- 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.