With an end to the fighting and a Middle East peace agreement signed, the Egyptian Government has turned to the mammoth task of reconstruction.
With an end to the fighting and a Middle East peace agreement signed, the Egyptian Government has turned to the mammoth task of reconstruction. And nowhere is that task more formidable than in the canal zone towns of Ismailia, Port Said and Suez.
Total losses in the area since the 1967 war have been put at more than GBP 5,000 million (12,500 million US dollars). More than 750,000 people fled from the towns, and were packed into the already overcrowded capital, Cairo, swelling its population to seven million.
The towns were left virtually deserted in the wake of almost daily air raids and artillery bombardment. Only essential personnel remained in the battered, bombed-out ghost-towns.
When the fighting ceased, only five thousand people were left in Ismailia. Before 1967, more than 350,000 people lived there.
Now, however, the refugees are returning to what remains of their homes. And in many cases, that isn't much. Although Ismailia did not suffer as heavily as, say, Suez, el Kantara or Port Tewfik, the damage is extensive... from the centre of town, out to the graceful suburban streets and squares, once inhabited by the wealthy.
The Egyptian Government plans to spend GBP 3,000 million (7,500 million US dollars) in the next six years, rebuilding the towns and reopening the Suez Canal itself. Five million pounds (12.5 million US dollars) will be spent initially in the three canal towns, reconstructing Port Said as a free zone, Suez as an industrial complex and Ismailia as a tourist resort.
In Ismailia, the reconstruction programme has already begun and it is hoped that by he end of the year 4,000 new homes will have been built. this will require a large work force, and it is planned to recruit most of the labour locally. At the moment, however, the work is being carried out on a piece-meal basis throughout the town. Any building considered structurally sound is being repaired. The others eventually will be demolished and replaced.
Shops and cafes in Ismailia have reopened, and there's an entirely new atmosphere about the place. In direct contrast to a few weeks ago, the shops are now full of a wide variety of goods, both essential and luxury -- ranging from melons and mangoes to watches and transistor radios. Even the souvenir sellers are back in business, peddling their carvings and antique replicas.
Ismailia, as well as being headquarters of the Suez Canal Authority, has always been a market town. It is on the fringe of the rich Nile agricultural belt, and these days the produce from this area is adding a new zest to life in the crowded Ismailia streets. then, there is the fishing industry -- mainly crabs and shrimps -- based on the canal and Lake Timsah, on whose shores part of the town is built.
The town in the past, was a mecca for tourists. It is located close to Cairo, and weather conditions are more temperate than in other parts of the country, because of the proximity to the canal and lake. The area also is one of the most beautiful in Egypt.
SYNOPSIS: The Suez Canal zone town of Ismailia, back in March, nineteen seventy ... battered almost beyond recognition by air raids and artillery bombardment. The population then was down to five thousand, and most of the inhabitants were essential military and civilian personnel. It was a far cry from the carefree days before the nineteen sixty-seven war, when the population was three hundred and fifty thousand.... and Ismailia was a thriving fishing, market and tourist centre.
Now ... life is beginning to return to the remains of Ismailia.
The Ismailians -- for years, refugees in the already overcrowded capital, Cairo -- have begun to rebuild their home town. The Egyptian Government plans to spend three thousand million pounds over the next six years, rebuilding Ismailia, and nearby towns of Port Said and Suez. In Ismailia alone, it is planned to construct four thousand new homes. This programme will require a massive workforce, and it is hoped to recruit most of the labour locally. At present the work is piece-meal. Any building considered structurally sound is being repaired. The remainder will be demolished and replaced.
As the refugees return, so do the goods they need ... and many they simply want, like watches, jewellery and transistor radios. for months ... years, in many cases ... the shops stood empty. Now, there's a new atmosphere about the town.
Ismailia, apart from being headquarters of the Suez Canal Authority, has always been a market town. And the market is thriving again. Even the souvenir sellers are out in force, preparing for the expected renewal of the once-bustling tourist trade.
In fact, the Governemnt plans to develop this trade, taking advantage of Ismailia's position, climate and beauty.