MARRIOTT BUZZ NO. 5 - 2015 - page 7

devastatingchallenge for theBritishEmpire. He set to
create theSuezCanal but hisengineersmiscalculated
the levelsbetweenboth seas and recommendednot
togo throughwith it.
In 1833, agroupof French intellectuals knownas
Saint-Simoniensbecamevery interested in the
project but at that timeMohammedAli had little
interest in theproject. As they left for France, they
left behind several enthusiasts includingFerdinand
DeLessepswho succeeded inconvincingSaidPasha
of theproject, however, hepassedaway leavinghis
younger brother Ismail incharge. In 1858 theUniversal
Companyof theMaritimeSuezCanalwas formed
with theauthority todigacanal tooperate for 99
years afterwhich theownershipwould return to the
Emperors, kings, Europeanmonarchs andall sorts
of royaltyandheadsof statewere invited toagrand
celebrationof the inaugurationof theSuezCanal in
1869. Thecelebrationwasnot only important for the
relationsbetween thecountriesbut also todisplay the
wealthandprosperityof Egypt to the rest of theworld.
AsKhedive Ismail Pashaput it “Mycountry isno longer
inAfrica,wearenowapart of Europe. It is therefore
natural toabandonour formerways andadopt anew
systemadapted toour social conditions.”
Theextravaganzabegan inPort Saidcompletewith
fireworks andaball attendedby six thousandpeople.
Among royal guest listwereEmpressEugenie, the
Emperor ofAustria, ThePrinceofWalesand thePrince
of theNetherlands. Twoconvoysof shipsentered the
canal from its southernandnorthernpoints andmet
at Ismailia. Back inCairo, theRoyal GeziraPalacewas
built –inexact resemblance toEmpressEugenie’s
palace inFrance- tohost the inaugurationball
where theEmpresswas theguest of honor. Parties
continued forweeks, and thecelebrationalsomarked
theopeningof Ismail’soldOperaHouse inCairo,
which isnowgone.
Due toexternal debts, theBritishgovernment
purchased the sharesownedby Ismail Pasha, in 1875,
yet France still had themajority interest. Thecanal
continued tobeunder thecontrol of the twopowers
until PresidentAbdelNasser nationalized theSuez
Canal in 1956; it has sincebeenoperatingunder the
SuezCanal Authority.
Thecanalwas closed twice in thecontemporaryperiod;
thefirstwas after theBritish-French-Israeli invasion in
1956whichwasprimarilymotivatedby thenationalization
of thecanal. The secondclosurehappenedafter thewar
with Israel in 1967and lasteduntil 1975.
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