Suez Canal, Egypt
Linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal has an important place in maritime history. A shipping shortcut between Europe and Asia, the 167-kilometre long passage is one of the most important waterways in the world, with about 50 ships crossing the passage each day.
While the idea of a canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea was put forward as far back at 2,100 BC, it was only by 1858 that French engineers deemed the concept feasible. Work then began and the canal was opened in 1869. At a width of 247 metres, most of the canal is only wide enough for one lane of traffic, making the journey slow in most areas. Where bypassing is not possible, cruise liners and other ships must travel in scheduled convoys.
For cruise passengers, the chance to traverse one of the world’s major shipping corridors is a highlight in itself. The scenic views of rolling desert sands and historic monuments along the banks while passing Port Said are also a major highlight.
Passengers may travel the Suez Canal in either direction, boarding at Port Said and connecting to the Mediterranean Sea in the north, or embarking from the southern terminus of the canal in the city of Suez.
The Egyptian port of Suez is located in the Gulf of Suez, a branch of the Red Sea. Ships dock at Port Ibrahim, a major commercial port since the 7th century.
The northern terminus of the canal is located at Port Said, on the western banks of the Suez Canal, facing the Mediterranean Sea. Port Said’s sister city of Port Fouad is located on the eastern banks of the canal, and can be easily reached by ferry.
Port Said is the busiest container port in Egypt, and the closest major seaport to Cairo. There is a tourist information centre and oriental bazaar at the cruise ship terminal as well as information to book onward journeys to the Nile Valley, Giza and other famed sites of ancient Egypt.
At Port Ibrahim in Suez, a taxi rank and tour buses providing day trips to Cairo and other excursions are available.
How to Get Around
Cruising the canal takes around 10 hours with most ships departing before mid-morning and depending on the time of year, arriving at sunset. Once passengers dock at Suez or Port Said, taxis and buses are the most popular way to get around. Look for taxis with meters as these are almost always a cheaper option than negotiating a fare.
Travel times from Port Said:
- It is a 4 minute journey from Port Said cruise terminal along the waterfront to History Gardens
- It is an 18 minute walk to Abd El-Salam Aref Mosque
- It is a 10 minute walk from the pier to the shopping precinct along Gomboria Street.
- It is a 21 minute journey to Port Said Airport.
- It is a 10 minute journey across the Suez Canal to Port Fouad.
- Currency: Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound (EGP) which is available in 25pt, 50pt and E£1 coin denominations. Bank notes appear in E£5, E£10, E£20, E£50, E£100 and E£200 denominations.
- Time Zone: Egypt operates on Eastern European Time (EET), which is 2 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC.)
- Climate: Both Port Said and Suez have hot desert climates. In Port Said, hot temperatures are moderated from breezes off the Mediterranean. The average summer temperature high is around 35 degrees Celsius, while the winter temperature maximum in January is 15 degrees Celsius.
- Suez Canal Bridges: Connecting Europe to Asia, travelling under the Suez Canal Bridge is an impressive sight. Approximately 60 kilometres south of Port Said, the 9 kilometre-long bridge completed in 2001 rises spectacularly from the desert and is a massive infrastructure feat, helping to stimulate the growth of the Sinai Peninsula. The El Ferdan Railway Bridge is another impressive structure over the canal and is the world’s longest swing bridge. As trains arrive, two sections along each bank swing to join together.
- Great Bitter Lakes: Along the canal, many resort towns appear, especially those with beaches along the Great Bitter Lakes region of the canal, where ships anchor before awaiting the next convoy departure. Keep cameras at the ready and look for monuments, including those from the Israeli-Egyptian war.
- Sights of Suez and Port Said: From the cruise ship, enjoy the bustling cities of Suez and Port Said. Before approaching and departing from each port, keep a look out for market stalls, oasis style public gardens and opulent mosques.