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Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Days in the Delta - The Suez Canal at Ismailia

We had finished touring Tanis by 2:30 and could have easily made it back to Cairo in about three more hours. That makes for a long day in the car so we planned to make an overnight stop at Isamilia.  This would let me check off an item on my personal "bucket list," a visit to the Suez Canal.

We hadn't eaten since breakfast, so we stopped in the village of San el-Hagar just beyond the new mosque under construction and picked up some bread items at this bakery.  We bought enough for the members of the police escort as well.
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It should have taken about an hour and a half to reach Ismailia but attempts to follow the directions of "the lady in the phone" - we had now named her Magda - proved frustrating to our police escort.  They had a different route in mind.  It seems that they were heading for Cairo and would hand us over to a new escort along their planned route.  This detour is shown on the map below by the purple line.  By the time we were actually on the road into Ismailia, we were only about an hour and a half away from Cairo.

This route took us through the rich farmland of the delta including some areas where greenhouse plants are grown - probably the source of some of the year-round tomato crop that is so plentiful here.
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Once we reached Ismailia, we consulted with "Magda" and looked at the local traffic signs for a suitable hotel.


The Mercure is a modern facility on an island in the lake that adjoins the Suez Canal.  They had plenty of rooms in this winter season and we got a corner room on the third floor with a spectacular view of both the canal and the sunset.


Checking the various on-line guides, we determined that the best place for a fish dinner would be at Hassan Abo Ali.  We were not disappointed.  I chose the grilled Mullet, my favorite Egyptian fish and Linda had the Sea Bass.  We tried the appetizer plate of gambarie (shrimp) and while these were better than last year's sample at Alexandria, they just don't measure up to Alabama gulf shrimp.
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In the morning we had a nice buffet breakfast including omelettes cooked to order and relaxed  on the beach.
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As we left the hotel, one of the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood was cleaning our windshield.  He was working very hard at it but needed a much cleaner rag which Roshdy supplied.

We located a very nice observation point at the Aldenfah Beach Club right on the canal.  It is always wise to proceed with caution in a situation like this.  The Egyptian military does not like pictures taken of them, their facilities, or even strategic points like bridges.  Inquiring at the ticket window (it costs a foreigner 100 EGP to get in - 50 for a local) we were told that no cameras were allowed but pictures could be taken with a cellphone.  We paid up and entered.

There were not many guests inside and only one of the ever-popular waffle houses was operating.

The view of ships passing by was excellent since they were only about a hundred feet in front of us.

You might not have thought about it, but the standardized shipping container is arguably the most important invention of the past 75 years except for the computer.  Economist Marc Levinson makes the case in this book.

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This particular container ship passing through the canal from north to south is the Adrian Maersk.  By coincidence, there is a time-lapse video of the same ship making the entire hundred-mile trip in the opposite direction that can be viewed here.


If you are curious about what the fees are for a ship passing through, there is an on-line calculator here.  You will have to supply your own estimates for the cargo weight but can use the ship's data from the previous link.  I am guessing around $100,000 to $200,000 for this load.  I'll also guess there are about 2000 containers on board.  You do the math from there.  There is an interesting article on the economics of the canal here - low current fuel prices offer an alternative to tolls for tankers.

We departed Ismailia around noon.  Our police escort rejoined us for the trip up the four and five-lane highways toward Cairo.  They flashed their lights and finally dropped off as we approached the metropolitan area at the outer Ring Road.
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If you were wondering, Ismailia is named for Le Khedive Ismail, one of Egypt's governors who worked hard at modernization in the late nineteenth century.
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1 comment:

Aliza said...

Just catching up on some of your posts from earlier this year, Tom. I love this one! It's a typical Tom post, full of great photos, cool information (the book on containers and why they're such a great economic engine) and historical background. Plus actual travel info. You and Linda and Roshdy all look great, too.