We departed Port Said around 2am and our first part of our transit through the canal was at night. Keen to see the canal we were up before dawn and on the top deck to watch the sun rise as the ship passed through the desert.
The eastern side of the canal is sand and desert however the Western side in many areas is irrigated and green. Quite a contrast in the environment when looking out from one side of the ship to the other.
A cruise ship passing through the canal seems to be quite a novelty with everyone waving mainly the soldiers in watch towers and patrolling along the banks.
The canal was begun in 1859 and opened by the empress Eugenie in 1869. Since then it has been widened to accommodate larger vessels, including cruise ships.
Except in the Great Bitter Lakes, two large vessels cannot pass one another under way in the Canal, one of then must tie up to the bank. To provide for the great increase of tanker traffic, the Ballah Loop was begun in 1949. This is a by-pass of about seven miles, which enable groups of ships bound north and south to pass each other without delay and danger. This by-pass was first used on 23rd July, 1951. Also, owing to the increase in traffic, a convoy system has been instituted by which vessels enter and pass through the Canal in groups at fixed hours from Port Said and Suez respectively and take on average 12 hours to transit.
Our next stop is Sharm a Sheikh