Suez Canal - thanks Mr. Bonaparte!

Port Said Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 19 › view all entries
sailing into canal
When the historian Pieter Geyl compared Napoleon to Hitler he was famously quoted as writing: “Nothing could be more degrading to the former and more flattering to the latter”. After all, aside from wreaking havoc in Europe, losing some 6 million people over 20 odd years of wars, bankrupting France and losing her overseas colonies, the megalomaniac tyrant did leave some legacies such as the metric system, jewish emancipation, as well as initiate a process, which has revolutionized modern trade and travel:

And this process, conducted at the turn of the 19th century, was the feasibility analysis of connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Fast forward 69 years to 16 November 1869 and put your hands together for the opening of this 164km long engineering feat that took 30 000 workers at a cost of $ 100 000 000 and just over a year to build.


Without the Suez we would be plodding along the East Coast of Africa, not too close though, as Johnny Depp might board our vessel, which would of course not pose a threat to the females on board. (Yes, I am aware that Johnny sails in Caribbean Waters, but female fantasies have no boundaries.) The problem is, Johnny might bring some Ethiopian counterparts who are not quite as attractive and not quite as friendly. We would also have to sail around Cape Aghulas in order to get to Europe and that would take a lot of time and cost a considerable amount of money for fuel. So, for the cost saving toll fee of only $250 000 we (un)fortunately did not get to meet Mr. Sparrow and headed straight towards our next stop, Port Said.
sailing through the sand


Sailing up the Suez canal is something that has to be experienced. The land on either side (Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the East and Eritrea and Sudan to the West) starts off as baron and in the short space of a few hours will metamorphasize in front of your eyes. Ok, Yemen and Saudi don’t undergo much metamorphosis, but Sudan certainly does. The landscape changes from arid uninhabited desert to dense green vegetation interspersed with roads, people and industry. The canal has dual narrow passages at some points and the combination of this and the dunes creates the impression that passing ships are sailing through the sand. Either that or the overexposure to the sun was making me hallucinate.

We docked in Port Said in the late afternoon. Even though I was on call, I took 15 minutes to venture outside (walky talk in hand, in case of emergency; of course nothing to do with looking important) to see what the locals had to offer.
Vendors had lined up in droves outside the ship and were aggressively touting their wares. Wearing my uniform turned out to be a bad idea: Having red stripes made me instantly recognizable as a doctor and vendors could not decide whether their need to sell clothing to me superseded their desire to garner medical advice. One elderly Arab man had barely shouted “doctor, come here” before pulling out his false teeth and asking me for what sounded like asprin. Easy to see why trading narcotics is such a lucrative career and if I do reincarnate, perhaps I’ll choose that route next time. Anyway, for now I was on the straight and narrow and boy was it narrow: Vendors push, pull, shout and accost you for their attention. You are everyone’s "friend" and the standard question is “You got US dollar or Euro?”

Items, irrespective of apparent worth ALL items start off at 1$.
bustling Port Said
But this is merely a ploy to get your attention. “No thank you” is a form of starting a conversation with the vendors, not a way to end it. This is what our tour driver explained to us the following day. In any case, once you have been reeled in and chosen your items, you are literally forced to take additional ones. This is where the negotiation starts. I was interested in seeing how far I could push the process. An Egyptian cotton shirt had caught my eye. Vendor price $70 (US), my offer $5. You might think my offer might was too low, but in a short space of time his price was down to $10 and upon my insistence on $5, I was slapped on the shoulder and the vendor walked away. Now I knew $10 was a good price and I used it for my next round of sparring….with success :)

Tomorrow we get to see the Pyramids and I hear the vendors there are even worse. Bring it on!
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sailing into canal
sailing into canal
sailing through the sand
sailing through the sand
bustling Port Said
bustling Port Said
dual passages
dual passages
MI5?
MI5?
wheres Jonny?
where's Jonny?
Port Said getting closer
Port Said getting closer
sailing into Port Said
sailing into Port Said
Mosque
Mosque
Ferry
Ferry
Ferry between Port Said and Port F…
Ferry between Port Said and Port …
Port Said
photo by: polvandenwirre