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The Launch Of The "New Suez Canal" Was Really, Really Weird

Nobody is sure how the $8 billion expansion of the Suez Canal is supposed to make Egypt any money, but oh boy were the celebrations extravagant.

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Thursday marked the inauguration of a new 22-mile section of the Suez Canal in Egypt. It took just over a year to build and is the largest expansion since the canal was first opened in 1869.

The government has insisted that the $8 billion expansion is exactly what the country's moribund economy needs to bounce back. Outside observers are very skeptical, but that hasn't stopped the lead-up to the opening from being entirely nuts.

1. The Suez Canal could be talked about anywhere in the run-up to today's festivities — even cooking shows, like this one where ship-shaped sandwiches were the theme of this week's episode.

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2. Bakeries also got in on the action with Canal Cupcakes. They taste like economic prosperity! (And also chocolate. Mostly chocolate.)

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3. The Egyptian government was originally planning on handing out gold coins to commemorate the event. Outcry on social media convinced them to downgrade to copper.

4. Four words: Scary. Freaking. Teddy Bears. These horrors were put on display in Tahrir Square before today's ceremony and later taken down because, again, scary.

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5. And in the haste to decorate for the canal's opening, the rush-produced flags happened to omit the eagle that is supposed to be in the center. Leaving the flag looking like Yemen's. Where Egypt is aiding a Saudi-led war. Oops.

أول عمارة فى الإسكندرية ترفع علم مصر إحتفالا بافتتاح قناه السويس الجديدة #الإسكندرية #تحيا_مصر #قناة_السويس_الجديدة

6. So let's get to today's actual ceremony. Clearly the government had not learned its lesson about giant balloons. But this one of a huge black cat, wearing a headpiece from Ancient Egypt, greeting guests wasn't so bad.

9. Speaking of the Egyptian army, Egyptian President Fattah el-Sisi retired from his position as general when he assumed the presidency. But nothing like a canal opening to put your uniform back on and climb aboard a yacht from the days of the monarchy.

10. At least it meant that in this picture, also released from Sisi's office, he matched young Omar Salah. The cancer patient at Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt reportedly asked to join the president.

12. Foreign leaders were on hand for the new section's opening, including France's François Hollande (whose country attacked Egypt over the Canal being nationalized in 1956) and alleged war criminal Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

13. If the symbolism of the canal opening wasn't transparent enough, there were also Egyptians wearing Pharaonic costumes because nothing says progress like invoking a civilization that existed millennia ago.

14. But coverage of the whole affair was actually rather sparse. The army — which was responsible for the press's transportation — had journalists arrive almost an hour after the ceremony started and then locked them in a room for the rest of the day.

15. But at least those watching at home got a fun surprise, though, when Egyptian state-run TV played the theme song from Game of Thrones during part of its package on the canal.

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Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

Maged Atef is a journalist based in Cairo.

Contact Maged Atef at magedatef73@gmail.com.

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