80 A 6,000 Mile Shortcut 1869 WHEN THE SUEZ CANAL opened in 1869--after a decade of excavation by 1.5 million men, thousands of whom died--it was hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. About 100 miles long, it shortened the sea route from Europe to India by 6,000 miles. Vessels no longer had to circumnavigate Africa, and the wealth of nations soon passed through it. Oddly, the British left development to a Franco-Egyptian consortium before realizing the canal's importance and buying out Egypt's shares. An Anglo-French commission then ran the canal until 1956, when Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser expropriated it.