Wednesday, April 25, 2012
April 25, 1859, ground was broken for the construction of the artificial waterway known as the Suez Canal at Port Said, Egypt. The Suez Canal was built to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. The ambitious project was initiated by French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, who secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to construct the canal. Although the canal was less than 30 feet deep, 72 feet wide at the bottom, and approximately 250 feet wide at the surface when initially constructed, it soon became one of the most heavily traveled waterways in the world; a focal point for international trade through the Middle East, and a flash point for international conflict.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that a tanker passed through the Suez Canal, carrying 120,000 tons of Syrian crude oil to a state-run Chinese company in Singapore. The shipment was in violation of sanctions imposed on Syria by Western and Arab countries as a result of the brutal crackdown on dissenters under Syrian President Bashar Assad. According to the United Nations, Syrian forces have killed at least 9,000 citizens since the conflict began over a year ago.