*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Nearly 4,000 years after Pharaoh Senausert III dug the first waterway to link the Mediterranean and Red Seas, the Suez Canal opened in Egypt on November 17, 1869. Nicknamed “The Highway to India,” the decade-long project created one of the busiest and most vital shipping routes in the entire world.
Though the first attempt to bridge the gap between the two chief bodies of water in the Middle East is said to have occurred in the 19th century BCE, modern interest in the possibility of a canal arose when Napoleon led the French Army into Egypt in 1798. As a team of scientists furiously hunted through the desert for the remains of the ancient waterway, slight miscalculations were relayed to the general — the Red Sea was believed to be 30 feet higher than the Mediterranean and the project would be too time-consuming to pursue.
It would take nearly 50 years for the error to be corrected. Interest in cutting through the 100-mile stretch of parched earth took on a renewed importance by the middle of the 19th century, particularly when a second French study demonstrated the proposed route was essentially level from north to south. Ferdinand de Lesseps, working with Sa’id Pasha, the regional governor appointed by the Ottoman Empire, negotiated a 99-year lease on the territory in 1856 and spent another two years forming the company that would take on the massive effort. …(Read more)