Port Said Ferry

Port Said, Egypt | C.1859

Photo Credit: Muhammad Korayem

In 1859, a group of laborers ceremoniously gathered to celebrate the founding of Port Said. With the swift swing of a pickaxe, they signified the start of the city’s construction. Holding that pickaxe was Ferdinand de Lesseps, an accomplished French diplomat who played a pivotal role in the part’s development, and the groundbreaking creation of the Suez Canal.

de Lesseps first encountered plans for the Canal – drawn up by one of Napoleon’s engineers – as early as 1832, but more than two decades passed before he could see the project to fruition. After years as a consul to Egypt and Italy (and a failed arbitration that nearly ruined his reputation) he was contacted by the Egyptian khedive Mohammed Said to break ground on the Suez isthmus — a move that would revive de Lessep’s career.

Restored by the faith of his new colleague, de Lesseps successfully raised the capital to fund his canal project. But before the digging could begin, they needed to provide a place for the laborers to live. At the start of the project, 150 laborers resided in Port Said, and within a decade its population had grown to 10,000.

Driven by the promise of new opportunity, de Lesseps remained resolute in his quest to dig the Canal. To keep the company’s workers happy, he imported everything from wood and stone to machinery, food, and water. Ten years later, the Suez Canal was built — and Port Said had grown into a vibrant city in its own right.

Today, Port Said remains a thriving port city and coexists with its twin city Port Fuad, which sits across the way on the eastern bank of Canal. Every day, ferries connect these two cities and transport their citizens by way of boat —  and luckily, none are large enough to risk getting stuck in the Canal.

Written By: Kelly Murray

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