Confetti is released during a ceremony marking the start of dredging works on the New Suez Canal Project near the Suez Canal in Ismailia city, November 13, 2014. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
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Egypt is to unveil a major extension of the Suez Canal Thursday, a mega-project that has emerged as a cornerstone of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's efforts to restore national pride and revive the economy after years of unrest.The 1869 inauguration of the canal linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean was hailed as a leap into the modern age, and President Gamal Abdel-Nasser's nationalization of the British and French-run waterway in 1956 was seen as marking Egypt's decisive break with its colonial past. The government hopes for another historic moment when it unveils an $8.5 billion extension of the waterway funded entirely by Egyptians, without foreign aid. The media and government supporters across the board have breathlessly repeated the same message – after four years of strife and the overthrow of two presidents, Egypt is back.The new extension involved digging and dredging along 72 kilometers of the 193-kilometer canal, making a parallel waterway at its middle that will facilitate two-way traffic accommodating the world's largest ships. With a depth of 24 meters, the canal now allows the simultaneous passage of ships with up to 66 ft. draught.Sisi's office said the next step would focus on the East Port Said area, the expansion of its harbor and the development of an industrial zone that would cover 40 million square meters and eventually generate some 400,000 jobs.
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