- from Age of Imperialism
The Suez Canal transformed international travel and shipping. The canal stretches across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt. It is 100 miles long. Planning and building it took more than 15 years.
The canal officially opened on November 17, 1869. At that time, it became the first direct water route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Previously, ships traveling between them had to sail all the way around the bottom of Africa. The canal shortened the trip between Europe and Asia. It cut travel time between Britain and India in half.
The Suez Canal soon became a resource to be battled over in the European “Scramble for Africa.” It was so important, Britain took over Egypt in 1882 so it could control the waterway. Egypt did not regain control of the canal until 1956.
Today, the Suez Canal remains one of the world’s most important trade routes. About 300 ships cross it weekly. In 2015, a second lane was added. That way ships could cross in both directions at once.