The city of Ismailia is one of the most beautiful Egyptian destinations. It is situated on the Suez Canal and is the capital of the governorate of the same name.
Ismailia was built on the West Bank of Temsah Lake and it is located along the course of the Suez Canal. The city is situated almost in the middle of the city of Port Said in the north, the city of Suez in the south, and 120 kilometers east of Cairo.
With more than 700,000 inhabitants, the city has developed majorly in the past few decades with the building of the tunnel of Gamal Abdel El Nasser, the construction of the Cairo – Ismailia highway, and the construction of many new hotels and resorts.
Ismailia is considered to be among the most charming cities in Egypt with its large number of gardens, its clean well-organized streets and neighborhoods, and a distinguished European style. It is a wonderful destination for one-day trips from Cairo or even as a lunch break for tourists traveling to Sinai.
The History of Ismailia
Ismailia is among the most recently established cities in Egypt, in comparison to other cities with a long history, like Cairo and Alexandria, which were constructed hundreds of years ago.
The city of Ismailia was founded with the opening of the Suez Canal on November 16, 1869, in the reign of Khedive Ismail, the founder of the Suez Canal. The word "Ismailia" was taken from his name.
The city was established and developed to house the European engineers and laborers who worked in operating the Suez Canal when it was first created and this is why some of the neighborhoods of Ismailia still have a European atmosphere with French architectural style in the villas and houses.
The Inhabitants of Ismailia
Ismailia's demography consists mainly of a mixture of three migration waves that traveled to the city at the same time of the opening of the Suez Canal and the growth of a new city on Temsah Lake to the East of Cairo.
The first group of people who traveled to Ismailia and settled in the city were workers and laborers from Upper Egypt who participated in the digging of the Suez Canal.
After the opening of the Canal they had two choices: either remain in the city that offered a lot of work opportunities at the time or return to their homeland in the South of Egypt. Almost all of them remained in Ismailia.
The second major wave of immigrants to Ismailia came from other cities that were established during the digging of the Suez Canal like Port Said and the city of Suez. They found better work and a higher standard of living in Ismailia which encouraged them to stay permanently.
The last group who left their homelands and traveled to Ismailia came from Europe and consisted of the engineers and higher-ranked employees who worked in the daily operation of the Suez Canal.
However, after the nationalization of the canal in 1956 by former Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the beginning of battles between the Egyptian army and Israeli troops in Sinai, most of the Europeans who lived in the city of Ismailia for many years left the city for good and went back to Europe.
Tourist Attractions in Ismailia
Tourism in Ismailia can be summarized by its wonderful green orchards and gardens, beautiful Temsah Lake and its amazing beaches, the Suez Canal, some historical sites and museums, and the most delicious fried and grilled fish you will ever taste.
These attractions have led to a steady increase in the number of tourists who visit Ismailia for leisure and to have a short vacation away from other crowded cities in Egypt like Cairo or Alexandria.
Moreover, many local and multinational companies and organizations arrange for conferences in Ismailia as it is located near Cairo and it provides the participants with a calm atmosphere that helps them focus during the meetings or workshops and then have an enjoyable time afterward.
Historical Sites of Ismailia
Although the modern city of Ismailia was only established in 1869 by Khedive Ismail, a number of historical discoveries were found inside the city. They date back to the Pharaonic, Roman, Coptic, and Islamic periods.
When the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt started the excavation missions in Ismailia, they were able to unearth some fossils of several tombs that date back to the pre-dynastic era in Egyptian history, more than 5,000 years in the past.
Other excavation missions that worked in a nearby area called Tal El Kou' found a number of houses and tombs, made out of bricks that date back to the Second Intermediate period, between the middle of the 17th century and the middle of the 16th century, during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt.
Due to a large number of houses and tombs that were discovered in that area, scientists are now working on discovering the exact location of "Oris" the capital and the headquarter of the Hyksos in Egypt.
Was this great historical city located on the East bank of Ismailia in Sinai, the North of Sinai on the way the Hyksos used to travel to Egypt, or in that same location of the tombs discovered in Tal El Kou'?
These scientific discoveries proved that Ismailia was known by the ancient Egyptians in the pre-dynastic period and at the beginning of the dynastic period in Egypt in 3,100 B.C.
Due to the historical importance of Ismailia, a number of foreign universities have started studying the city and directing excavation missions to discover even more archaeological and historical sites located in and around Ismailia.
Among the most important current excavation missions in Ismailia is one by the University of London that was able to unearth a lot of fossils and antiquities from Pharaonic times. The items belonged to defensive forts that were constructed by the Pharaohs to protect
the eastern borders of Egypt and they are currently being restored as tourist attractions.
The De Lesseps Museum
This Museum was the residence of Ferdinand De Lesseps, the engineer who executed the construction of the Suez Canal in 1859 by orders from Khedive Ismail.
The Museum of De Lesseps houses some of his tools, belongings, engineering plans, some rare historical maps of the Suez Canal, and a wonderful canvas with the two letters; S.C, or the Suez Canal that was given to him during the celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal.
Among the most wonderful displays of the De Lesseps Museum in Ismailia is a copy of the original invitations that were sent to the kings and presidents of the world to attend the grand opening of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869. There is also a wonderful horse carriage that De Lesseps used during his supervision visits to the location of the Suez Canal.
The house itself is fascinating with its European style of architecture, decorated ceilings, and its wonderful wallpaper that was imported from France and was the first to ever be used in Egypt.
The Horus Military Rout
Stretching from the East of the Suez Canal in the West to the city of Rafah in the East, on the Egyptian-Israeli borders nowadays, the Horus Military Rout was used during the Pharaonic period for military campaigns carried out by the kings and rulers of Egypt against Syria and Palestine.
This route was studied by many excavation missions from several countries like the United States, Belgium, France, and Canada with the participation of archeologists from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, and many items were discovered dating from different periods of Egyptian history.
Temsah Lake is one of the most beautiful natural lakes in Egypt with its charming atmosphere and the purity of its waters. It is amazing to swim in or even to relax on the beaches situated all around the lake.
Temsah Lake has a surface area of around 14 square kilometers, which is a relatively large lake. It also has resorts, beaches, cafes, and restaurants all along the lake that will make your visit or stay all the more incredible and enjoyable.
Fairouz Beach and Chalets
Fairouz Beach is one of the most wonderful resorts in Ismailia. It is designed in the shape of a ship with a great restaurant that offers all sorts of local and international dishes.
Featured with 30 spacious chalets, football and tennis courts, a spa and a health club, a swimming pool, a kids' playground, and a large amusement park, Fairouz Beach has been attracting an increasing number of tourists the past few years and looks set to continue becoming a favorite destination.