Today in Middle Eastern history: the Suez Crisis begins (1956)

Before we dig into the 1956 dust up that bears its name, the first thing I guess we should talk about is why the Suez Canal was so important. Though to be honest, that almost goes without saying. I mean, in a world where sailing direct from Europe to the Indian Ocean had previously required either going around Africa or, I don’t know, hauling your ships overland through Egypt, a canal that cuts through part of Egypt and connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas was obviously a very big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that the European engineers who finally conceived and carried out the project in the 1860s were nowhere near the first people to make the attempt. Ancient Egyptians had a canal that ran from the Nile River east to the Red Sea and either the Romans or the Arabs built something similar that we know was in operation by the 8th century. Geographical and engineering challenges eventually shut these canals down, but the dream never died.

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