A century and half on, Suez Canal is 'lifeline' for Egypt

ISMAILIA, Egypt — One hundred and fifty years after the Suez Canal opened, the international waterway is hugely significant to the economy of modern-day Egypt, which nationalized it in 1956.

The canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, was opened to navigation in 1869 and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate larger ships.

Dug in the 19th century using “rudimentary tools,” the canal has today become “a lifeline for Egypt and countries around the world,” Admiral Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, told AFP in a rare interview.

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“We give credit to Ferdinand de Lesseps for putting forward the idea,” he said, referring to the French diplomat who masterminded the waterway dug over a decade between 1859 and 1869.

But he insisted it was thanks to the “genius” of the Egyptian people that the project really came to life.

Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Admiral Osama Rabie is pictured during an interview with AFP at his office in the Suez Canal headquarters in the Egyptian port city of Ismailia, 135 kilometers northeast of the capital Cairo on October 14, 2019. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

“It was a miracle by all accounts to excavate a 164-kilometer-long (102-mile) canal in 10 years with rudimentary tools,” he said.

“A quarter of Egyptians took part in the excavations, that was about a million citizens out of the population of 4.5 ....

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