Manzala Travel Guide
The El Manzala region, named after Lake Manzala, lies within the Dakhalia governorate. Manzala town has bumpy and narrow streets with no buildings to boast of. In earlier times, the abundance of fish in Lake Manzala prompted many to cultivate the waters and create fish farms without paying a penny. Unfortunately, this led to corruption and widespread disorder in the town.
Lake Manzala, also known as Manzaleh, is located near Port Said in northeastern Egypt. Lake Manzala is the biggest lake in northern Egypt and is 30km wide and 47km long.
Although Manzala Lake is quite long, it is quite shallow. The water is only 4 to 5 feet deep in most places. The city of Port Said which is on Lake Manzala was established in the 19th century to help in the construction of the Suez Canal and also as a travel point.
Suez Canal and Lake Manzala
The Suez Canal is intersected by three Lakes: the Great Bitter Lake, Lake Tismah, and Lake Manzala. The construction of the Suez Canal reached Manzala, proceeding from north to south. With a lake this shallow, it became necessary to build something to help the ships to pass through, and therefore a banked channel was dug.
Manzala Lake is connected to the Suez Canal through a small Canal known as Al-Qabouti. The lake has undergone many biological, chemical, and physical changes in the past century. A number of human impacts like human settlements, silting of the lake, pollution, construction of a high dam, and drying of the terrain have changed the lake from being a marine system to a freshwater system.
Ecology of Lake Manzala
Lake Manzala is a brackish lagoon. Its bed is largely made up of soft clay. Earlier, the lake served as a significant source of fish but the increase in pollution levels and drainage of the lake has decreased the fish stock considerably. Previously, Egypt's government drained large portions of the lake and tried to convert it into farmland to get the best of the rich Nile deposits. The project was unprofitable and Lake Manzala lost about 80 percent of its area by 2001.
Scientists have also discovered the ash grains of a volcano called Santorini in Greece lie on the banks of Lake Manzala. The volcano erupted 3,500 years ago. There are a number of cities that lie on Lake Manzala. Ancient island cities like Tanis and early cities like Tahpanhes lie on the Lake. Port Said is also an important city and is visited by many tourists.
This island is in Lake Manzala and lies 9km southwest of Port Said city. Tanis is now called San-al-Hagar town but it was given the name Tanis by the Greek refugees. The island is under the Port Said governorate. Agricultural products and particularly textiles were exported through this important port throughout the Middle East. The place was very fertile and was also famous for its fortresses and treasures.
Tahphanes is an ancient city on Lake Manzala. The city was known as Daphnae by the Greeks. This ancient city is also mentioned in the Holy Bible and many Jews settled here in the sixth century B.C.
Said Pasha established Port Said in 1859 to serve as a working camp for workers constructing the Suez Canal. A major part of the city was built on Lake Manzala. Unfortunately, the city suffered major damages during the Suez crisis and then again during the Israel crisis in the 1967 and 1973 wars.
Since then the city has been rebuilt and now serves as a summer resort for Egyptians. The town center has buildings in the colonial architectural style of the nineteenth century. National Museum in Port Said has artifacts from almost all periods of Egypt’s past- prehistoric and pharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic as well as many coins, manuscripts, and textiles. Port Said is a very important link between the sea route connecting East and West. Many tankers and ships come there and the sight is a major attraction for the tourists.
Finally, it's worth noting that Lake Manzala is a very important lake in Egypt's culture and history. It has been mentioned in almost all books and articles on Egypt which revolve around Suez Canal. The cities and islands on this lake make it even more important in the history of the region.