As I've noted in a couple of recent posts this is the week Egypt is celebrating the dedication of the "New Suez Canal,"consisting of a newly dredged channel and a widening and deepening of the existing Canal, to permit increased traffic and two-way traffic in sections. It looks to be a much-hyped celebration, but it will be hard pressed to match the extravagant party staged by Khedive Isma‘il on the opening of the original Canal in 1869.
|Cairo Opera in 1869|
|Gezireh Palace after becoming a Hotel|
|Pavilion at Ismailia (Illustrated London News)|
|The Empress on Camelback|
The ceremonies brought Egypt much world attention, but there was a downside. The Khedive had borrowed heavily from Europe, and the debts were to accumulate. Ironically, though the French built the Canal, the first toll-paying ship through it was British, and the Canal would become a lifeline to British India. By 1875, with Egypt indebted and France weakened in the Franco-Prussian War, Britain acquired the shares of the Suez Canal Company. In 1879 Isma‘il was deposed in favor of his son, and in 1882 the British occupied Egypt. Isma‘il's big party was over.