Although the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 was seen as phenomenal engineering accomplishment, Egypt had been digging canals across its land to activate world trade for millennia. The first canal was dug under the reign of Pharaoh Senausret III (1887-1849 BC) to connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red sea via the Nile and its branches. Eventually abandoned because of built-up silt, the canal was reopened to navigation over the centuries by pharaohs and Persian kings up through the reigns of Ptolemy II (285 BC), Emperor Trajan (117 AD) and Amro Ibn Elass (640 AD). Even Napoleon proposed a canal but abandoned the plan after incorrect maps showed a 10m height difference between the seas.
By Chris Haines