The city of Ismailia, also known as "Little Paris"

The city of Ismailia, also known as "Little Paris"

Located approximately 110 kilometers northeast of Cairo International Airport in Egypt, with moderate weather throughout the year, and covering an area of 5,066 square kilometers, lies the city of beauty and enchantment near the midpoint of the Suez Canal, which divides it into two parts, one in Africa and the other in Asia, making it an Afro-Asian city.

Historically, the origin of Ismailia dates back to the pre-dynastic period, where it was the eighth province in the Lower Egypt region and one of the largest provinces in that era, with its capital called "Per-Atum" located in the area of Tel El-Maskhuta (currently the city of Abu Suweir).

Many prophets have walked on its land, including Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Yusuf and his brothers, and their father Prophet Yaqub, as well as witnessing the exodus of Prophet Musa and the journey of the Holy Family, and the entrance of Amr ibn al-Aas to Egypt.

As for the modern origin of Ismailia, it was officially established during the reign of Said Pasha, where the foundation stone for the Crocodile City was laid on April 27, 1862, and it was named after its location on the shore of Lake Timsah. On March 4, 1863, a grand ceremony was held by the French Canal Company, where the city was named Ismailia, after Khedive Ismail, the ruler of Egypt at that time. In January 1960, Law No. 24 for the year 1960 was issued to establish the Ismailia Governorate.

The city of Ismailia took the French Riviera as a model to emulate its charming appearance on the western shore of Lake Timsah, and the buildings were constructed with a French lifestyle tint that was favored by Khedive Ismail and was used in most Egyptian buildings during his reign. The neighborhoods of the Canal cities were filled with the charm of Ismailia, attracting the attention of the world with their cleverness.

The city of Ismailia was initially inhabited in the mid-19th century by those who dug the Suez Canal and has always been closely connected to the events of the canal. Its celebrations and joy are derived from the events of the Suez Canal. The city is divided into neighborhoods: the Arab neighborhood, which was inhabited by the heroes of the canal, and the French neighborhood, which was inhabited by the French, English, Greeks, and various nationalities of the world. Nowadays, the Suez Canal Company has taken it to provide housing for its current workers and engineers.

With its pure appearance on the coast of the Suez Canal and the small lakes and Lake Timsah, and the abundance of gardens and trees, especially mango and lemon trees, the city of Ismailia resembles the Rosetta Island, surrounded by water from all sides. This charming nature has given it other features, as Ismailia is suitable for both land and sea fishing trips. The fishing areas in the sea extend to cities such as Fayed, Fanara, and Abu Sultan. Additionally, Ismailia is known for its many tourist attractions that distinguish it from others and attract tourists, making them fall in love with visiting it and repeating it many times. These tourist attractions include:

1. Recreational tourism, which includes one of the most beautiful natural lakes in Egypt, Lake Timsah, which is characterized by its calmness and clear waters. The total area of Lake Timsah is about 14 square kilometers.
In addition to the many tourist attractions, Ismailia is also home to several beautiful beaches:

1. Malahat Al-Naviga Beach and Chalets: This beach overlooks Lake Timsah and is a beautiful and safe beach that has all the necessary amenities.

2. Al-Taawon Beach and Chalets: Located in the Jabal Maryam area, this beach is distinguished by its cleanliness and tranquility and contains 15 fully equipped chalets, as well as a high-quality restaurant and café. It is one of the oldest beaches in Ismailia and has wide areas for beach games with a wonderful panorama of Lake Timsah.

3. Al-Denfah Beach Club: Located directly on the coast of the Suez Canal in the Crossing No. 6 area, this is one of the oldest beaches in Ismailia, originally established for the workers of the French Canal Company. It is a social, sports, and cultural club with a beautiful garden, a children's playground, and a luxurious restaurant, as well as a seafood restaurant with a stunning view of the Suez Canal. The club also has a state-of-the-art squash court.

4. Al-Usra Beach: Formerly known as "Al-Fransawi," this beach was established by the French Canal Company for the entertainment of its workers. It includes a dining hall, a children's garden, and a cafeteria.

5. Al-Lotus Beach: Located 25 kilometers from Ismailia, this beach overlooks the small lakes in the city of Fayed and is known for its tranquility. It is one of the beaches that welcomes the artistic teams participating in the Ismailia Festival of Popular Arts.

Secondly: Religious Tourism

Ismailia is home to one of the oldest churches in the world, the Catholic Church, which was built in 1930 in a French-Italian basilica design. It is rectangular in shape, with three main wings: the church, a library, and a multi-purpose hall, as well as a monastery building. It is named the French Church after Pope Francis.

Also, the Abbasid Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Egypt and an important archaeological landmark in Ismailia. It was built by Khedive Abbas Helmi II during the period of 1892-1914, after the digging of the Suez Canal. The mosque is square in shape and follows the Ottoman style of Islamic architecture, as seen from its prominent decorative entrance adorned with Islamic motifs. The mosque contains various Islamic architectural elements, including a mihrab in the center of the qibla wall and a wooden pulpit. The wooden ceiling of the mosque is decorated with beautiful floral and geometric motifs. It should be noted that the building material of the mosque is brick. The Abbasid Mosque is located on Salah Salem Street.

Fayed City

Fayed City, which belongs to the Ismailia Governorate, is an important tourist destination. Many visitors from inside and outside Egypt are attracted to its beaches with calm, clear waters and soft sand, in addition to the excellent services and high-level tourist villages, as well as all the social, sports, and entertainment facilities.
The Tel El Kabir Archaeological Site includes several hills, including:

Hassan Dawoud Hill: located south of the Balawa village, about 4 km from the Ismailia-Zagazig road, along the Wadi Tumilat. It is considered the oldest archaeological site in Ismailia, dating back to the prehistoric and early dynastic eras. It consists of burial tombs. Excavations of these tombs began in 1989 and continued until 1992, revealing 620 tombs dating back to the early dynastic era.

Tel El Kabir: There is believed to be a connection between Hassan Dawoud Hill and the city of Ain Shams (On), one of the oldest intellectual cities in Egypt. Excavations in this area are ongoing, and many ancient artifacts made of precious and semi-precious stones, gold earrings, and marble vessels have been discovered this year. A burial of a cow with an infant child between its hind legs was also discovered, symbolizing the child Horus nursing from the goddess Hathor.

Tel El Koa: located south of the new Qassaseen village, about 10 km south of the Azbat Um Mishq village, along the Wadi Tumilat. It dates back to the second intermediate period (Hyksos era). Excavations have revealed houses built of mud bricks, tombs with decorated mud brick structures and exterior cornices, as well as jars, amulets, and skeletal remains. Due to the abundance of discoveries, it is believed that the Hyksos established a city dating back to the Tel El Yahoudiya era.

Tel Abu Neshaba and Al-Hatab: Located south of the Al-Hatab village in Al-Qassaseen on the course of the Pharaonic canal, known as the Suez Canal or the canal of Senusret III, which was opened during the reign of King Nekau, one of the kings of the 26th dynasty. The site contains the canal bridge and the irrigation canal, as well as Roman-era baths, and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites.

Tel Al-Kabir and Tel Al-Saghir: The archaeological area is located in Tel Al-Kabir and Tel Al-Saghir and the village south of Tel Al-Kabir station, about 2 km away, on the course of the Pharaonic canal, the canal of Nekau. The Antiquities Authority conducted scientific excavations in these sites, resulting in the discovery of warehouses, buildings, and artifacts dating back to the Greek-Roman and late eras. It is one of the important areas on the course of the Wadi Tumilat.

Tel Al-Bahr: Located south of Tel Al-Kabir, about 10 km away, and west of the Tel Al-Malaak road, about 3 km away. This area dates back to the Hyksos era, where a collection of pottery was discovered in Tel Al-Yahoudiya. The archaeological site is located in Al-Zahiriya village in Azbat Tel Al-Bahr.

Tel Al-Sheikh Salim and Um Bardy: Located south of Al-Kilania village, about 5 km away in Al-Mahsama Al-Qadima. Tel Al-Sheikh Salim contains a bridge and the Pharaonic canal of Nekau on an area of 27 acres, one of the kings of the 26th dynasty. Inside the sand, about 4 km south of Tel Al-Sheikh Salim, is Tel Um Bardy on the course of the Pharaonic canal, where excavations were conducted and many tombs were discovered dating back to the Hyksos era. Inside the tombs, many artifacts were found, including jars and pottery. Excavations are currently underway in the same area, and 14 tombs from the Hyksos era were discovered in Um Bardy, in addition to the discovery of gold ornaments.

Tel Al-Ratabi area: It is considered the oldest place in Tel Al-Kabir and is located in Um Azam village, named after the presence of palm trees in this area in 1906 (Al-Rataba). It was the headquarters of the family of Prophet Jacob, and it is likely that the Suez Canal started from there. A huge wall was discovered in this area for a military castle that was 600 meters long and 300 meters wide, dating back to the Middle Kingdom (Amenemhat I). Inside the wall, there were houses, military castles, and warehouses.

The military fortress is considered the second after the fortresses that existed in Sinai. It contains a number of tombs, and a collection of amulets, pottery, weapons, and panels representing King Ramses II with the gods. It was even named Ramses II's capital (Per Ramses). 

It is worth mentioning that more than 400 archaeological sites have been discovered there. The truth is that it did not originate since the opening of the Suez Canal and Khedive Ismail, as is commonly believed, and the excavations are the best evidence of that. In addition to a statue of a horse's head made of quartz, a type of stone dating back to the Hyksos era. There are also historical areas and the De Lesseps Museum, where he used to live during his stay in Ismailia to dig the Suez Canal.

The Antiquities Sector in the Canal and East Delta region is constructing five museums to display the archaeological pieces returned from Israel and discovered in the digging of the Salam Canal and the Canal and Sinai regions. The most prominent of these is the East Bridge Museum, which will tell the history of the eastern gateway that is associated with ancient and modern history, as well as the military history of the Hyksos invasion and the Liberation War led by King Ahmose.
The project to construct the museum storages in Sinai has been completed at a cost of five million pounds, and the new Sinai antiquities storages in East Kantara have also been prepared to serve as a scientific archaeological center displaying the latest exhibition methods in study halls.

The Ancient Horus Military Road: It extends from East Kantara to Rafah in Egypt and has been the focus of attention for American, Belgian, French, and Canadian missions, along with Egyptian missions affiliated with the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The University of Buenos Aires mission used electromagnetic radiation to discover a number of archaeological artifacts dating back to the Persian era in the Tel Al-Ghaba area.

The Pharaonic Canal Bridge: It starts from a branch of the Nile in Tel Basta, then goes to the bitter lakes in Ismailia, and finally reaches El-Qulzum in Suez.

The city of East Kantara includes several hills, including:

- Abu Seifeh Hill: located east of East Kantara and contains an ancient castle dating back to the Greco-Roman era.
- Habouh Archaeological Site: located about 10 km east of East Kantara, and it was traversed by a branch of the Nile during the Pharaonic era, where three engraved archaeological pieces were discovered.
- Heir Hill: located about 75 km east of the city and contains three ancient castles dating back to the late Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, and Greek eras.
- East Kantara Center: contains Dafna Hills, ovens, Ametla, Sabtia, and Saady, and it is one of the most important archaeological sites located on the course of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. The third castle of Psamtik Basimatic in the 26th dynasty is located there, and the Egyptian Antiquities Authority conducted scientific excavations that revealed the presence of dwellings and castles in Dafna Hill, with stones and pottery scattered on the surface. Other important sites include Kafria Hill and Saady.
- Ismailia Center: contains several hills, including:

  - Al-Masakhota Hill: located in Abu Suweir village on an area of 82 acres, and it is a center for worshipping the god Atum. It contains warehouses made of basalt, a temple for the god Atum, a limestone coffin, and a basalt coffin from the Ptolemaic era. There is also a deep well about 30 meters deep for storing water, and a temple of Atun was discovered in 1906, with a limestone slab called the Atun Plate.
  - Al-Sahaba and Al-Azaba 16 Hills: located south of Abu Suweir and contain archaeological sites dating back to the Hyksos, Greek, and Roman eras.
  - Al-Naima and Al-Jamalin Hills: located west of the Ismailia-Suez road, south of Nafisha, and located on the course of the Pharaonic canal, Nekau.

  - Al-Amada and Al-Shaqaiq Hills: located south of the Ismailia-Zagazig road, south of Abu Shamia, and located on the course of the Pharaonic canal, Nekau.

The economic activity in the governorate varies between tourism, agriculture, and industry. The Ismailia governorate is famous for its agriculture, including many vegetables and fruits such as mangoes, strawberries, peanuts, tomatoes, and sesame. As for the industry, three main industrial zones and free zones were established in Ismailia, which affect the success of the national economy, and many industrial projects are working in various fields such as mining, food industries, clothing, building materials, and electronics.

In summary, Ismailia is a unique city in everything: history, location, and cultural richness. It is a city that fought for Egypt's honor and dignity, and its resistance men were at the forefront of the battles to defend Egypt.

- The Ismailia Governorate website.
- The General Authority for Information website.