The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 turned the Red Sea from a regional backwater into one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, and
significantly increased the strategic importance of ports, existing or conceived, at both the Suez Canal and at the southern end on the
Red Sea, the Bab el Mandeb.
On the Arab side, the ports of Mocha and Hodeida (Yemen) were controlled by the Ottoman Empire,
the port of Aden, since 1839, by the British. In 1868 the Imam of Yemen and a French company agreed for the latter to construct a port at Ras Bab el Mandeb.
The port project gained notoriety among coin collectors, as Austrian Maria Theresia Thalers have been counterstruck here to testify
their silver content, and as coins for Bab el Mandeb have been issued in 1880.
The port project failed to take off, as there were disputes over the agreed payment to the Imam which resulted the latter to annul the agreement in 1869.