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Suez Canal

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Satellite view of the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس, Qanā al-Suways, French: Le Canal de Suez) is a canal in Egypt. It lies west of the Sinai Peninsula. The canal is 163 km long (101 miles) and, at its narrowest point, 300 m wide (984 ft). It runs between Port Said (Būr Sa'īd) on the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez (al-Suways) on the Red Sea. It was built by a French company. The canal was started in 1859 and finished in 1869.


The canal allows boats/ships to travel from Europe to Asia without having to go the way around Africa. It was built to go from Egypt to the Indian Ocean.


In 1859, the Suez Canal was built by the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company, and took 10 years to build. The first ship to pass through the canal did so on 17 February 1867; Giuseppe Verdi wrote the famous opera Aida for this ceremony.

The canal made it possible to easily transport goods across the world. The canal also allowed Europeans to travel to East Africa, and this area was soon controlled by European powers.

The success of the Suez Canal encouraged the French to try to build the Panama Canal. But they did not finish it. The Panama Canal was finished later.

After the Six Day War in 1967, the canal remained closed until June 5, 1975. A UN peacekeeping force has been stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1974, to avoid more wars.

About 15,000 ships pass through the canal each year, which is about 14% of world shipping. Each ship takes up to 16 hours to cross the canal.