The city of Suez is the capital of a governorate that holds the same name located to the east of the Nile Delta at the southern entrance to the Suez Canal.
Suez has a long rich history dating back to the reign of the 6th Pharaonic dynasty in the middle of the 25th Century B.C. when the kings of ancient Egypt used the city to protect the eastern section of the country from outer invasions.
The city has a surface area of around 10,000 square kilometers and a population estimated to be around half a million inhabitants who mostly immigrated to Suez during the construction of the Suez Canal and afterwards.
Suez has four major neighborhoods: Suez, Arba’een, Ataqqa, and Ganayen. The Suez neighborhood is the oldest among them and hosts most of the government facilities and buildings while Arba’een is the one with the largest number of inhabitants and commercial activities.
Ataqqa, on the other hand, is the industrial section of the city with many factories working mainly in the petroleum sector and a commercial port that is used for shipping goods and products to many regions around the Red Sea region.
The Ganayen (“the gardens”) neighborhood is actually the most beautiful section of the governorate of Suez with large areas of cultivated land and beautiful gardens. This section also hosts the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel which is the main route that connects Sinai to the East with the rest of Egypt to the West.
The Geographical Location of Suez
The city of Suez is to the southeast of the Nile Delta, to the far West of the Suez Gulf and at the southern entrance of the Suez Canal. The eastern desert of Egypt, located between Suez and Cairo, occupies the western borders of the governorate.
The History of Suez in Ancient Times
The city of Suez was well-known in ancient Egypt as it was used for mining activities in Sinai and to prevent any foreign attacks coming from Palestine or Syria into Egypt. Since ancient times Egypt always had a town on the northern edge of the Suez Gulf. This town was called “Sekot” in the Pharaonic times and it was located 17 km to the West of the modern-day city of Ismailia.
Geological researchers have proven that the Suez Gulf used to extend to the Temsah Lake during the Pharaonic period, located in Ismailia today, but the water of the Suez Gulf receded towards the Great Bitter Lakes in the South afterward. This created a series of ravines in front of Heropolice, the name of the city of Suez in Roman times, and prevented the town from having a port on the Red Sea. This was why a new port and town was established during the Ptolemaic period that held the name “Cleopatra”.
Afterward, this town was called Clisma and when the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th century AD, they used the town as a port and named it Caspian. During the 10th century AD, a small neighborhood appeared to the south of Caspian and it was called Suez. As time passed by Suez and Caspian became a larger town with a port on the Red Sea.
The city of Suez is a good example of how towns would change their locations to function in a better way and no matter what name Suez had, it was always the best location to have a port on the Red Sea in Egypt.
The Modern History of Suez
The rise of the modern city of Suez started with the digging of the Suez Canal, the construction of the Portawfiq Port, and the expansion of the water passageway in front of the city to enable larger ships to pass through the Suez Canal.
Suez was a small peaceful town until the 19th century and it served as a port connecting Egypt with Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula. The pre-canal city only had a population of around 3,000 or 4,000 inhabitants in 1860.
Everything changed in the city with the beginning of the digging of the Suez Canal as the population increased dramatically in a limited period of time with so many workers emigrating from different Egyptian cities to come and work in the Suez Canal.
With the establishment of the railway line at the end of the 20th century, connecting Suez with the rest of the cities located on the Suez Canal and with Cairo, the city developed and flourished like never before. It became an important industrial and commercial center on the Red Sea visited by many people on a frequent basis. The number of inhabitants of Suez increased from 4,000 in 1860 to 11,316 in 1882, 49,686 in 1937 until it reached around 120,000 in 1960 with the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The Valiant City of Suez
The people of Suez have shown great courage in defending their beloved city against different attacks through the modern history of the city protecting it against the British and then the Israelis afterward. They bravely fought against the British army troops during the British occupation of Egypt in battles where the people of Suez were less in number and far less equipped, the lesson that taught them how to struggle hard for their rights and freedom.
The Battle of October 24, 1973
The 24th of October, 1973, has become the National Day of the city of Suez. This was when the people of Suez, with the help of the Egyptian army and police, prevented Israeli forces from entering the city through the Deversoir Gap.
The Israeli army thought that they would not face any resistance from the people of Suez and they wanted to achieve a victory that would be spread all over the international media as they would have occupied one of the most important cities in Egypt. However, the courageous inhabitants of Suez showed unparalleled bravery in defending their city and were able to stop Israeli troops from entering the city. They were also able to destroy many tanks and cars that belonged to the Israeli army. Unfortunately, the city of Suez was severely destroyed during different battles between the Egyptian and the Israeli armies in the period between 1967 and until 1973, however the city was rebuilt all over again to regain its position as one of the important ports and centers in Egypt.
Tourist Attractions of Suez
Although there is little of interest to tourists inside the city of Suez except for watching large ships passing through the Suez Canal and relaxing over a cold drink near Portawfiq, the city is a great resting point for travelers going from Cairo to Sinai. Additionally, Suez is near some of the interesting sites in the canal region like the beaches of Ain El Soukhna located to the south of the city or Ain Musa and the Temple of Serabet El Khadim in Sinai.
Despite the fact that the historical site of Ain Musa is not located inside the city of Suez, it is situated only 20 kilometers to the southeast of the city. You drive through the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel to reach the Sinai Peninsula and come to Ain Musa, which means “the Springs of Moses.” According to the Old Testament this was where Moses turned a bitter spring into sweet drinking water after throwing a branch into it when he was instructed to do so by God.
Although Ain Musa continued to be a source of fresh water for the local Bedouins of the area until the middle of the 19th century, only two springs of the 12 mentioned in the Book of Exodus have survived until today.
The Israeli army used Ain Musa as a stronghold during their occupation of Sinai in 1967 but it was recaptured by Egyptian forces once again in 1973 after some brutal battles between the two sides.
Only about 3 kilometers to the north of Ain Musa is the Military Touristic Memorial created by the Egyptian army to commemorate their victory over Israel. This memorial includes some sections of the Bar Lev Defense line that the Israeli army constructed at the Western section of Sinai to prevent the Egyptian army from entering the peninsula. There are also a number of weapons, tools, types of equipment, tanks, and photos that the Egyptians captured from the Israeli army after the victory of the Egyptians in the War of the Six of October 1973.