The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, having been financed by France and the Egyptian government.
Technically, the territory of the canal itself was sovereign Egyptian territory, and the operating company, the Universal Company of the Suez Maritime Canal (Suez Canal Company) was an Egyptian-chartered one (originally as part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire).
In 1875, the British government of Benjamin Disraeli bought out the Egyptian share of the company, giving it partial control over the canal''s operations, which it shared with mostly French private investors.
In 1882, during foreign intervention in Egypt, the United Kingdom took de facto control of the canal itself.
The canal was of strategic importance, being the ocean trade link between Britain and its colonies in India, the Far East as well as Australia and New Zealand.
The area as a whole was strategic to North Africa and the Middle East.
The importance of the canal as a strategic center was apparent during both World Wars. During the First World War, the British and French closed the canal to non-Allied shipping. During the Second World War, it was tenaciously defended during the North African Campaign.