Suez Canal Zone

Although the Suez Canal Zone is not a primary destination for most visitors to Egypt, for enthusiasts of great engineering feats or travellers with time, the detour to Ismailia or Port Said is memorable. We may live in an age where we're less inclined to be impressed by something as mundane as a canal but, seen in context, the Suez Canal was as great a triumph of engineering in the 19th century as the Pyramids were in their day. As one of the world's most heavily trafficked shipping lanes, the canal is among Egypt's greatest riches and is still the greatest navigation route in the world. Convoys of vessels glide along it as if floating on the desert. Viewed from the comfort of a hotel window or waterside restaurant in Port Said, they are fascinating to watch.

Port Said, Ismailia and Suez collectively make up the Canal Zone. The three cities essentially grew up with the construction of the canal alongside the British colonial presence that hung about until the 1956 war. Soon after, the region's proximity to Israel resulted in a temporary mass departure. With such a dramatic and distinct history, the area has a feel that sets it apart from much of Egypt, but each city has managed to retain its own separate character. Of the triad, Ismailia, a sleepy romantic little town more popular among local honeymooners than foreign tourists, is unquestionably the prettiest. Streets are lined with well-kept Victorian villas and gardens brim with flowers. Port Said is a much grittier, more decrepit place with remnants of colonial architecture representing almost every European nationality, an old 'native quarter' with endless
souks
, and a local music scene to spice up Egyptian nights. The canal cities are particularly inviting in the summer, where the cool waterside breezes offer respite from the inland heat, and all three cities offer the best fish restaurants outside of Alexandria.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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