The Suez Canal c. 1960

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Map Code: Ax01217

Establishing a navigable passage from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea was an ancient obsession. Attempts to build a linking canal are believed to date back to Pharaoh Senusret I, almost 4,000 years ago. The Persian ruler Darius I is reputed to have succeeded in opening an east-west canal linking to the Nile, while branches of the route were utilized by the Ptolemaic dynasty and the Romans. The modern canal was built from 1856–69, and its opening, almost coincident with completion of the US Transcontinental railroad, revolutionized global trade. By 1955, 80 per cent of Europe’s oil was transported through the canal. The Suez Crisis occurred in 1956, when an Anglo-French and Israeli coalition tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the Canal’s nationalization by the Egyptian President Nasser. Between 1967–75, the canal was closed by Egypt after its defeat in the Six-Day War with Israel, encouraging development of alternative transit routes.

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