It is almost hard to believe that the 120 mile (193 km) long Suez Canal that joins the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez is almost a century and a half old. Completed in 1869 after over ten years of construction by the French, it does not have locks like the Panama Canal and thus the passage of ships is much simpler. Recent expansions allow almost one hundred ships to make the journey every day.
The passage is indeed a unique spectacle – the dry, arid desert that lines either side as far as the eye can see in most places is surreal when you realize that you are sailing on a ship. The ‘line in the sand’ is not straight and when you transit a curve, you can see your whole convoy of ships ahead and behind (up to twenty at a time) traveling in precise order – a magnificent sight. Northbound and southbound convoys are timed so that they meet at the passing passage which is two lanes wide to allow the two convoys pass each other.
The Egyptian port of Suez can be the ideal place to launch an exploration of the timeless wonders of ancient Egypt. The pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the bustling age-old markets of narrow, winding alleys in Cairo are all easily accessible.
Cruises through the Suez are available throughout the year but there are many more options should you want to travel in the spring and summer period rather than fall or winter.
- AIDA Cruises operates a number of cruises between Istanbul and Antalya in Turkey and Palma de Mallorca in Spain to Cochin in India and Dubai, UAE.
- Celebrity Cruises operates between Rome in Italy and Abu Dhabi, UAE.
- Costa Cruises does especially long cruises between Singapore, Mauritius and even Melbourne, Australia on the southern end to Trieste and Savona in Italy.
- Cunard Lines’ Queen Mary 2 operates a month-long cruise between Singapore and Southampton.
- P&O’s Arcadia does the same trip in 33 days and also offers a 19-day Dubai to Southampton option.
- If you have time for a 50-day adventure on the seas, Holland America’s Kobe, Japan to Istanbul trip might be just the thing.
- South Africa is on the list with MSC cruises between Durban and Venice, Italy.
- NCL Norwegian Cruise Lines operates two Suez crossings – Rome to Dubai southwards and Dubai to Venice on the return.
Royal Caribbean offers 16-day cruises between Venice and Dubai both ways.
Please note that the region has seen some volatile political and ideological conflict in the very recent past. Refer to the latest travel advice from your government before making any plans.