The legendary Sesostris (likely either Pharaoh Senusret II or Senusret III of the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt) may have started work on an ancient canal joining the Nile with the Red Sea (1897 BCE – 1839 BCE), when an irrigation channel was constructed around 1850 BCE that was navigable during the flood season, leading into a dry river valley east of the Nile River Delta named Wadi Tumilat. (It is said that in ancient times the Red Sea reached northward to the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah.) 165.
The reliefs of the Punt expedition under Hatshepsut, 1470 BCE, depict seagoing vessels carrying the expeditionary force returning from Punt.
1300 BC, 1201 BC
Evidence seems to indicate its existence by the 13th century BCE during the time of Ramesses II.
According to the Histories of the Greek historian Herodotus, about 600 BCE, Necho II undertook to dig a west–east canal through the Wadi Tumilat between Bubastis and Heroopolis, and perhaps continued it to the Heroopolite Gulf and the Red Sea.
270 BC, 269 BC
An inscription on a pillar at Pithom records that in 270 or 269 BCE, it was again reopened, by Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
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.
Suez Canal in years
The length that Herodotus tells, of over 1000 stadia (i.e., over 114 miles (183 km)), must be understood to include the entire distance between the Nile and the Red Sea at that time.
Opened in 2001, it has a 70-metre (230 ft) clearance over the canal and was built with assistance from the Japanese government and by Kajima.
The canal allows passage of ships up to 20 m (66 ft) draft or 240,000 deadweight tons and up to a height of 68 m (223 ft) above water level and a maximum beam of 77.5 m (254 ft) under certain conditions.
By the 8th century, a navigable canal existed between Old Cairo and the Red Sea, but accounts vary as to who ordered its construction—either Trajan or 'Amr ibn al-'As, or Omar the Great.
A geography treatise by Dicuil reports a conversation with an English monk, Fidelis, who had sailed on the canal from the Nile to the Red Sea during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the first half of the 8th centuryThe Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur is said to have ordered this canal closed in 767 to prevent supplies from reaching Arabian detractors.
Suez Canal in decades
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah is claimed to have repaired the Cairo to Red Sea passageway, but only briefly, circa 1000 AD, as it soon "became choked with sand".
El Ferdan Railway Bridge (30.657°N 32.334°E / 30.657; 32.334 (El Ferdan Railway Bridge)) 20 km (12 mi) north of Ismailia (30°35′N 32°16′E) was completed in 2001 and is the longest swing-span bridge in the world, with a span of 340 m (1100 ft).
During the 16th century, the Ottoman Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha attempted to construct a canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
Despite entering negotiations with Egypt's ruling Mamelukes, the Venetian plan to build the canal was quickly put to rest by the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517, led by Sultan Selim I.
During the French campaign in Egypt and Syria in late 1798, Napoleon showed an interest in finding the remnants of an ancient waterway passage.
Suez Canal in centuries
Remnants of an ancient west–east canal through the ancient Egyptian cities of Bubastis, Pi-Ramesses, and Pithom were discovered by Napoleon Bonaparte and his engineers and cartographers in 1799.
Circa 1799 – Napoleon Bonaparte conquers Egypt and orders a feasibility analysis.
In the second half of the 19th century, French cartographers discovered the remnants of an ancient north–south canal past the east side of Lake Timsah and ending near the north end of the Great Bitter Lake.
Later, Napoleon, who would become French Emperor in 1804, contemplated the construction of a north–south canal to connect the Mediterranean with the Red Sea.
De Lesseps had used his friendly relationship with Sa'id, which he had developed while he was a French diplomat in the 1830s.
French Saint-Simonianists showed an interest in the canal and in 1833, Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin tried to draw Muhammad Ali's attention to the canal but was unsuccessful.
Alois Negrelli, the Austrian railroad pioneer, became interested in the idea in 1836.
Circa 1840 – A second survey finds the first analysis incorrect.
In 1846, Prosper Enfantin's Société d'Études du Canal de Suez invited a number of experts, among them Robert Stephenson, Negrelli and Paul-Adrien Bourdaloue to study the feasibility of the Suez Canal (with the assistance of Linant de Bellefonds).
In 1854 and 1856, Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained a concession from Sa'id Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, to create a company to construct a canal open to ships of all nations.
De 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 cargo capacity and not only the theoretical net tonnage of the "Moorsom System" introduced in Britain by the Merchant Shipping Act in 1854.
30 November 1854
30 November 1854 – The former French consul in Cairo, Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, obtains the first license for construction and subsequent operation from the Viceroy for a period of 99 years.
6 January 1856
6 January 1856 – de Lesseps is provided with a second, more detailed license.
After surveys and analyses in Egypt and discussions in Paris on various aspects of the canal, where many of Negrelli's ideas prevailed, the commission produced a unanimous report in December 1856 containing a detailed description of the canal complete with plans and profiles.
15 December 1858
The Suez Canal Company (Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez) came into being on 15 December 1858.
15 December 1858
15 December 1858 – de Lesseps establishes the "Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez", with Said Pasha acquiring 22% of the Suez Canal Company; the majority is controlled by French private holders.
17 November 1869, 1859
Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it was officially opened on 17 November 1869.
The construction of the canal was one of the reasons for the Panic of 1873, because goods from the Far East were carried in sailing vessels around the Cape of Good Hope and were stored in British warehouses. An inability to pay his bank debts led Said Pasha's successor, Isma'il Pasha, to sell his 44% share in the canal for £4,000,000 (about £89.3 million in 2018) to the government of Great Britain in 1875.
18 December 1873
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 its protocol of 18 December 1873.
18 December 1873
18 December 1873 – The International Commission of Constantinople establishes the Suez Canal Net Ton and the Suez Canal Special Tonnage Certificate (as known today)
25 November 1875
25 November 1875 – Britain becomes a minority share holder in the company, acquiring 44%, with the remainder being controlled by French business syndicates.
French shareholders still held the majority. Local unrest caused the British to invade in 1882 and take full control, although nominally Egypt remained part of the Ottoman Empire.
As a result of British involvement on the side of Khedive Tewfiq, Britain gained control of the canal in 1882.
20 May 1882
20 May 1882 – Britain invades Egypt, with French assistance, and begins its occupation of Egypt.
25 August 1882
25 August 1882 – Britain takes control of the canal.
The Convention of Constantinople in 1888 declared the canal a neutral zone under the protection of the British, who had occupied Egypt and Sudan at the request of Khedive Tewfiq to suppress the Urabi Revolt against his rule.
2 March 1888 – The Convention of Constantinople renews the guaranteed right of passage of all ships through the canal during war and peace; these rights were already part of the licenses awarded to de Lesseps, but are recognised as international law.
This proved to be the celebrated canal made by the Persian king Darius I, as his stele commemorating its construction was found at the site. (This ancient, second canal may have followed a course along the shoreline of the Red Sea when it once extended north to Lake Timsah.) In the 20th century the northward extension of this ancient canal was discovered, extending from Lake Timsah to the Ballah Lakes.
The British representative 1883 to 1907 was Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer, who reorganized and modernized the government and suppressed rebellions and corruption. thereby facilitating increased traffic on the canal.
The British defended the strategically important passage against a major Ottoman attack in 1915, during the First World War.
1936, 1939, 1945, 1951
Under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the UK retained control over the canal. The canal was again strategically important in the 1939–1945 Second World War, and Italo-German attempts to capture it were repulsed during the North Africa Campaign, during which the canal was closed to Axis shipping. In 1951 Egypt repudiated the treaty and in October 1954 the UK agreed to remove its troops.
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser responded by nationalizing the canal on 26 July 1956 and transferring it to the Suez Canal Authority, intending to finance the dam project using revenue from the canal.
26 July 1956
26 July 1956 – Egypt nationalizes the company; its Egyptian assets, rights and obligations are transferred to the Suez Canal Authority, which compensates the previous owners at the established pre-nationalization price.
24 October 1956, 31 October 1956, April 1957
31 October 1956 to 24 April 1957 – the canal is blocked to shipping following the Suez Crisis, a conflict that leads to an Israeli, French and British occupation of the canal zone.
29 October 1956
According to the pre-agreed war plans under the Protocol of Sèvres, the Israelis invaded the Sinai Peninsula on 29 October, forcing Egypt to engage them militarily, and allowing the Anglo-French partnership to declare the resultant fighting a threat to stability in the Middle East and enter the war - officially to separate the two forces but in reality to regain the Canal and bring down the Nasser government.
4 November 1956
On 4 November 1956, a majority at the United Nations voted for Pearson's peacekeeping resolution, which mandated the UN peacekeepers to stay in Sinai unless both Egypt and Israel agreed to their withdrawal.
In May 1967, Nasser ordered the UN peacekeeping forces out of Sinai, including the Suez Canal area.
5 June 1967, 10 June 1967, 1973
5 June 1967 to 10 June 1975 – the canal is blocked by Egypt, following the war with Israel; it becomes the front line during the ensuing War of Attrition and the 1973 war, remaining closed to international shipping, until general agreement was near.
Also impacting the eastern Mediterranean, starting in 1968, was the operation of Aswan High Dam across the Nile.
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 a counter-crossing by the Israeli army to Egypt.
=== Mine clearing operations (1974-75) ===
The British Royal Navy initiated Operation Rheostat and Task Group 65.2 provided for Operation Rheostat One (six months in 1974), the minehunters HMS Maxton, HMS Bossington, and HMS Wilton, the Fleet Clearance Diving Team (FCDT) and HMS Abdiel, a practice minelayer/MCMV support ship; and for Operation Rheostat Two (six months in 1975) the minehunters HMS Hubberston and HMS Sheraton, and HMS Abdiel.
These partly cleared the canal between May and December 1974.
Unwilling to allow the Israelis to use the canal, Egypt immediately imposed a blockade which closed the canal to all shipping. 15 cargo ships, known as the "Yellow Fleet", were trapped in the canal, and would remain there until 1975.
The canal was then reopened by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat aboard an Egyptian destroyer, which led the first convoy northbound to Port Said 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 Soviet Union in the UN Security Council, at the request of Syria.
The bypasses were completed in 1980.
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.
Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel (30°5′9″N 32°34′32″E) south of the Great Bitter Lake (30°20′N 32°23′E) was built in 1983.
Because of leakage problems, a new water-tight tunnel was built inside the old one from 1992 to 1995.
The zone incorporates the three "Qualifying Industrial Zones" at Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, a 1996 American initiative to encourage economic ties between Israel and its neighbours.
The Suez Canal overhead powerline crossing (29.996°N 32.583°E / 29.996; 32.583 (Suez Canal overhead powerline crossing)) was built in 1999.
In 2008, 21,415 vessels passed through the canal and the receipts totaled $5.381 billion, with an average cost per ship of $251,000.
Between 2008 and 2010, it is estimated that the canal lost 10% of traffic due to the threat of piracy, and another 10% due to the financial crisis.
1 January 2008
1 January 2008 – New rules of navigation passed by the Suez Canal Authority come into force.
1 January 2008
New Rules of Navigation came into force on 1 January 2008, passed by the board of directors of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) to organise vessels' transit.
The Bremen-based Beluga Group claimed in 2009 to be the first Western company to attempt using the Northern Sea Route without assistance from icebreakers, cutting 4000 nautical miles off the journey between Ulsan, Korea and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal (average 47 per day).
As the canal has no sea surge gates, the ports at the ends would be subject to the sudden impact of tsunamis from the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea, according to a 2012 article in the Journal of Coastal Research.
In the summer of 2014, months after taking office as President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered the expansion of the Ballah Bypass from 61 metres (200 ft) wide to 312 metres (1,024 ft) wide for 35 kilometres (22 mi).
In August 2014, construction was launched to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass for 35 km (22 mi) to speed the canal's transit time.
In August 2014, Egypt chose a consortium that includes the Egyptian army and global engineering firm Dar Al-Handasah to develop an international industrial and logistics hub in the Suez Canal area, and began the construction of a new canal section from km 60 to km 95 combined with expansion and deep digging of the other 37 km of the canal.
The current bridge is no longer functional due to the expansion of the Suez Canal, as the parallel shipping lane completed in 2015 just east of the bridge lacks a structure spanning it.
6 August 2015
The "New Suez Canal", as the expansion was dubbed, was opened with great fanfare in a ceremony on 6 August 2015.
6 August 2015
Sisi declared the expanded channel open for business in a ceremony on 6 August 2015.
6 August 2015
6 August 2015 – The new canal extensions are opened.
6 August 2015
The so-called New Suez Canal, functional since 6 August 2015, currently has a new parallel canal in the middle part, with its length over 35 km (22 mi).
Before August 2015, the canal was too narrow for free two-way traffic, so ships would pass in convoys and use bypasses.
6 August 2015
These extensions were formally opened on 6 August 2015 by President Al-Sisi.
24 February 2016
On 24 February 2016, the Suez Canal Authority officially opened the new side channel.
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