The Suez Canal
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The Suez canal - a brief history
The Suez Canal
Margaret Penfold and Ami Isseroff
The modern Suez canal that was built in the 19th century connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean in Egypt. The Isthmus of Egypt is so narrow at that point that it suggested the building of a canal to many people in antiquity, and in fact many such canals were built. Apparently, they were all shallow waterways, that took advantage of existing rivers and waterways in the Nile delta, and led to the Nile rather than the Mediterranean sea. The southern section of the modern canal runs along the ancient routes.
The inscriptions in the tomb of Weni the Elder, who lived during the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (c. 2407-2260 BC) tell us a lot about Egyptian canal building and the reasons for building them - (for war ships and for transporting monument stone). Scholars are still debating, however, whether his waterways ran all the way from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. A canal was also supposedly built by Thutmose III in about 1500 B.C.E.
Inscriptions of Rameses 2 (1279-1212 BC) claim that he finished (or repaired) a canal leading from the Nile to the Red sea via the wadi Tumilat and the Bitter lakes. Sometime in the next 600 years it must have silted up because Nekhau (Necho) 2 (609-594 BC) began and later abandoned its re-excavation.
Herodotus presumably had no access to the earlier inscriptions when he wrote:
Darius put up monuments to his feat along the length of the canal The one at Suez states amongst other things:
Darius' canal seems to have lasted for about 200 or more years, but by the time of Cleopatra it was blocked up again. The Roman Emperor Trajan put it right and Hadrian worked on it as well. By the time Amr ibn el-As conquered Egypt, however, the canal had fallen into disrepair again. He restored it.
A canal existed in the eight century and was recorded by an English scholar, Dicuil, who recorded that the monk Fidelis has sailed from the Nile to the Red Sea while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was used for shipping grain to Arabia it seems. The canal was stopped up in 767 by the Caliph Al Mansur, apparently in order to starve out rebels in Medina. (Tuchman, Barbara, Bible and Sword, 1956 p 30 ).
On the advice of Leibniz, Louis XIV, King of France, considered the idea of constructing a canal at Suez, to give France a monopoly on trade.
Napoleon's engineers also considered the idea of a canal running directly between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, but they miscalculated a difference of ten meters between the two sea levels and gave up the idea, as it would have resulted in flooding of large land areas.
Plan of the Suez Canal of Ferdinand de Lesseps - North is to the left
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Suez Canal - History
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