<i>A container ship passes through the Suez Canal near Ismailiyya. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"If the timing is just right, out of nowhere an oil tanker or container ship might suddenly disrupt the horizon as it appears to glide through the Egyptian desert."
<i>The city of Port Said at the northern, Mediterranean mouth of the Suez Canal. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"Whether Egypt remains vital depends in large part on whether the Suez Canal is a relic of the past or an enduring touchstone in international politics."
<i>The city of Port Fuad at the northern, Mediterranean mouth of the Suez Canal. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"To colonial officials in London and Paris, Egypt itself was not intrinsically important other than as a means to other places of greater strategic interest."
<i>A family beside the southern end of the canal near the Red Sea port of Suez. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i> </br>"Eight decades after London acquired Egypt’s interest in the canal, Egyptians finally reaped the benefits from a project that tens of thousands of their countrymen ... had built."
<i>Passengers on a ferry that crosses the Suez Canal from Port Said to Port Fuad. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i> </br> "Nationalizing the canal was, for Egyptians, the final act in their long struggle for liberation."
<i>A large container vessel exits the canal into the Gulf of Suez. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"U.S. presidents and strategic planners have long regarded the canal as ... a critical component of global trade."
<i>Egyptian military personnel wait for a ferry to take them across the canal. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i> </br>"The current debate about U.S. military assistance to Egypt, sparked by the military’s takeover in July, in fact hinges in large part on the canal."
<i>Dock workers at a container facility at the southern end of the canal. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"The canal handles eight percent of global seaborne trade and, in 2012, accounted for $5.12 billion in revenue for Egypt."
<i>A picture of deposed president Hosni Mubarak in Port Fuad. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"There are plenty of reasons to question the ability of the Egyptian military to protect the canal from security threats."
<i>A Chinese container ship sails under the Mubarak Peace Bridge. (Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures)</i></br>"The players may have changed, but in many ways, the relationship that the canal sustains for Egypt and its foreign backers remains the same."

Why Suez Still Matters

Nearly 150 years after its completion, the Suez Canal continues to inspire awe, living up to every cliché ever written about it. The 120-mile waterway is a vital link between Europe and Asia, a strategic asset, and a man-made wonder. But the world has evolved since 1869. Have new developments in politics, economics, and security rendered the canal irrelevant? Or does global change make it as important as ever?

To some observers, three years into this turbulent chapter in Egyptian history, Cairo’s importance to the United States seems to have diminished, with power apparently shifting in the region and so many accepted truths about the Middle East refuted by all the upheaval. Whether Egypt remains vital, however, depends in large part on whether the Suez Canal is a relic of the past or an enduring touchstone in international politics. And any notion that the canal is losing its strategic or economic importance must contend with a longer view of the canal’s place in Egyptian history and a deeper understanding of how it has shaped Egypt’s relations with the world.

"Click here to read "Why Suez Still Matters" by Steven A. Cook.

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