Egypt is to unveil a major extension of the Suez Canal on Thursday, a mega-project that has emerged as a cornerstone of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s efforts to restore national pride and revive the economy after years of unrest.
The 1869 inauguration of the canal linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean was hailed as a leap into the modern age, and President Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s nationalization of the British and French-run waterway in 1956 was seen as marking Egypt’s decisive break with its colonial past. That sparked the second of four wars with Israel, including a 1973 offensive launched across the canal that Egyptians celebrate as their greatest military victory.
The government hopes for another historic moment Thursday, when it unveils an $8.5 billion extension of the waterway funded entirely by Egyptians, without foreign aid. The media and government supporters across the board have breathlessly repeated the same message — after four years of strife and the overthrow of two presidents, Egypt is back.