Egypt set to open Suez Canal expansion
Egypt will on Thursday inaugurate a major expansion of the Suez Canal, with the government hoping the project would boost the country’s flagging economy.
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi would be joined by foreign dignitaries at a grand opening ceremony for the new shipping route in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.
Local media said French Presiden, Francois Hollande, has confirmed his attendance at the gala alongside other political leaders from Cyprus, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Sudan.
The government has declared Thursday a public holiday.
Train journeys have been declared free on the day to give people the chance to celebrate what pro-government media have dubbed “Egypt’s gift to the world.”
The nation is preparing for street celebrations to mark the event and main squares have been colourfully decorated with lights and the national flag.
In 2014, al-Sissi announced the construction of the 72-kilometre-long lane, which has been funded solely by Egyptian investors.
He demanded that the route be completed within one year, tightening the original three-year deadline for the project, saying Egypt’s struggling economy could not afford to wait longer.
Security has been enhanced nationwide for Thursday’s celebrations, following an increase in militant attacks in recent months.
These have been particularly frequent on the Sinai Peninsula which borders the Suez Canal.
The eight billion dollars waterway is the first major project completed since al-Sissi, an ex-army General, took office in 2014.
The expansion is expected to allow two-way traffic along the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Asia and Europe which dates back 146 years.
The Suez Canal provides one of Egypt’s main sources of income alongside tourism and remittances from expatriates.
Egyptian authorities forecast that the new route will increase the Suez Canal’s annual revenue from 5 billion dollars at present to 13.2 billion dollars by 2023.
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