Woman Captain Accused of Crashing Boat on the Suez Canal

3 min readApr 6, 2021


image: author

Marwa Elselehdar is philosophical after false accusations about her came to light. The hottest Egyptian sea captain since Cleopatra joined forces with Marc Antony at the battle of Actium two thousand years ago, Marwa has been falsely accused of Suez Canal shenanigans. Yes, the Suez Canal shenanigans where a boat brandishing ‘EVERGREEN’ graffiti on its side appears to have attempted to debunk the theory that a container vessel could travel down the canal sideways.

I was nowhere near the boat Marwa declares. Yes, and we believe you Marwa. The sea captain is in her prime, at 29, she is no stranger to sexism — in an Arab world where she rocks the Casbah and rattles the cage of the patriarchy.

Marwa has been fighting sexism and the male-dominated industry since she became Egypt’s first female sea captain in 2015, at age 24. Although Cleopatra would likely have something to say about that claim — had she still been with us.

Cleopatra VII of the Ptolemaic kingdom also faced sexism because she was the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt. This doesn’t mean she also crashed her boat — she made the smart move and fled the scene while the boat could still float. So technically Cleopatra (ten years Marwa’s senior) was in a boat but nowhere near the other boat either, the boat being the one that contained Marc Antony. So while not as far away as Marwa to the boat — which was 370km in Marwa’s case, Marwa fought her way out of it, Cleopatra tried to love her way out and when that didn’t work, fight, and when that didn’t work run — only for her passions to succumb to the Roman Empire. Like Cleopatra, Marwa was also on another boat.

Marwa has loved the sea since she was a little girl, and so when her brother joined the merchant navy she decided to also apply.

I was nowhere near the boat — I was 370km away in Alexandria, Marwa declares. Alexandria is where the ancient temple of Caesareum once stood — built by Cleopatra in honour of her first known lover Julius Caesar. A fallen pink obelisk from the site was transferred to London in 1877 and is located on the Thames embankment; its still-standing companion went to Central Park in New York. But enough of history let’s get back to Marwa.

Despite having absolutely nothing to do with the canal blockage, her name started trending. As she checked her phone, online rumours started gaining traction claiming she was to blame for the debacle.

“I was shocked,” she told the BBC.

“I felt that I might be targeted maybe because I’m a successful female in this field or because I’m Egyptian, but I’m not sure,” she said

It turns out that screenshots of a fake news headline that had been doctored had quickly gained traction on both Twitter and Facebook. But it seems to have backfired with Marwa now getting support from all around the world. I was nowhere near the boat — I was 370km away in Alexandria says Marwa.

“Never let anything put you down be a fighter lose and win and don’t forget to enjoy every moment.” Marwa explains.

“My message to females who want to be in the maritime field is fight for what you love and not let any negativity affect you,” she told the BBC. With ‘negativity’ Marwa obviously means boats going down canals sideways and getting blamed for it; but not getting blamed for the ones that go down longways and make it all the way out the other side. Touché Marwa.




… underground notes