of the distinguishing sights of Port Said which is located along the shores of the canal. It was used to monitor the passage of ships through the Suez Canal which has become an icon of the city. Casa d’Italia, the old Italian Consulate is another tourist-worthy site to visit as well as the Saint Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church which is famous for its miraculous portrait of the Blessed Virgin, claiming to produce holy oil.

Ismailia, the City of Gardens

Halfway between the cities of Port Said and Suez is Ismailia, another magnificent attraction you didn’t know it exist along Suez Canal, Egypt. It was founded and named after Pasha Ismail, another Egyptian ruler in the 1860s while Suez Canal was under construction. This city was the residence of Ferdinand de Lesseps, thus Ismailia has evolved into a “French” city along the canal.

European quarter at Ismailia.

Its historic town center with its graceful boulevards, expensive gardens and 19th century stately homes, is considered one of the charming areas along the canal. The city’s main arteries such as the European quarter around Sharia Thawra and the central squares Miden Al Gomhuriyya are the city’s best attractions.

Suez, A Town of Ornate Mosques

The southern terminus of the canal and gateway to the Indian Ocean (Red Sea), Suez has been almost destroyed during the Egypt-Israel wars in the late 1960s to early 1970s. A magnificent attraction you didn’t it exist along Suez Canal, Egypt, reconstruction of this town began after Egypt re-opened Suez Canal following the Yum Kippur War with Israel in 1975. Today, Suez is mainly a transit port to the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

Attractions of Suez include the Sinai Desert, ornate Mosques, Suez National Museum (which houses ancient artifacts of great importance including pieces of gold and copper jewelry), Koshery Palace, Mount Ataka and Ain Sokhra.

Commercial center of Suez.

And the Statue of Liberty Should Have Been at the Suez Canal

While the Suez Canal was nearing into completion in 1869, the French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi suggested to the Egyptian government and to Ferdinand Lesseps to put up a monument called ¨Egypt Bringing Light to Asia¨ at the Mediterranean gateway. It would have been a magnificent attraction you didn’t know it exist along Suez Canal, Egypt. Getting inspiration from the Collossus of Rhodes, Bartholdi imagined a 90 ft. tall sculpture of a woman draped in Egyptian clothing with a torch on her hand that would serve as light guiding ships sailing along the canal.

The vision never came into reality but Bartholdi did not stop in suggesting his masterpiece and so in 1896 it has been completed and unveiled in New York harbor. It was called ¨Liberty Enlightening the World¨ better known today as the Statue of Liberty.

Since 1980, the Suez Canal had undergone widening several times to lessen the time spent by ships while crossing into the Indian Ocean. A parallel canal, the New Suez Canal was opened in August 06, 2015. A childhood dream when you get excited watching ships glide in the middle of a desert, that is Suez Canal. It’s fantastic to see one side of cultivated lands and cities while at the other side is the Sinai Desert, an impressive landscape indeed. Be sure to put the cruise tour along this canal on your bucket list someday.

Reference: Wikipedia