Marking the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal’s opening to international navigation, Egyptian antiquities ministry organized an exhibition to showcase a collection of artifacts.
Held at the Cairo’s Manial Palace and Museum, the exhibition displayed a variety of Mohamed Said Pasha, the Egyptian ruler who permitted the building the canal, and Khedive Ismail, the ruler who opened the canal for navigation.
“This exhibition is meant to mark the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal, which was opened on Nov. 17, 1869, in addition to providing people with information and historical background about the Suez Canal throughout history,” Wala al-Din Badawi, director of Manial Palace and Museum, told Xinhua.
“Among the most prominent pieces on display is a collection of coins that mark the anniversary of the opening of the canal and as well as a group of cups bearing the name and image of Khedive Ismail,” the official said.
He added that a rare oil painting of Khedive Ismail with his crown prince Mohammed Tawfiq, standing in front of a sculpture of the founder of Modern Egypt Muhammad Ali Pasha, was also put on display.
“The exhibition also includes one of the rarest oil paintings and one of the most prominent works of art of a famous French painter depicting a scene of the opening of the Canal,” Badawi said.
The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It was opened for navigation in November 1869 after 10 years of construction.
It is one of the most important waterways in the world since it allows ships to travel between Europe and South Asia without navigating around Africa, thereby reducing the sea voyage distance between Europe and India by about 7,000 km.
In August of 2015, Egypt opened a new 35-km waterway alongside the original 190 km Suez Canal, plus a 37-km expansion and deepening of some parts of the existing one.
The new artificial waterway, which is part of a larger project to expand Suez port and shipping facilities and build large industrial zones, is designed to raise Egypt’s international profile, and build the nation as a major trade hub.
For many Egyptians, the Suez Canal is one of the great achievements Egypt has made to serve humanity throughout history.
During a national celebration ceremony on Sunday to mark the anniversary, Chairman of Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Osama Rabie said the SCA is now working to turn the old administrative building of the governmental body into a global museum that will be home to antiquities dating back to the time of digging the canal.
He noted that the museum will be opened by the first half of the next year.
“Egyptians are very proud of building this canal and the vital role it has played in serving world trade and shipping,” Lamiaa Olwy, a lady in her early 30s, told Xinhua while touring the exhibition.
Olwy, who is a fan of antiquities, said she decided to visit the exhibition after she was told by her friends that it will show some items that were used during the opening ceremony of the canal.
“It is the first time to see such precious pieces that have historical background for such an important event,” she said while looking admiringly at an oil painting at the exhibition.
“Such exhibitions are of great value and are highly important for Egyptians. These events take us back to the era when the Egyptians did great things for humanity,” she added.