Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, August 13, 2015



Finally, some good new from the Middle East! While ISIS may continue to ravage parts of Northern Iraq, Syria and Tunisian beach resorts, the remaining 95% of Arab-speaking lands are actually enjoying fairly robust economic times. And nowhere was this more apparent than in Egypt. In fact, last Thursday was declared a National Holiday to celebrate an event 146 years in the making: The Grand Opening of the Second Suez Canal.

Never heard of the First Suez Canal? The famed waterway opened to similar grand fanfare back in 1869. It was hailed as "Mankind's Greatest Engineering Achievement" and still impresses today. See...back then...trucks had not been invented and railways were still in their infancy. Although centuries had passed since Columbus' voyage, Europe was still desperate for Asian goods, delivered by ship. The Suez Canal, (also known as the world's largest ditch) cut 6,000 miles off the ocean voyage around Africa. It saved everyone time and money.

The old adage "The More Things Change.. The More They Stay The Same" is true. Even today, 93% of the world's trade is carried over oceans and seas, and the majority still goes from Asia to Europe. Only the cargo has changed. iPads and Smart-Phones have replaced spices and tea. Yet the routes are exactly the same and the Suez has been crowded for 150 years. Ships still queue up on both ends of the Suez Canal, waiting to pass through. Since the French canal isn't very wide, only one craft can travel in one direction. Once in, it's also slow going. Speeds average 7 KMP, as it takes 21 hours to sail 160 kilometers.

All that changed last week! The New Suez Canal. Instead of waiting twelve hours to enter, it will only be three. The new canal is wider, so ships can sail in both directions at the same time. The capacity has also doubled...from and average of 49 to 97 ships daily. Transport around Suez has also been improved. There are now six tunnels underneath the canal to replace the horribly overused Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel. Sinai and Suez can now be sister cities!

So today, the DUNER BLOG asks you to join in celebrating this engineering marvel. Mosques across Egypt compared it to the Battle of the Trench in 627. During this medieval encounter, the Prophet / General Mohammad ordered his troops to dig an enormous trench around the city of Medina, thus rendering the cavalry of the Pagan Army useless. We're not quite sure of the connection, but will party anyhow!

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