1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Suez

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SUEZ, a port of Egypt on the Red Sea and southern terminus of the Suez Canal (q.v.), situated at the head of the Gulf of Suez in 29° 58′ 37″ N., 32° 31′ 18″ E. It is 80 m. E. by S. of Cairo in a direct line but 148 m. by rail, and is built on the north-west point of the gulf. Pop. (1907), 18,347. From the heights to the north, where there is a khedival chalet, there is a superb view to the south with the Jebel Ataka on the right, Mt Sinai on the left and the waters of the gulf between. Suez is supplied with water by the fresh-water canal, which starts from the Nile at Cairo and is terminated at Suez by a lock which, north of the town, joins it to the gulf. Before the opening of this canal in 1863 water had to be brought from “the Wells of Moses,” a small oasis 3 m. distant on the east side of the gulf. About 2 m. south of the town are the harbours and quays constructed on the western side of the Suez Canal at the point where the canal enters the gulf. The harbours are connected with the town by an embankment and railway built across a shallow, dry at low water save for a narrow channel. On one of the quays is a statue to Thomas Waghorn, the organizer of the “overland route” to India. The ground on which the port is built has all been reclaimed from the sea. The accommodation provided includes a dry dock 410 ft. long, 100 ft. broad and nearly 36 ft. deep. There are separate basins for warships and merchant ships, and in the road stead at the mouth of the canal is ample room for shipping. Suez is a quarantine station for pilgrims from Mecca; otherwise its importance is due almost entirely to the ships using the canal.

In the 7th century a town called Kolzum stood, on a site adjacent to that of Suez, at the southern end of the canal which then joined the Red Sea to the Nile. Kolzum retained some of the trade of Egypt with Arabia and countries farther east long after the canal was closed, but by the 13th century it was in ruins and Suez itself, which had supplanted it, was also, according to an Arab historian, in decay. On the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in the 16th century Suez became a naval as well as a trading station, and here fleets were equipped which for a time disputed the mastery of the Indian Ocean with the Portuguese. According to Niebuhr, in the 18th century a fleet of nearly twenty vessels sailed yearly from Suez to Jidda, the port of Mecca and the place of correspondence with India. When the French occupied Suez in 1798 it was a place of little importance, and the conflicts which followed its occupation in 1800 by an English fleet laid the greater part in ruins. The overland mail route from England to India by way of Suez was opened in 1837. The regular Peninsular & Oriental steamer service began a few years later, and in 1857 a railway was opened from Cairo through the desert. This line is now abandoned in favour of the railway which follows the canal from Suez to Ismailia, and then ascends the Wadi Tumilat to Zagazig, whence branches diverge to Cairo and Alexandria.