The Suez Canal, Egypt’s glorious triumph of engineering over nature, dominates this region, slicing through the sands of the Isthmus of Suez for 163km, not only severing mainland Egypt from Sinai but also Africa from Asia. The canal was the remarkable achievement of Egypt’s belle époque, an era buoyed by grand aspirations and finished by bankruptcy and broken dreams. This period also gave birth to the canalside cities of Port Said and Ismailia. Today their streets remain haunted by this fleeting age of grandeur, their distinctive architecture teetering on picturesque disrepair.
Although the area is often bypassed by all but the most rampant supertanker-spotters, anyone with an interest in Egypt’s modern history will enjoy the crumbs of former finery on display. And while the Canal zone may have no vast ruins or mammoth temples, there’s a slower pace to life here that will be appreciated by those travelling with time up their sleeve.