Suez Canal: A stormy 150-year history
150 years of operations
On the anniversary of its lavish opening ceremony on November 17, 1869, here is a look back at key dates in its history.
(In pic: This file photo taken in Nov 1869 shows the inauguration of the Suez Canal in Egypt.)
French diplomat's contribution
In a breakthrough in 1854, French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps persuaded the new Egyptian ruler, Said Pasha, to grant him a concession to construct a canal from the Red Sea's Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean.
60,000 workers dug the canal
Digging began in 1859, at first by labourers using picks and shovels, and later with steam- and coal-powered machinery. It involved about 60,000 workers.
The canal was opened on November 17, 1869 in a grandiose ceremony at Port Said attended by European dignitaries including Napoleon III's wife, Empress Eugenie de Montijo.
(In pic: In this undated file photo taken in the 1960s shows Egyptian peasnats (Fallahin) at the construction site of the Suez Canal in Egypt.)
International status given to the waterway
Amid tussles for control, major powers signed in 1888 the Constantinople Convention that gave the waterway international status and open to all ships in times of war and peace. Egypt was not a signatory.
The provision was not always respected, including during the two World Wars.
The Suez Crisis
It sparked the Suez Crisis in which Britain, France and Israel -- who feared the vital waterway could be cut off -- colluded to attack Egypt.
Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and Sinai peninsula in October; two days later French and British air raids destroyed part of Egypt's air force.
Closing and opening again of the canal
As the tensions soared, Britain and then France ceded, and fighting abruptly ended after 10 days.
The canal was reopened on March 29, 1957 under Egyptian control.
(In pic: In this file photo taken on November 6, 1956 Anglo-French troops patrol in a street of Port-Said during the Suez Crisis.)
Yom Kippur War
It remained closed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Egyptian forces crossed the canal in a bid to retake the Sinai. The Israeli army repelled the attack with a counter-crossing.
The war ended with a UN-backed ceasefire. Talks resulted in a military disengagement deal in January 1974 that saw Israeli forces pull back from the canal, which returned to Egyptian control.
(In pic: In this file photo taken on October 6, 1973 Israeli troops cross the Suez Canal on October during the Yom Kippur war.)
New route along the canal
On August 6, 2015 President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi officially opened a new route along the canal after work in which part of the existing waterway was widened and deepened.
The expansion is intended to cut the waiting times and double the number of ships using the canal to around 97 per day by 2023.
(In pic: The opening ceremony of the new Suez Canal expansion including a new 35km (22 mile) channel on August 6, 2015 in Suez, Egypt.)