Egypt in festive mood ahead of new Suez Canal opening

Marina Barsoum , Tuesday 4 Aug 2015

Egypt is scheduled to inaugurate the new waterway in less than 48 hours

Suez Canal
Snapshot from On TV shows 5km Egyptian flag floating on the New Suez Canal dragged by Special Athletes who crossed the waterway in celebrations of the opening ceremony on Tuesday August 4, 2015

In anticipation of the opening ceremony for the new Suez Canal waterway, a 5km-long Egyptian flag was pulled along the new waterway by nine swimmers. Videos from the canal were broadcasted on YouTube and show various celebrations of the upcoming inauguration.

The three horizontal bands of red, white, and black with the national golden eagle at its center were not only covering the waterway that connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, they also currently cover almost every governmental building across the nation.

Egyptian Flag hanging on the front of the CAPMAS building alongside with a billboard greeting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as a way of celebrating the New Suez Canal (Photo:Marina Barsoum)

The opening ceremony of the new 35-kilometre Suez Canal shipping lane is set to take place on Thursday and will be attended by heads of state from all over the world. Also in attendance will be national and international delegations.

Early Tuesday, nine swimmers, who belong to the Egyptian Paralympics team and will be participating in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, were swimming across the new waterway while holding the huge Egyptian flag.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Mohab Mamish, has welcomed the team headed by Khaled Shalaby, a Paralympics champion who crossed the English Channel in 1983 and in 2011.

Shalaby suffers from a disability in his right arm. He broke the world record in 1983, defying all challenges. He was then regarded as the first disabled swimmer.

Visitors' passports have recently been stamped with an emblem of "Egypt's Gift to the World" another means of celebration which counts down the days until the inauguration.

Egypt's Gift to the World
Arrival stamp used on visitors passport counting down days of the New Suez Canal opening ceremony (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The Suez Canal has been a point of national pride since Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized it in June 1956. 

The Egyptian government has found many ways to celebrate the new waterway, which is parallel to the one established 146 years ago. Late July, Minister of Finance Hani Qadri announced that Egypt would create gold coin souvenirs as part of the new Suez Canal celebrations. The coins will come in various weights, be made of gold, and will be on sale to the public as of 6 August.

The Egyptian one pound coin will have the logo of the new canal along with the slogan, 'The new Suez Canal from Egypt to the world' and the engraving of two ships sailing in both directions against the background of the globe.

Golden coin
Golden coin

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El-Damaty announced the opening of the "Discoveries of Egypt's eastern gate," an exhibition at the Egyptian Museum celebrating the opening of the new Suez Canal.

The exhibition, El-Damaty pointed out, is to highlight the history of the area around the Suez Canal and its military importance since the ancient era until modern times.

The Egyptian postal office will issue a new stamp commemorating the canal after a committee chooses the best design from submissions by various artists from Egypt's faculties of fine arts, applied arts, and art education.

The upgraded canal is expected to speed up traffic along the waterway and to boost its economic revenues, projected to more than double from $5.3 billion at the end of 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2023, according to official estimates.

Built 146 years ago, the Suez Canal is one of the world's most heavily used shipping lanes and has been a key source of international trade, earning Egypt billions of dollars in annual revenues.

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