Building the Suez Canal


The Suez Canal, an impressive achievement of engineering that connected the Mediterranean and the Red seas, revolutionized international commerce. The French Suez Canal Company, working from a design by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, got to work on building the canal in 1859. When the canal was finally finished in 1869, it had taken ten years of hard work through arid and stony terrain to accomplish.

Before the opening of the Suez Canal, ships traveling between Europe and Asia had to take a circuitous path around the southern edge of Africa, adding days to their journey. Trade and international politics were both affected by the canal’s rising strategic significance over time.

When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal in 1956, it sparked a military intervention by Britain, France, and Israel and became known as the Suez Crisis. The crisis ultimately resulted in the internationalization of the canal and the deployment of the United Nations Emergency Force to the area. The Suez Canal is still an icon of human achievement and a vital passageway for global maritime trade.

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