- from Age of Imperialism
Stretching across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt, the Suez Canal transformed international travel and shipping. Planning and building the 100-mile-long waterway took more than 15 years.
When it officially opened on November 17, 1869, the canal 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. It shortened the trip between Europe and Asia, cutting 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 to let ships cross in both directions at once.