Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rode into the new stretch of the Suez Canal on a wave of nationalist pomp, his personality cult on full display, backed by a roster of Egypt’s international friends.
The French Prime Minister François Hollande was named “guest of honour” at the ceremony in the port town of Ismailia, following the recent sale by the French of three Rafale fighter jets to the Sisi administration. Here he took prime position next to Mr Sisi himself, who had arrived, decked in full military garb, sailing down the new channel alongside a naval ship called Tahya Masr, or Long Live Egypt.
Also in attendance was the British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who had earlier praised the “modern wonder” of the project, as well as Egypt’s “vision of a more prosperous, more democratic society”, in an editorial for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
The Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, King Abdullah of Jordan, the Emir of Kuwait and North Korea’s parliamentary speaker, Kim Yong-nam, were also there to enjoy the parades and the F-16 fighter-jet flypasts in a ceremony that had an original reported cost of more than £19m.
The new channel, designed to increase profits by allowing parallel shipping traffic, was financed with £5bn in public funds, raised with investment certificates paid into the Long Live Egypt Fund. Citizens are due to receive 12 per cent annual interest, with a final payment in four years.