Suez is located at the south end of the canal of the same name. It is a transport hub for travel to the Sinai and a good place to watch big ships sailing through a desert landscape.


There was a canal from the Nile delta to the Gulf of Suez in ancient times, when the gulf extended further north than it does today. This fell into disuse, and the present canal was built in the nineteenth century. The Suez Canal is a large man-made canal in Egypt, west of the Sinai Peninsula. It is 163 km (101 miles) long and 300 m wide at its narrowest point, and runs between Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez on the Red Sea. The canal comprises seven parts, north and south of the Great Bitter Lake, linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea.


On a clear, cool morning, with all signs of the last few days’ sand haze blown away, you left Port Suez and lined up behind sixteen other ships for your northbound convoy, and started an enthralling transit of the Suez Canal. For the next ten hours, covering the 200 kilometres between Port Suez and Port Said, there was always something of interest to see. On the eastern side the barren Sinai Desert stopped right at the edge of the canal, and a few kilometers away trucks could be seen on the main highway running south to Sharm el Sheikh.

On the western side, towns and villages lined the banks most of the way up the canal, benefiting from the extensive Nile delta irrigation systems. On both sides, a strong military presence was in evidence everywhere, with soldiers based in tents, military posts or tanks, and patrolling the banks in ones or twos. In the Great Bitter Lake we passed a southbound convoy of twenty-five ships, anchored there to let us pass, including a British submarine and minesweeper moving into the Red Sea or around to the Gulf.