The new lane on the canal joining Europe to Asia, which primarily offers only one-way traffic with occasional width for ships to pass each other, will allow ships to travel in both directions for about half its 101-mile length.
In a speech, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said no foreign capital would be sought to finance the project, and shares would be sold to Egyptians willing to invest. The $5 billion current annual revenue from the canal is a major source of foreign currency for Egypt, which has seen its tourism industry decline and foreign investment curtailed after several years of political instability.
Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal is a source of symbolic importance to Egyptians. The canal was under colonial control until 1956, when it was nationalized by then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser.