A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 10, 2013

Nostalgia to Start the Week: the Old Cairo Canal

I usually put old pictures up as the weekend approaches, but as I've been tied up with other things today here's one for the start of the week for a change.

Port Said Street in Cairo today winds through central Cairo from southwest to northeast. Its older name was Khalig (Canal) Street, and it represents an ancient canal (Khalig Misr or al-Khalig al-Misri) that carried water through Cairo for centuries. Originally used in pharaonic times, it later connected with Trajan's canal,which ran from the Nile to the Red Sea. In Islamic times, as the Red Sea canal silted up, it provided water to Cairo; in time, it was opened only during the flood, and a dam at the Mouth of the Canal (Fom al-Khalig) was cut by the ruler of Egypt at flood time in August. By the mid-19th century it was increasingly disused and a number of lakes connecting with it became increasingly swampy; though Khedive Isma‘il presided over a new Sweetwater Canal to the new Suez Canal, it did not resuscitate the Cairo Canal. Finally in 1897-1898 the British filled in the Canal and built a broad boulevard, the first to run from south to north the middle  of Cairo. By 1900 what had once been a navigable waterway had a tramline. Long called Khalig Street, it is the present Port Said Street.

This photo shows the canal in 1884 (though I've also seen it attributed to 1887), a little over a decade before it was finally filled in.

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