1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Port Said

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PORT SAID, a seaport of Egypt, at the northern entrance of the Suez Canal, in 31° 15' 35" N., 32° 19' 20" E., and 145 m. by rail N.E. of Cairo. Pop. (1907), 49,884. It lies on the western side of the canal on the low, narrow, treeless and desolate strip of land which separates the Mediterranean from Lake Menzala, the land at this point being raised and its area increased by the draining of part of the lake and by the excavation of the inner harbour. The outer harbour is formed by two breakwaters which protect the entrance to the canal; altogether the harbour covers about 570 acres and accommodates ships drawing 28 ft. Originally besides the central basin of the inner harbour there were three docks; between 1903 and 1909 the harbour accommodation was doubled by the construction of new docks on the eastern side of the canal and by enlarging the western docks. The port possesses a floating dock 295 ft. long, 85 ft. broad and 18 ft. deep, capable of lifting 3500 tons, and a patent slip taking 300 tons and ships drawing 9 ft. 9 in. of water. On the western breakwater is a colossal statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps by E. Fremiet, unveiled in 1899, and a lighthouse 174 ft. high. Among the few buildings of note in the town are the offices of the Suez Canal Company and the British barracks, the last named having been built by Prince Henry of the Netherlands (d. 1879) as a dépôt for Dutch trade.

Port Said dates from 1859 and its situation was determined by the desire of the engineers of the Suez Canal to start the canal at the point on the Mediterranean coast of the isthmus of Suez nearest to deep water, and off the spot where Port Said now stands there was found a depth of 26 ft. at about 2 m. from the shore. For many years after its foundation it depended entirely upon the traffic of the canal, being the chief coaling station of all ships passing through and becoming the largest coaling station in the world. The population was of a very heterogeneous character, but mainly of an undesirable class of Levantines; this with the damp heat and the dirt and noise of the incessant coaling operations gave the town an unenviable reputation. In 1902, however, a new industry was added in the export of cotton from the eastern provinces of the Delta, the cotton being brought from Mataria by boat across Lake Menzala. In 1904 the opening of a standard gauge railway to Cairo placed Port Said in a position to compete with Alexandria for the external trade of Egypt generally, besides making it a tourist route to the capital from Europe. The result was to attract to the town a considerable commercial community and to raise its social status. A new suburb was created by reclaiming land on the north foreshore, and another suburb was created on the eastern side of the canal. The average annual value of the trade of the port for the five years 1902-1906 was £2,410,000. This figure includes the value of the coal used by vessels passing through the Suez Canal.