Egypt's Suez Canal was built between 1859 and 1869, but it had been considered for hundreds of years. The first idea for a canal connecting the Nile River with the Red Sea dates back to the 7th century BC, and the idea of a canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea dates back to the Middle Ages. Even Napoleon had 18th-century surveyors working to develop a plan for constructing a Suez Canal. It took a French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps, to finally get the Suez Canal built.
Unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal has no locks--the Mediterranean and Red Seas are at the same level. Like the Panama Canal, the construction of the Suez Canal resulted in many worker injuries and deaths. Even without locks, the Suez Canal is an engineering marvel and a transit through the canal is very interesting.
Cruise ships repositioning between Europe and Asia like the Silversea Silver Whisper often include the Suez Canal on their itineraries.
The Silversea Silver Whisper sailed from Port Said after midnight, and when guests awoke the next morning they were sailing along the Sinai Peninsula in the Suez Canal. The east bank of the Suez Canal in Asia looked much like this photo for miles and miles, while the west bank in Africa was lightly populated, with cities and roads along the way.
Sailing through the Suez Canal was much like a river cruise since guests could see both banks of the Suez -- two continents -- most of the time.
It is not unusual for ships to have to queue up to transit the Suez Canal since parts of the canal are very narrow and only allow one-way traffic. Over 17,000 ships each year pass through the Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, which means that almost 50 ships per day make the transit. Total revenues are over $3 billion per year, making the Suez Canal a major revenue source for Egypt.
In comparison, the Panama Canal has about 14,000 ships per year and over $1 billion in revenue. Large oil tankers are the biggest money makers for the Suez Canal. Without locks, nothing prevents very large ships from passing through the Suez Canal. Because of the locks in the Panama Canal, it cannot accommodate these mega-ships. Even many cruise ships are too small to pass through the Panama Canal locks.
Although the Suez Canal does not have locks, ships form north or southbound convoys to transit between Port Said and Suez. The Great Bitter Lake in the Canal is often used as a holding place for ships to anchor for several hours while waiting for ships to pass going the other direction.
Fishermen at the Suez Canal
Many small fishing boats can be seen during transits of the Suez Canal.
Fishermen in the Suez Canal
These fishermen had small nets they were using to trap fish. The next picture is a close up of the fishermen.
Sailing through the Suez Canal
Traffic is one-way in much of the Suez Canal, so ships transit in a convoy.
Military Encampment on the Suez Canal
The presence of many soldiers along the Suez Canal is not surprising.
Stadium Under Construction on the Suez Canal
When transiting the Suez Canal, it's fun to see ongoing construction as well as old and new buildings.
Ferry Crossing on the Suez Canal
Although the Sinai Peninsula is sparsely populated, a few ferries cross the Suez Canal. This small outpost (with a mosque) is on the east bank of the canal.
Ferry Crossing the Suez Canal
All ships sail north and south through the Suez Canal except the ferries that carry cars and people between the west bank in Africa and the east bank in Asia.