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Nationalization of the Suez Canal: 1956

In 1956, the Egyptian Post issued a stamp to commemorate the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Egypt announced the decision to nationalize the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, after 87 years of digging and operating the canal of global strategic importance.

Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an artificial waterway that was dug in Egyptian territory, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. The length of the canal is 193 km, starting from Port Said in the north and ending at Port Tawfiq in the south. The canal is considered the fastest sea passage between Asia and Europe, saving an average of about 15 days of travel time compared to travelling via the Cape of Good Hope route.

digging the Suez Canal

After several attempts, the French politician Ferdinand de Lesseps managed in 1854 to convince the Ottoman governor, Muhammad Said Pasha, to grant him a concession to dig the canal and exploit it for 99 years. The Egyptian government has committed itself to providing 80% of the workers needed to dig the canal and ceding all the land needed for this to the French company that got got the concession. The digging of the canal lasted ten years from 1859 to 1869, and nearly one million Egyptian workers participated in it, of whom more than 120 thousand died during the digging process as a result of hunger, thirst, epidemics and ill-treatment.

Nationalization of the Suez Canal
 Nationalization of the Suez Canal – Egypt 1956

Nationalization of the Suez Canal

After the success of the Free Officers Revolution in Egypt in July 1952, Egypt adopted ambitious development plans. The most important project was the construction of the High Dam to provide the country’s electricity needs. But Egypt was faced with the refusal of the World Bank, Britain and the United States of America, to contribute to financing the construction.

Because of this international rejection, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser took the decision to nationalize the Suez Canal . The objective was to use the canal’s revenues to finance the construction of the dam. On July 26, 1956, he said his famous phrase from the city of Alexandria, “The International Company for the Suez Canal is nationalized as an Egyptian Shareholding company”.

Triple Aggression or Suez War

After the nationalization of the canal, Britain, France and Israel plotted to reoccupy the Suez Canal. The plot was that Israel would attack Egypt, then Britain and France would intervene to occupy the canal under the pretext of protecting international shipping. The tripartite aggression against Egypt (also known as Suez war) began with an Israeli attack. Israeli army invaded the Gaza Strip and Sinai on October 29, 1956, followed by the landing of French and British forces to occupy the city of Port Said. Dthe valiant popular resistance and international pressure led to the cessation of the aggression and the withdrawal of the aggressors forces from Egyptian territory.

The canal nationalization stamp:

In 1956, Egypt issued a postage stamp with face value of 10 millimes to commemorate the nationalization of the canal. The stamp represents the map of the Suez Canal and bears the date of the nationalization and the phrase “Nationalization of the Suez Canal Company – guaranteeing freedom of navigation.”

Catalog reference: Yvert & Tellier No. 384.


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