Port Said lies near the Suez Canal in northeastern Egypt across the canal from its twin city, Port Fouad. The city’s economy is based on fishing, some industry, and the port. Port Said is important for exporting Egyptian cotton and rice and for refueling ships that pass through the Suez Canal. It is also a duty-free port and a summer resort for the region.
Port Said industries include manufacturers of textiles, glass, watches, clothing, china, cosmetics, and automobile tires and batteries. It also has a healthy publishing industry. The city is linked to the nation’s rail network. In 2006, about 570 thousand people lived in the area surrounding Port Said.
Port Said was founded on sand that separated Lake Al-Manzilah from the Mediterranean in 1859. Adding dredged materials to the sandy strip, the breakwaters were finished in 1868, one year before the Suez Canal. The outer harbor was designed to protect the port’s breakwaters and prevent the harbor from silting.
By the end of the 19th Century, Port Said was the biggest coal-bunkering station in the world. In the early 20th Century, a new quarter was created on the eastern shore to house workers. When the railway was connected in 1904, it became the second major port in Egypt (after Alexandria). Port Said still houses the main shops for the administration of the Suez Canal.
After Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in the mid-1950s and during the Sinai War, Port Said was seriously damaged by areal bombing and landings by British and French troops. After those troops withdrew under pressure from the United Nations, damages were repaired. Israel occupied the eastern bank of the canal in 1967 during the Six-Day War, and the canal was closed until 1975.
In 1975, President Anwar el-Sadat established an open door policy. Port Said was restored, a tax-free industrial zone was opened, and new housing was built there.