The Suez Canal Company, operating under the auspices of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, and the Ottoman governor of Egypt, began construction on the Suez Canal in 1859. Laborers using picks and shovels, and later dredgers and steam shovels, dug the canal.
When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, it was only 25 feet deep and 72 feet wide at the bottom and between 200 and 300 feet wide at the surface. Improvements in 1876 transformed the Suez Canal into one of the most-traveled shipping lanes in the world. The Suez Canal has been closed twice, most recently in 1967. As of 2014, about 50 ships a day traverse the canal.