Page images






or from Cairo. It was at one time considered to be near the spot where the Israelites crossed the ‘Sea of Sedge'; there is little doubt, however, that the passage was made much nearer the Mediterranean.

The neck of land which joins Asia to Africa, or the Isthmus of Suez, is nearly one hundred miles wide; on the south side is the Gulf of Suez, on the north the Mediterranean. The Red Sea and the Mediterranean appear to have been united in ancient days, and so far back

the time of Rameses II. earlier canal

cut between Pelusium and Lake Timsaḥ; it is almost certain that it was well fortified. The Asiatics who wished to invade Egypt were compelled to cross the Isthmus of nez, and a canal would not only serve

a water barrier against them, but be useful as a means of transport for troops from one point to another. The name of the place ķanțara, 'a bridge,' 30 miles to the north of Isma‘ilîya, seems to point to the fact of a ford existing here from very early times. Nekau (B.C. 610) began to make a canal at Bubastis, between the Nile and the Red Sea, but never finished it; it was continued in later times by Darius, and Ptolemy Philadelphus made a lock for it; still later we know that the Nile and the Red Sea were joined by a canal. The emperor Trajan cleared out the canal from Cairo to the Red Sea, which, having become impassable, was re-opened by 'Omar's general, Amr ibn el-'Âși, after his conquest of Egypt.

In the Middle Ages various attempts were made in a half-hearted manner to cut a new canal across the Isthmus, but although several royal personages in and out of Egypt were anxious to see the proposed work begun, nothing was seriously attempted until 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte directed M. Lepère to survey the route of a canal across the Isthmus. M. Lepère reported that the difference between the levels of the Red Sea and Mediterranean was thirty feet, and, that, therefore, the canal was impossible.* Although several scientific men doubted the accuracy of M. Lepère's conclusion, the fact that the level of the two seas is practically the same was not proved until M. Linant Bey, Stephenson, and others examined the matter in 1846. It was then at once evident that a canal was possible. M. de Lesseps laid the plans for a canal before Sa'id Pâshâ in 1854 ; two years afterwards they were sanctioned, and two years later the works began. The original plan proposed to make a canal from Suez to Pelusium, but it was afterwards modified, and by bringing the northern end into the Mediterranean at Port Sa'id, it was found possible to do away with the lock at each end, which would have been necessary had it embouched at Pelusium. The fresh-water canal from Búlåk to Suez, with an aqueduct to Port Sa'id, included in the original plan, was completed in 1863. It was made by de Lesseps, and was purchased by the Egyptian Government for £400,000. The filling of the Bitter Lakes with sea-water from the Mediterranean was begun on the 18th March, 1869, and the whole canal was opened for traffic on November 16th of the same year. The cost of the canal was about £19,000,000.

The buoyed channel which leads into the canal at the Suez end is 300 yards across in the widest part. The average width of the dredged channel is about go feet, and the average depth about 28 feet. At Shalûf at-Terrâbah the excavation was very difficult, for the ground rises about twenty feet above the sea-level, and the elevation is five or six miles long. A thick layer of hard rock 'cropped' up in

This was the opinion of some classical writers : compare Aristotle, Meteorologica, i. 14, 27 ; Diodorus, i. 23; and Strabo, xvii. 1, 25. The Arab writer Mas'ûdi relates that a certain king tried to cut a canal across this isthmus, but that on finding that the waters of the Red Sea stood at a higher level than those of the Mediterranean, he abandoned his project. (Les Prairies d'Or, t. iv. p. 97.)

the line of the canal, and the work of removing it was of no slight nature. On a mound not quite half-way between Suez and Shalûf are some granite blocks bearing traces of cuneiform and hieroglyphic inscriptions recording the name of Darius. They appear to be the remains of one of a series of buildings erected along the line of the old canal which was restored and probably completed by Darius. At Shalûf the width of the canal is about 90 feet, and shortly after leaving this place the canal enters the Small Bitter Lake, which is about seven miles long. Before reaching the end of it is, on the left, another mound on which were found the ruins of a building which was excavated by M. de Lesseps. Granite slabs were found there inscribed with the name of Darius in Persian cuneiform characters and in hieroglyphics. The canal next passes through the Great Bitter Lake (about fifteen miles long), and a few kilomètres farther along it passes by the rock, upon which was built by Darius another monument to tell passers-by that he it was who made the canal. The track of the canal through the Bitter Lakes is marked by a double row of buoys ; the distance between each buoy is 330 yards, and the space between the two rows is about thirty yards. At a little distance to the north of the Bitter Lake is Tusûn, which may be easily identified by means of the tomb of the Muḥammadan saint Ennedek. Shortly after Lake Timsah, or the Crocodile Lake,' is reached, on the north side of which is the town of Isma'iliya, formerly the head-quarters of the staff in charge of the various works connected with the construction of the canal. The canal channel through the lake is marked by buoys as in the Bitter Lakes. Soon after re-entering the canal the plain of El-Gisr, or the bridge,' is entered ; it is about fifty-five feet above the level of the sea. Through this a channel about eighty feet deep had to be cut. Passing through Lake Balàḥ, Al-ķanțara, the bridge,' a place situated on a height between the Balâh and Menzalah Lakes, is reached. It is by this natural bridge that every invading army must have entered Egypt, and its appellation, the ' Bridge of Nations,' is most appropriate. On the cast side of the canal, not far from Al-Kanțara, are some ruins of a building which appears to have been built by Rameses II., and a little beyond ķanțara begins Lake Menzâlah. About twenty miles to the east are the ruins of Pelusium. The canal is carried through Lake Menzâlah in a perfectly straight line until it reaches Port Sa'id. Stern-wheel steamers, with double promenade decks, now run on Lake Menzâlah from Port Sa'id to Karputi in about 3 hours ; the fishing trade of the Lake has also been considerably developed.

The town of Port Sa'id stands on the island which forms part of the narrow tract of land which separates Lake Menzâlah from the Mediterranean. The first body of workmen landed at the spot which afterwards becanie Port Sa'id in 1859, and for many years the place was nothing but a factory and a living-place for workmen. The harbour and the two breakwaters which protect it are remarkable pieces of work ; the breakwater on the west is lengthened yearly to protect the harbour from the mud. carrying current which always flows from the west, and which would block up the canal but for the breakwater. Near the western breakwater is the lighthouse, about 165 feet high ; the electric light used in it, and can be seen for a distance of twenty miles. The port is called Sa'id in honour of Sa'id Pasha. The fresh water used is brought to the town by the canal from Isma'ilîya. The choice fell upon this spot for the Mediterranean end of the canal because water sufficiently deep for ocean-going ships was found within two miles of the shore. The total length of the canal, including the buoyed channel at the Suez end, is about cne hundred miles.

The transit receipts of the Suez Canal in 1903 were 103,620,268 francs; in 1904 they were 115,818,479 francs, and in 1905 they amounted to 113,866,796 francs. The net tonnage was 11,902,288 tons in 1903; 13,401,835 tons in 1904, and 13, 134, 105 tons in 1905. The number of the vessels which passed through the Canal in 1903 was 3,761; in 1904 it was 4,237 ; and in 1905 it was 4,116. Of the vessels which passed in 1905 some 2,484 were British, 600 German, 272 French, 219 Dutch, 139 Austrian-Hungarian, 91 Italian, 70 Russian, 91 Turkish, 66 Norwegian, 26 Spanish, 23 Danish, 8 Swedish, 12 Greek, 6 American, 5 Portuguese, 2 Egyptian, 1 Chinese, i Argentinian. The percentage of British vessels was 60'4, the percentage of Gross Tonnage 62-9, and the percentage of Net Tonnage 636. The number of passengers was in 1904, 210,845, 102,987 being outward bound, and 107,858 homeward bound; and in 1905, 252,693, 132,622 being outward bound, and 120,071 homeward bound. The following figures illustrate the increase in the number of passengers since 1870:Year. Passengers.

Year. Passengers. 1870 26,758


183,895 1871 48,422

1889 180,592 1872 67,640

1890 161,352 1873 68,030


194,473 1874 73,597


189,820 84,446

1893 186,498 1876 59,614

1894 166,003 1877


216,940 1878 96,363

1896 308,241 1879 82,144


191,224 1880 98,900

1898 219,729 1881 86,806

1899 221,348 1882 121,872


282,203 1883 119,176


270,221 1884 151,916


223,775 1885 205,949


195,232 1886 171,410


210,849 1887 182,996

1905 252,694



« PreviousContinue »