Suez and around

Suez's (
Es-Suesi
) friendly demeanour compensates in part for what it lacks in looks. The city was badly hit by an Israeli siege in 1973 and though the mess has largely been cleaned up, with the aid of funds from the Gulf countries, and mines have been cleared, Suez is still a litter-blown town, more of a transit spot than a destination. The only canal city to have ancient roots, during the Ptolemaic period Suez was known as Klysma and in the Middle Ages
the walled city, then known as Qulzum, became prosperous thanks to the burgeoning spice trade and the many pilgrims bound for Mecca. In the 15th century it became a naval base and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 ensured the city's survival and development. Today it is one of Egypt's largest ports and an important industrial centre producing cement, fertilizers and petrochemicals using domestic oil from the offshore fields in the Gulf of Suez. It was, until recently, the chief departure point for
hajj
pilgrims but, since the
El-Salam Boccaccio 98
ferry sank in February 2006, with the loss of over 1000 lives, the ferry services now run from Safaga.

Ins and outs

Getting around

Buses and service taxis arrive at the new bus station on the Suez-Cairo road, about 6 km from the town centre. The train station is just over 1 km from the Arba'in market, off the main Sharia El-Geish that leads to most hotels and becomes the causeway to Port Tawfiq.

The City

Some of the streets are too dirty to enjoy walking through but the coastal quarter and the garden in the newly-reclaimed area east of the stadium are spruced up and relatively free of litter. Take some time to wander around
Port Tawfiq
where the European influence is strikingly apparent, with neat privet hedges, wide pavements and delightfully quaint colonial houses (commandeered by important Canal Authority employees) and the magnificent Governor's House. Sharia Canal is the perfect vantage point for up-close encounters with the immense tankers that glide past, their hulls painted with Chinese or Danish names, the traffic flowing in one direction only each day. Look out for the monument made of four captured US-made Israeli tanks on the northern edge of the peninsula. In the evening, a stroll along Sharia El-Geish across the causeway towards Port Tawfiq can be delightful. For a bit more bustle and a taste of contemporary Suez, the
Souk Arba'in
, west of the centre, is a straggling maze of vendors and stalls in which it's worth searching out the fish market to get a fresh grilled snack.

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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