Today was a very long day as we travelled the full length of the Suez Canal from the city of Suez in the south to Port Said in the north. From our anchorage in the Red Sea the day started at 5:00 a.m. with the anchor being raised and a pilot coming on board to guide the convoy of ships northbound, led by the Amsterdam.
The Canal is also known by the nickname “the highway to India”. It was opened in 1869 to allow water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation around Africa. It is 120 miles long and with no locks, water flows freely to the north in winter and south during the summer. From its original 26 ft. depth, the canal is now 79 feet deep.
Even with major widening of the canal, ship go north in a convoy. In our case three cruise ships led the way with 21 freighters behind us. In an anchorage halfway north, the southbound convoy awaited our passage so they could continue south. Prior to our anchorage the night before we watched a French aircraft carrier and two frigate escort ships come south followed by the freighters. It seems there is a priority order of warships first, cruise ships second and freighters third in line for the passage.
For most of the trip the Sinai peninsula stretched as far as we could see on the right or starboard side of the ship and all it was was sand and more sand. On our left or port side were numerous towns and cities in central Egypt. Signs of the previous wars, as late as 1967 were evident, with multiple air force bases on the now Egyptian bank and multiple guard posts and floating portable bridges that could be rapidly put in place for troops to cross the Canal. New floating bridges that span the entire canal seem to be stationed at strategic iintervals along the Canal as if to say this conflict is not over. As we had just passed the shared borders of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it is not hard to believe that this region will be the scene of more conflict for years to come.
We had our own conflict the night before our transit. At anchor two small boats arrived and demanded they be hoisted aboard the Amsterdam, one on either side. As most passengers were at dinner, very few witnessed the action. The confrontation got very heated and it turned out that the approved guide boats had arrived early. were loaded with souvenirs to sell to the passengers and the crew was expecting food and accommodation overnight. In the end the boats stayed hanging off the side of the Amsterdam and the crews were dispatched on the pilot boat to come back when we were underway the next day. Turns out the crew was official but thought they would try and make some additional money under the table………….All very interesting.
At the end of the day we entered the Mediterranean at Port Said and we are now off to Naples, Italy.