National Geographic : 1957 Jan
139 4 Suez Opens in 1869: East Entertains West in an Arabian Nights Setting Egypt's Khedive Ismail, a viceroy of the Sultan of Turkey, welcomed the Empress Eugenie of France, the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, the crown princes of Prussia and the Netherlands, noblemen from Sweden and Russia, and some 6,000 other dis tinguished guests. To feed them, Ismail hired 500 European cooks and 1,000 servants. Egyptians ar rived with wives, children, horses, camels, and gazelles. In this old-time illustration Arab musicians play for Western visitors, while fellow Egyptians smoke water pipes. The scene is Isma'iliya, named for the khedive, who erected there a palace with a grand ballroom. Turkey's crescent flag flies overhead. + Eugenie's Flotilla of Steam and Sail Makes the First Canal Transit Sixty-eight ships, with the French empress's yacht Aigle in the lead, started from Port Said amid a thunderous cannonade. They reached the Red Sea in four days. Cheering Arabs lined the parade route so densely that at one point they pushed front ranks into the canal. Stopping at Isma'iliya, the halfway point, the em press rode a camel. Bedouin horsemen fired muskets as they galloped past her. Ismail gave a ball for 5,000 guests. The spectacle of royalty waltzing shocked Arab sheiks, who relegated dancing to enter tainers and dervishes. Canal builder Ferdinand de Lesseps was the lion of the hour. Within a week, in his 65th year, he married a woman of 21, who bore him 12 children. Trying to dig the Panama Canal, he was defeated by yellow fever and engineering and financial difficulties. Keystone View Co.