A dredger is seen at work on the new waterway of the Suez canal on June 13, 2015, in the port city of Ismailia, east of the capital Cairo.
Egypt prepares to open expanded Suez Canal
02:27 - Source: CNN

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Egypt inaugurates major expansion to Suez Canal

Egypt says it is a "gift" which "changes the map of the world"

Suez Canal links Mediterranean with Red Sea

CNN  — 

Egypt inaugurated a major expansion to the Suez Canal on Thursday.

Taking a year to complete and costing over $8 billion, the project widens and deepens part of the canal to increase traffic and revenue. Seventy-two kilometers (45 miles) of new waterways have been added, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led an opening ceremony which was attended by numerous heads of state, including French President Francois Hollande.

Egyptian officials have announced the expansion as a “gift” which “changes the map of the world.” The ceremony invoked both national pride and a global outlook, including remarks by President el-Sisi, a musical performance, and jets flying overhead.

“The launch of navigation in the new waterway … surpasses the achievement of economic or political goals, as it highlights a humane goal that achieves dignity, justice and stability to the Egyptian people in a modern and democratic country,” said el-Sisi.

The project is not without controversy, however. Some have questioned whether it is the best use of the nation’s resources at a time when there are arguably more pressing needs. Analysts have also cast doubt on its purported economic benefits, arguing that the government’s projection of more than $13 billion in annual revenues by 2023 is overly optimistic.

The canal has been a significant income source for Egypt, bringing in over $5 billion last year. Its expansion is part of a larger plan to turn the Suez Canal zone into a global logistics and trade center.

One of the most important waterways in the world, the Suez Canal links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. It opened in 1869 after a decade of construction by tens of thousands of workers.

Egypt hopes Suez Canal expansion will see cash flood in