January 21, 2016 Transiting the Suez Canal

We began our transit of the Suez Canal at the town of Port Said about 3:30 in the morning. Some of those who were very interested in the canal were out on deck at this time of morning to be sure not to miss a moment of the transit. Since we will be transiting the canal again on our return to Rotterdam, we slept in until much later.

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through Egypt. The canal opened on November 17, 1869 after ten years of construction. The canal is at sea level so there are no locks to transit. The canal allows ships to transit between Europe and South Asia without having to go around Africa. The canal is approximately 120 miles in length and about 79 feet in depth. In 2014 construction was begun at the cost of 8.4 billion dollars to create a bypass allowing ships to transit more quickly and to increase capacity from 49 ships a day to 97 ships a day. The new bypass channel opened on August 6th of 2015. Prior to the new construction, the canal raised five billion dollars a year in revenue from ships transiting the canal. A small sailboat may be charged only $500 to transit while an oil tanker or a container ship may pay tens of thousands of dollars. It takes about ten hours to transit the entire length of the canal. Ships are only allowed to sail at a slow speed to prevent a wake that may cause damage to the shoreline.

The canal splits Egypt into two regions. The western portion is part of Africa while to the east of the canal you have the Sinai Peninsula that is part of Asia. The western shoreline is very populated with agriculture, houses, mosques and large cities. The eastern shoreline is mostly barren desert. There is one large bridge for automobiles to cross the canal and one train bridge, which is a swiveling bridge with one section on each side of the canal. We exited the canal about 2:00 in the afternoon at the town of Suez.

The weather had finally begun to warm up. The skies were clear by the afternoon and guests had replaced their winter coats with shorts and swimwear. The evening’s entertainer was a young magician/comedian by the name of James Long. He is a very talented magician but his delivery was a bit slow.