"" Writer's Wanderings: Suez Canal

Monday, April 18, 2011

Suez Canal

Suez Canal 6 a.m.! The alarm clock sounded and for once I was the first to bound out of bed. The Queen Mary 2 was scheduled to enter the Suez Canal sometime between 6 and 6:30. I looked out. We were already there! Bob must have wondered who this woman was who usually moves so slowly in the morning but I was dressed and camera in hand in about five minutes.

Unlike the Panama Canal, there are no locks to go through. The Red Sea and the Mediterranean are at the same level. After taking a few shots of the beautiful lush area on the port side of the ship, I circled over to the starboard side and was amazed at the sight. Nothing but sand extended as far as the eye could see to the east.

I popped up to the observation deck for a look ahead of the ship. The canal looked to be a very straight channel dividing the area into two distinct halves—one of greenery and the other of dry sand. As we cruised on, I could see that there were irrigation canals that laced the tropical looking areas where homes, apartment buildings, and businesses dotted the land. Later, from the navigational bridge, came an explanation that the canals fed the area with the needed water from the Nile River.

Bob and I ate breakfast at the buffet that morning near a window where we enjoyed a view of the countryside dotted by the ever present Egyptian army sentries waving and shouting. I think the first English words the Egyptians learn are “Welcome to Egypt!” We heard that often throughout the day as we continued on through the Canal.

The narrow passages of the canal allow for traffic to flow in only one direction at a time. Therefore, the ships are arranged in convoys. Our northbound convoy consisted of 25 ships of which we were the first—an honor according to Commodore Warner of the Queen Mary 2. A southbound convoy of 17 ships would be waiting in the two lakes, Great Bitter and Little Bitter Lakes, for us to pass by them so they could continue south through the passage we were in.

Out in front of us was a small warship that was our escort through the Suez Canal. It is always hard to determine relative size when you are on a ship the size of the Queen Mary 2 but the warship looked more like the size of a large tugboat from my vantage point.
Throughout the day, we passed by several towns and cities some of which had ferries to cross the canal and we observed some very small fishing boats with men casting nets by hand.

There were several monuments, the most significant of which was the World War I monument dedicated to those who had given their lives in that great conflict. Another was for the Gulf War and still another we could not identify. Perhaps when we are home and can search without such great cost of internet I’ll match the picture with the proper name.

It took most of the day to transverse the canal. After the lakes, it got narrow again and put us out into the Mediterranean in late afternoon near Port Said. The port area reminded me of Shanghai—large and industrial. As we got further into the Mediterranean, we could see the city itself whose skyline was full of large buildings towering in the distance.

The Mediterranean was as blue as I remembered. As we left behind the arid sands of Egypt and the memories of our Middle East visit, I wondered if we would return. The Red Sea begs to be explored underwater. The Egyptian pyramids still need to be seen. And what will Dubai build next to intrigue us? The area is indeed mysterious, exotic, and adventuresome.

Ah, now on to Italy. . .

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