Suez Canal - Happy Easter!
Happy Easter! It's 4:30am…I’ve been up since 1:30 updating our tours in Safaga & Sharm el Sheik, now the Suez Canal. This is really the optimal time of day to do any work on the internet because everyone else (in their right mind) is sleeping and satellite connectivity is reasonably good, though it still takes between 1 & 2 minutes to upload each picture - & it’s expensive!
Quite chilly – about 60 degrees, but a very nice change from yesterday. Our transit of the Suez Canal began yesterday morning at 6:15am, right on schedule. The canal, west of the Sinai Peninsula, is a 118-mile maritime canal in Egypt between Suez on the Red Sea and Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea. The canal allows two-way north-south water transport from Europe to Asia with circumnavigating Africa – saving about 7,350 miles. The canal has been open since 1896, & took 11 years to build. Traffic is one-way, however. Inotherwords, our ship entered a line and formed a caravan the night before the transit – we actually anchored just outside the entrance. Ours was a northbound caravan. The narrowest point in the canal is 196 feet, the widest averages about 400 feet – so two ships cannot pass each other. Our beam alone (or width) is 108 feet. On average, it takes 15 hours to complete the journey. There are approximately 50 ships per day paying an average of $205,000 – we paid $255,000 to get through because of our size and number of passengers. Unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez doesn’t have locks because there’s no sea-level difference or hills to climb, so to speak. The canal handles 14% of the world’s shipping business, so it’s a very busy place and extremely strategic, economically speaking. There’s been a lot in the news lately about various political groups threatening to shut the canal down and without question, it would be a financial disaster & create all sorts of hardships. A few thoughts here; one, shutting the canal down would be VERY easy for anyone to do – it’s extremely narrow for one thing and secondly, there are ‘skids’ in place every 20 – 25 miles…these are large metal containers on ramps that can be pushed into the canal to block traffic. Two, the canal is heavily guarded – so on one hand, while it can be easily blocked physically, getting through the military would be extremely difficult. As I said, it’s heavily guarded – we saw armed guards every mile stationed in huts, there are tanks with rockets sitting on the bank, and our ship just yesterday had 3 F-18’s fly overhead at a low altitude, & one helicopter. I wouldn’t want to mess with it! Unlike the Panama Canal and although it’s exciting to go through the locks, the Suez is bordered by city after city on the left (port) side, & endless desert on the right. The cities & neighborhoods run all the way to the canal banks – there are homes, schools & shopping centers within a stone’s throw from the ship. We passed one elementary school during recess – all the kids ran to the fence yelling, screaming & waving! The Panama Canal, on the other hand, is quite desolate – it’s scenic & fun, but largely wilderness with alligators next to your ship. During lunch yesterday we were sitting on the right side facing the desert and saw a herd of wild camels – probably 3 dozen of them…just wandering over the sand dunes! And it was VERY hot – a scorching heat yesterday! We emerged from the canal ahead of schedule around 3pm and entered the Mediterranean – almost immediately the air began to cool. Last evening was “Arabian Night” and I must admit to my kids, I wore a dress for the first time! I don’t have the picture ready to load yet – but I bought it in Luxor in preparation for this particular function and if I were an Egyptian, I think I would pass the test – not bad! My head-scarf got a little warm after a couple hours…but all the guys who bought the outfits in Luxor had a good time & a few laughs at dinner! I’m ready for Halloween back home now too! We’re now in the Mediterranean and scheduled to arrive in Athens tomorrow morning at 8:00am, and will leave the following evening at 6:00pm – so looking forward to spending quality time in this historic city!