On the map it is a 163-kilometer (~100 mile) long waterway in the north east corner of Egypt. But along with the Panama Canal is it the most important ditch ever dug by man. It was built by a private French company under the direction of French engineer Vicomte Ferdinand-Marie de Lesseps. It is critical because it connects Europe and the Mediterranean by sea with the Far East.

For this reason the British acquired a controlling interest in the Suez in 1875 and retained it until 1956. (When it was no longer really needed since they had to give up India.)

The building of the canal was a massive undertaking. Though there were several salty lakes making up some 45 kilometers of the distance there was still a massive amount of sand and earth to be moved. In addition there were serious problems with getting enough water, food and labor for the work to go on. But despite the troubles it was finished in 10 years time from 1859 to 1869.

It was not the first canal in the area. An earlier one was excavated between the delta of the Nile and the Red Sea in the 13th century BC. Though it was not very well maintained or large and was silted up by the 8th century AD.