Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Tick on the Bucket List...the Suez Canal

“Even in ancient times, people dreamed of a water passage between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.”

The Suez route was never more than an idea until the 19th century. Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798 raised the possibility of a canal once again, since it would shorten the route to India, but his time in Egypt was short and nothing was done. Finally, a half century later, a workable plan was submitted.

The formal opening of the canal was in 1869 after 10 years of construction. Some sources estimate that over 30,000 people were working on the canal at any given period, that altogether more than 1.5 million people from various countries were employed, and that thousands of labourers died on the project.

The first ship to pass through the canal was a French one, followed by a procession of 68 ships from many nations with much fanfare.

The canal was defended during both World Wars, but continued feuding over the canal company led to the Suez Crisis in 1956 when troops from Britain, France, and Israel attacked Egypt. The canal was closed between the two Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. The channel was blocked by mines, trapped ships and artillery fire. It was not until Henry Kissinger worked out a truce that the canal was cleared and re-opened with help from the US.

As of 2010, the canal is 120 miles long, 79 feet deep, and 673 feet wide. It is a single lane with two passing places.

Here we are heading up to the Suez Canal.

One of the many, many oil rigs we passed along the way. Egypt gets 76% of its oil from the Gulf of Suez.

There was lots of traffic and many ships passing by.

Early morning on the Suez Canal. It is so different from the Panama Canal, which is narrow with concrete sides. This just looked like a river. It's amazing to think it was man made.

These trucks were carrying oil from the refinery in the Sinai Peninsula.

They were waiting for the ferry to transport them across the canal to the mainland.

Here comes the ferry to transport them. It didn’t look too big considering the lineup of trucks.

They were repairing erosion on the banks of the canal.

Our side of the canal looked like vast desert. On the other side of the ship, there were all kinds of things to see. This guardhouse is one of many army posts along the canal.

A housing compound for workers who provide maintenance on the canal.

On our side of the ship, endless desert.

A great way to see the Suez Canal was from the walking track. Here I am talking with Shirley, one of our dinner table mates.

This is the teeny tiny pool on the ship. The Pacific Princess is one of the small ships with only 650 passengers. At this time of the day, hardly any of the deck chairs were being used, and it wasn't too crowded the whole time, which was great.

This is the old style of boat used by fishermen on the canal for centuries.

Several ships coming along behind us…we were in the middle of a group of ships heading north.

These are ships anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, waiting for their turn through the canal. This is one of two areas where ships can pass.

This navigation chart was outside near the pool. They always auction them off for charity at the end of the cruise. It shows the start of our journey in Singapore working up towards Venice.

We brought our Canadian flag, so we put it on our balcony. A passing container ship…

Watching our progress on TV as we wiggled up to Port Said.

Look at the size of this container ship!

Fishing boats with their nets. I wonder what kind of fish are in the Suez Canal?

This ferry can carry two large trucks across the canal.

These are pontoons that can be joined together to provide additional crossings of the canal, and can support a vehicle up to 100 tons.

The Sinai Peninsula with sands from the excavation of the canal.

Another picture showing what can be created out of the desert sand with irrigation.

This is a pontoon equipped with outboard power supply to provide transportation for vehicles across the canal.

This is part of the canal traffic control station.

Ismailia Sporting Village provides facilities for sports teams including swimming, squash and football.

WWI memorial was given by the French government to the Egyptians in memory of the men who lost their lives defending the Suez Canal against the Turks.

The town of Al Ballah about halfway up the canal...

Here you can see the dredge spoils from the deepening of the canal.

This monument, in the shape of an AK-47 muzzle and bayonet, commemorates the Egyptians killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Israel.

Welcome to Egypt!

They had a Suez Canal champagne and mimosa party with a band playing. It was fun!

Kim with Eric, who is from the Ukraine, one of our favourite waiters. 

We passed by this swinging bridge which is in two sections (one on each side of the Canal).

Jim with Rout from India and Marco from Serbia, two bartenders that he got to know quite well during the five days I was in India.

This is a new suspension bridge built with funds from UNESCO to allow truck traffic to the Sinai Peninsula.

Going under the bridge…

This pedestrian ferry takes people across the canal. The large town of El Qantara is in the background.

Look at the tidy green fields irrigated with water from the Nile.

We were now through the canal and into the Mediterranean Sea. This ship was dumping dredge spoils from the mouth of the Canal into the sea (circled in photo).

Here we are…1244 miles from our final destination of Venice.

It has cooled off quite considerably!

Making our way to Alexandria...

It was Barb and Ed’s 47th wedding anniversary, so we decided to celebrate in the Grill, one of the specialty restaurants. On the left are Hugh and Alex from Brisbane, Australia. We met them on the first day when we were in line to get on the ship. Beside Jim is Margaret, one of Ed’s “sister wives” from India. Note the raspberry martini in my hand...this became a new favourite.

Tomorrow we will be in Alexandria for our trip to Cairo to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx.

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