Dividing the Desert

April 25, 1859. About 150 people have gathered on the shores of Lake Manzala in Egypt. And one of them, a mustachioed, retired French diplomat, steps forward. He raises his pickaxe and strikes a ceremonial blow. The audacious goal is to cut through the desert to connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, creating a new trade route between the East and the West. Changing global trade and geopolitics forever. Today: the Suez Canal. Why did the tremendous efforts of a Frenchman end up enriching the British Empire? And how, decades later, did the canal play an unexpected role in the birth of modern Egypt?

​​Thank you to our guests, Ibrahim El-Houdaiby and Professor Aaron Jakes for speaking with us for this episode. Thank you also to Dr. Bella Galil for talking with us. If you want to read more about the Suez Canal, Zachary Karabell's "Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal" is a great resource. 

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