Why Was The Suez Canal First Built?

The giant cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March has finally made a safe return passage, the BBC reports. The Ever Given was escorted on its journey down the famous 120-mile waterway by two tugboats, after making deliveries to ports in Rotterdam, Felixstowe, and Hamburg. It will now complete its journey to China.

The Suez Canal Authority reported that the Ever Given was one of 26 ships that made the journey from north to south along the canal that day, while 36 ships travelled in the opposite direction. So why exactly is this route through Egypt so busy and crucial to the global shipping trade?

The man-made canal was officially opened in November 1869. Before it was built, cargo ships had to make their way around the South Atlantic and African continent, a journey of an additional 7,000km when compared to the route through the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Seuz, a part of the Red Sea.

Construction began in early 1859 at the northernmost end of the canal, and the whole project took ten years and cost more than $100m, which was double the original estimate, according to history.com. The construction process was mired by political turmoil, cholera outbreaks, poor working conditions and allegations of slavery.

The first official passage through the canal was made by the L’Aigle, a French imperial yacht. However, a clandestine voyage by the British navy ship HMS Newport, captained by Commander George Nares, was made during the night, before the official opening ceremony. This rather undiplomatic move by the Brit was officially reprimanded.

In the present day, the Suez Canal is still the shortest maritime route between Europe and Asia, which is navigated by an average of 50 ships a day, amounting to 300 tonnes of shipping containers every year.

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