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The Digging Process
On May 8, 1817, Viceroy Mohamed Ali ordered to dig a canal from the Nile River close to Alatf village to deliver the water of The Nile to Alexandria through Beheira and to be a path for cargo ships. He ordered to group workers and tools necessary to start the digging work. During the digging process some old houses covered in sand were found which had ancient boxes inside, some of them were opened and some others were sent to Mohamed Ali without their content being known. In April 1819 the work stopped due to plague. In January 1820 the canal was completed and named after Sultan Mahmud II, the Sultan of Istanbul as Egypt then was an Ottoman state.
History about the Canal prior to 1807
The first freshwater canal from the Nile to Alexandria was built under the rule of the Ptolemy I. Ibn Batuta (1304-1369) the Moroccan traveller, in his "Rihla - My Travels", discusses passing through Alexandria in 1326 and references a canal from Alexandria to The Nile that was finished a few years before his arrival. This might contradict with Sultan Muhammad Ali building it almost four centuries later. However, regarding the geographic location and the fact that this part of the land, which has been reclaimed not a long time ago, was plain desert then. The canal might have been covered in sand sometime before it was re-established, not necessarily following the same route, by Muhammad Ali.
Map from the time of construction
In the French Carte Topographique de l'Egypte, investigated while the canal was built, and published in 1818, the canal is called Canal of Alexandria (الإسكندرية ﺧﻠﻴﺞ — Khalīg al-Iskandariyya). In that map the bifurcation from the Nile is 20&mnbsp; upstream of the modern bifurcation and yet there are no totally straight sections.
- Facts and Detals: Hellenistic period and the Ptolemies
- Nile delta in early 19th century, compilation of 18 from the 45 leaves of Carte topographique de l'Egypte (French), 1818
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