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Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is a canal in Egypt. Opened in November 1869, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigating around Africa or carrying goods overland between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The northern terminus is Port Said, with the southern terminus being near Suez. Ismailia is located halfway between Port Said and Suez. The canal is 192 km (119 mi) long. The maximum depth of the canal is 66 feet (20 m). It is single-lane with 4 passing places north and south of the Great Bitter Lake, and links the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea. It contains no locks; seawater flows freely through the canal into the Great Bitter Lake from both the Red Sea in the south and the Mediterranean in the north, replacing evaporation. The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of the Arab Republic of Egypt. In 1854 and 1856 Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained a concession from Said Pasha, the viceroy of Egypt, to create a company to construct a canal open to ships of all nations, according to plans created by Austrian engineer Alois Negrelli. The company was to operate the canal by leasing the relevant land, for 99 years from its opening. De Lesseps had used his friendly relationship with Said, which he had developed while he was a French diplomat during the 1830s. The Suez Canal Company (Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez) came into being on 15 December, 1858. The excavation took nearly 11 years using forced labour of Egyptian workers. Some sources estimate that over 30,000 people were forced to work on the canal. [27] The British recognised the canal as an important trade route and perceived the French project as a threat to their geopolitical and financial interests. The British Empire was the major global naval force and officially condemned the forced work and sent armed bedouins to start a revolt among workers. Involuntary labour on the project ceased, and the viceroy condemned the slavery, halting the project.[28] Angered by the British opportunism, de Lesseps sent a letter to the British government remarking on the British lack of remorse a few years earlier when forced workers died in similar conditions building the British railway in Egypt. The canal opened to shipping on 17 November, 1869. Although numerous technical, political, and financial problems had been overcome, the final cost was more than double the original estimate.[29] The canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade. Combined with the American transcontinental railroad completed six months earlier, it allowed the entire world to be circled in record time. It played an important role in increasing European penetration and colonisation of Africa. External debts forced Said Pasha's successor, Isma'il Pasha, to sell his country's share in the canal for £4,000,000 to the United Kingdom in 1875, but France still remained the majority shareholder. Prime minister Benjamin Disraeli was accused by William Gladstone of undermining Britain's constitutional system, due to his lack of reference or consent from Parliament when purchasing the shares with funding from the Rothschilds. [30] The Convention of Constantinople in 1888 declared the canal a neutral zone under the protection of the British; British troops had moved in to protect it during a civil war in Egypt in 1882. They were later to defend the strategically important passage against a major Ottoman attack in 1915.[31] Under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the United Kingdom insisted on retaining control over the canal. In 1951 Egypt repudiated the treaty, and in 1954 the UK agreed to remove its troops, and withdrawal was completed in July 1956. (Wikipedia)