Ismailia Canal & Wadi Tumilat
The Ismailia Canal or Freshwater Canal, constructed in 1858-63 to supply the villages on the Suez Canal with drinking water and enlarged in 1876, is to a large extent a modern replacement of an ancient canal dating from the Middle Kingdom which ran east from the Nile, watered the Biblical land of Goshen with its various branches and flowed into the Bitter Lakes, making them sweet (as Strabo tells us) and connecting them with the Red Sea.The Biblical Land of Goshen lay to the south of the Ismailia Canal, roughly in the triangular area between El-Zagazig, Bilbeis and Abu Hammad. It is first mentioned in Genesis 45: 10, when Pharaoh says to Joseph: "And thou shalt dwell in the Land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast." There are further references to Goshen in Genesis 46: 28-29 and 47: 1, 6 and 27; and Exodus 1: 11 names the cities in which the Israelites were compelled to work for Pharaoh: "Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses." The Land of Goshen was part of the old Egyptian province of Arabia. Its capital, Persopt (Greek Pharcusa) was discovered by the Swiss archeologist E. Naville at Saft el-Hina, near Suwa. The remains have now completely disappeared, but a few ancient stones may be seen built into the walls of modern houses.
The Wadi Tumilat, through which the Ismailia Canal runs over a considerable section of its course, can be regarded as the most easterly arm of the Nile. In the Early Historical Period it was already navigable during the Nile flood by boats of shallow draft, providing a means of transport for both people and goods to and from the east coast of Africa and Syria. It was much favored by the Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom, who improved and deepened the channel. Ramesses II was particularly active in this respect, building on the banks of the canal the towns of PeRamses and Pithom, which ranked with Bubastis as important trading and market centers. The remains of steeply battered masonry embankments show the canal to have been 150ft/45m wide and 16ft/5m deep. In later times the canal fell into disrepair, and the frequent incursions into the Wadi Tumilat by warlike nomadic tribes made it unsafe. In the seventh C. B.C. Necho set about improving it, but according to Herodotus (ii, 159) abandoned the idea because of an unfavorable prophecy.A century later Darius I completed the work begun by Necho and set up stelae along its banks commemorating this achievement; one such stela can be seen in the Ismailia Museum. Later the canal was restored by Trajan and became known as "Trajan's River" (Amnis Traianus). It retained its importance into the period of the Caliphs, who used it for transporting grain from the Nile Valley to Medina. In the eighth C., however, the canal was filled in for reasons of security, and thereafter it fell into oblivion until its rediscovery in 1798.Although the present canal is navigable, it serves mainly to provide water for irrigation. It branches off the Nile at Cairo, runs between the Arabian Plateau to the north and the Land of Goshen to the south, just beyond Abu Hammad cuts across the old freshwater canal coming from El-Zagazig and then continues east, parallel with this canal, along the Wadi Tumilat for rather more than 30mi/50km. At Nefisha a branch runs south to Suez, and at Moaskar-Ismailia another branch goes north to Port Said.