In an event filled with celebrations and national fervour, Egypt witnessed today the much-anticipated opening of the new Suez Canal.
The ceremony began with a naval flotilla, and was attended by a number of high profile figures from across Egyptian society and the international community. Notable attendees included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, French President Francois Hollande and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
After the celebratory naval flotilla, a short film by Egyptian director Magdy al-Hawary was played, documenting the history of this stage in the canal’s expansion, from the unique way in which it was funded, to the project’s excavation and construction.
The video also emphasised the canal’s status as a national icon, pointing to the fact that the path to today’s opening was “planned by Egyptian minds and Egyptian efforts.”
The film also pointed to the sheer magnitude of the project. Indeed, the $8 billion expansion, which had originally been projected to take three years, but was completed in just one year, includes 21 miles of new channels cut through the desert, and expands existing bodies of water by 22 miles, making way for larger ships.
Two keynote speeches were delivered at the ceremony – one by the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Admiral Moham Mameesh, and one by President Sisi.
During his speech, the President emphasised how the completion of the expansion is a testament to the ability of the Egyptian people. He also called for greater unity – pointing to the presence of senior figures from both Al Azhar and the Coptic Church.
To close the celebrations, there will also be a Presidential Dinner at 7pm, followed by an Opera House Show, in which Egyptian composer Omar Khairat will perform Giuseppe Verde’s opera perform “Aida.”