Necho’s Canal

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  • Also known as the Mansura Canal, the Egyptian Canal and the Nile Canal.

Perhaps as early as the 12th Dynasty, Pharaoh Senusret III may have had a west-east canal dug through the Wadi Tumilat, joining the Nile with the Red Sea, for direct trade with Punt. Evidence indicates its existence at least by the 13th century BC during the time of Ramesses II. It later fell into disrepair, and according to the Histories of the Greek historian Herodotus, re-excavation was undertaken about 600 BC by Necho II, though he never completed the project. The canal was finally completed about 500 BC by King Darius I, the Persian conqueror of Egypt. Darius commemorated his achievement on a number of granite stelae that he set up on the Nile bank, including one near Kabret, 130 kilometres from Suez. The Darius Inscriptions read:

Saith King Darius: I am a Persian. Setting out from Persia, I conquered Egypt. I ordered this canal dug from the river called the Nile that flows in Egypt, to the sea that begins in Persia. When the canal had been dug as I ordered, ships went from Egypt through this canal to Persia, even as I intended.

The canal was again restored by Ptolemy II about 250 BC. Over the following centuries it was successively modified, destroyed, and rebuilt. It was severely damaged in 1655 by a Sultan of Egypt, and in 1721 during the Ice War, reopening in 1724.

As only sailing ships and steam cruisers can navigate the Nile and the Canal in the mid-18th century work began on the Suez Canal to replace this ancient route.

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