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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Map of the Sinai Peninsula with country borders shown.

The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai (Egyptian Arabic: سينا sina; Arabic: سيناءsina'a; Hebrew סיני) is a triangular peninsula in Egypt which is about 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi). It lies between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between the two continents. In addition to its formal name, Egyptians also refer to it affectionately as the "Land of Fayrouz", based on the Ancient Egyptian "Dumafkat", which has the same meaning. The peninsula is currently controlled by Egypt, which has divided the region into two Egyptian governorates, and contains a population of approximately 1.3 million people.

The region has historically been the center of conflict between various political factions, based largely on its strategic geopolitical location. In addition to periods of direct rule by Egyptian governments (including the Ayyubids, the Mamluks, the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, and the modern Egyptian republic), like the rest of Egypt, it was also occupied and controlled by the Ottoman, and British empires. Israel invaded and occupied Sinai twice during the 20th Century, first during the Suez War of 1956, and secondly during and after the Six Day War of 1967. In the October War of 1973, it was the location of fierce fighting between Egyptian, and occupying Israeli forces.



Sinai was inhabited by the Monitu and was called Mafkat or Country of Turquoise. From the time of the First dynasty or before, the Egyptians mined turquoise in Sinai at two locations, now called by their Arabic names Wadi Maghareh and Serabit el-Khadim. The mines were worked intermittently and on a seasonal basis for thousands of years. Modern attempts to exploit the deposits have been unprofitable. These may be the first known mines.

The peninsula was governed as part of Egypt under the Mamluk Sultanate from 1260 until 1517, when the Ottoman Sultan, Selim the Grim, destroyed the Mamluks at the Battles of Marj Dabiq and al-Raydaniyya. From then until 1906, Sinai was administered by Ottoman provincial government of the Pashalik of Egypt, even following the establishment of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty's rule over the rest of Egypt in 1805. In 1906, the Ottoman Porte formally transferred administration of Sinai to the Egyptian Government, which essentially meant that it fell under the control of the United Kingdom, who had occupied and largely controlled Egypt since 1882. The border imposed by the British runs in an almost straight line from Rafah on the Mediterranean shore to Taba on the Gulf of Aqaba. This line has served as the eastern border of Egypt ever since.

At the beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian forces entered the former British Mandate of Palestine from Sinai to support Palestinian and other Arab forces against the newly declared State of Israel. For a period during the war, Israeli forces entered the north-eastern corner of Sinai. With the exception of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, which came under the administration of the All-Palestine Government, the western frontier of the former Mandate of Palestine became the Egyptian-Israeli frontier under the 1949 Armistice Agreement.

In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula and also used its control of the eastern side to impose a blockade on the Israeli port of Eilat. Following this, Israeli forces, aided by Britain, and France (which sought to reverse the nationalization and regain control over the Suez Canal), invaded Sinai and took control of much of the peninsula within a few days (see Suez Crisis). Several months later Israel withdrew its forces from Sinai, following strong pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union. Following this the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was stationed in Sinai to prevent any military occupation of the Sinai.

In 1967, Egypt reinforced its military presence in Sinai, renewed the blockade on Eilat, and on May 16 ordered the UNEF out of Sinai with immediate effect. Secretary-General U Thant eventually complied and ordered the withdrawal without Security Council authorization. Subsequent to Egyptian actions, Israel invaded Sinai, commencing the Six-Day War in which the Egyptian army was defeated, and Israel captured and occupied the entire peninsula. The Suez Canal, the east bank of which was now controlled by Israel, was closed.

In the October War of 1973, Egyptian engineering forces built pontoon bridges to cross the Suez Canal, and stormed the supposedly impregnable Bar-Lev Line while many Israeli soldiers were observing the holiday Yom Kippur. Though the Egyptians maintained control of most of the east bank of the Canal, in the later stages of the war, the Israeli military crossed the southern section of Canal, cutting off the Egyptian 3rd Army, and occupied a section of the west bank. After the war, as part of the subsequent Sinai Disengagement Agreements, Israel withdrew from the Canal, with Egypt's agreeing to permit passage of Israeli ships.

In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in which Israel agreed to withdraw from the entirety of Sinai. Israel subsequently withdrew in several stages, ending in 1982. The Israeli pull-out involved dismantling almost all Israeli settlements, including the town of Yamit in north-eastern Sinai. The exception was Ofira, which became the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Treaty allows monitoring of the Sinai by the Multinational Force and Observers and limits the number of Egyptian military forces in the Peninsula.

Image gallery

Egypt-Israel border. Looking north from the Eilat Mountains  
St. Catherine's Monastery is the oldest monastery in the world and the most popular tourist attraction on the peninsula  
An image of Canadian and Panamanian UNEF UN peacekeepers in the Sinai, during 1974.  
Sand dune and rocky exposure on the Sinai Peninsula  


Image from Gemini 11 spacecraft, featuring part of Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula in the foreground and the Levant in the background

The Sinai Peninsula is currently divided among two Egyptian governorates, or provinces. The southern portion of the Sinai is called Ganub Sina in Arabic, literally "South of Sinai"; the northern portion is named Shamal Sina', or "North of Sinai". The other three governates converge on the Suez Canal, including el-Sewais, literally "the Suez"; on its southern end and crosses into African Egypt. In the center is el-Isma'ileyyah, and Port Said lies in the north with its capital at Port Said.

Approximately 66,500 people live in Ganub Sina and 314,000 live in Shamal Sina'. Port Said itself has a population of roughly 500,000 people. Portions of the populations of el-Isma'ileyyah and el-Suweis live in Sinai, while the rest live on the western side of the Suez Canal in Egypt-proper. The combined population of these two governorates is roughly 1.3 million (only a part of that population live in the Sinai, while the rest live on the western side of the Suez Canal). Sinai is one of the coldest provinces in Egypt because of its high altitudes and mountainous topographies. Winter temperatures in some of Sinai's cities and towns reach −16 °C (3.2 °F).

Over the past 30 years the Sinai has become a tourist destination due to its natural setting, rich coral reefs, and biblical history. Large numbers of Egyptians from the Nile Valley and Delta have moved to the area to work in tourism, while at the same time development has robbed native Bedouin of their grazing land and fishing grounds. This clash of cultures has resulted in the Sinai becoming the site of several terrorist attacks targeting not only Westerners, and Israelis, but also Egyptians on holiday and working in tourism.

In order to help alleviate the problems faced by the Sinai Bedouin due to mass tourism, various NGOs have begun to operate in the region including the Makhad Trust, a UK charity who assist the Bedouin in developing a sustainable income whilst protecting Sinai's natural environment, heritage and culture.

See also

Natural places
Manmade structures


Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 29°30′N 33°50′E / 29.5°N 33.833°E / 29.5; 33.833


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Sinai article)

From Wikitravel

Monastery of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai
Monastery of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai

The Sinai Peninsula is the easternmost part of Egypt between the Mediterranean and the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, both forks of the Red Sea. The western and northern coasts are practically uninhabited, but several Bedouin settlements and tourist attractions dot the eastern coast.

Above ground is a harsh, forbidding and (in summer) brutally hot desert of parched rock. The reason most tourists come here are the vistas underwater: the Sinai coast offers some of the best diving in the world. The region is also important because of its places of importance in the Abrahamic religions.

  • Dahab - the hippie mecca of the Middle East
  • Nuweiba - a port city
  • Sharm el-Sheikh - where the package tourists hang out--Las Vegas of Egypt
  • Taba - at the border with Israel
  • Mount Sinai - reputedly the Mount Sinai where Abrahamic scripture claims Prophet Moses received the Ten Commandments, and the neighboring Monastery of St. Catherine
  • Ras Abu Galum - nature reserve between Nuweiba and Dahab
  • Basata - one of the oldest and most popular Ecolodges in Sinai. Note that Israelis are forbidden from entering the campsite.
  • Coloured Canyon - amongst some of the most beautiful rock formations hidden in the mountains


In 1967, Israel took control over the entire peninsula. The Suez Canal, the east bank of which was controlled by Israel, was closed. In 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. Israel pulled out of Sinai in several stages, ending in 1982.

The tourist cities are built around previous Israeli settlements. While the original population are bedouin, most of the staff and workers in this area come from Lower Egypt and especially the canal cities.

Al Tor is the regional center of Southern Sinai, which includes Dahab, Nuweiba and Sharm. Al-Arish is the regional center of less visited Northern Sinai, close to Rafah and the border to the Gaza strip.


As is the case throughout Egypt, the language of the Sinai is the Egyptian dialect of the Arabic language and local bedouin Arabic dialects. But in tourist areas you also get by with English, and on the east coast also with Hebrew, because here many Israelis come for holidays. On Mount Sinai and in other heavy tourist zones, you are likely to encounter multi-lingual bedouin capable of conversing (and negotiating prices) in a repertoire that includes (but is in no way limited to!) French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and German.

Get in

No Egyptian visa is required, as special 14-day Sinai permits are granted on arrival at the Taba border, Taba Airport and Sharm el-Sheikh's airport. Note that this permit allows travel only on the eastern Sinai coast and the Mount Sinai with St. Catherine's Monastery.

By land

There is a busy border crossing between Eilat, Israel and Taba. See the Taba article for details on crossing in either direction.

By ferry

Two ferries run between Nuweiba and Aqaba, Jordan. One is a standard speed ferry, the other a so-called 'Fast Ferry'. For travelers interested in bypassing Israel by crossing the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt to Jordan directly, these ferries offer some degree of convenience. Patronized mainly by Arab nationals prohibited from entering Israel, the ferries will save other travelers little time and hassle over the land route from Taba through Eilat to Aqaba.

Regular ferry: US$50, plus 50 EGP or 5 JD departure tax.

Fast ferry: US$70, plus 50 EGP or 5 JD departure tax. Though its marketing materials say, "On time departure, first class service," that is not quite true of the high-speed ferry, named the Princess. The boat departs daily from Nuweiba at 3PM, or so its schedule says. However, the consensus among regular travelers is that the real time of departure is more like 5PM. (Schedule of Aqaba to Nuweiba trips unknown.) For trips departing Egypt, passengers must arrive at the station in Nuweiba and purchase tickets by 1PM. AB Maritime, the company that owns the Princess, does not offer any baggage handling service; indeed, luggage must be stacked against the walls of the vast cargo hold beneath the passenger deck, and cannot be taken as "carry on." And, non-sensically, dirty crowded buses transport passengers from the customs terminals in both Nuweiba and Aqaba to the boat, meaning an extra busride on each end of the trip adds time to the schedule.

By train

There are trains from Cairo to Port Said at the northwestern edge of the Sinai, but no further.

Get around

Whether you're going from the airport to your hotel, traveling from beach resort to beach resort, trekking up to St. Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai, or heading to Nuweiba to catch the ferry to Aqaba, Jordan, the trick to getting around in Sinai is to coordinate all ground transport through your hotel.

By taxi

If you're on any kind of reasonable budget, avoid at all costs the local taxis, whose prices are higher than Cairo taxis by a factor of around 10. However, it is possible to use the local taxis if you know the price in advadnce, and haggle a bit before going inside the car. 10 EGP should be considered the maximum payment for any taxi inside the cities (15 for Sharem).

By minibus

Inexpensive minibuses travel on regular schedules throughout the peninsula. The key to utilizing them is to do it through your hotel. Ask your hotel to coordinate your timetable, pick-up, and pricing. The exceptions to this hotel rule are minibuses traveling to and from Cairo, which leave all day, as soon as they are full of passengers, from Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab. In Sharm el-Sheikh, you can find these minibuses at the west end of the taxi parking lot in front of the strip mall in the center of town.

By bus

East Delta bus company: Regular cheap full-sized coaches depart daily for points throughout the peninsula from bus stations in Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab. Be sure to check schedules at the bus station, however, because the times are always changing and even hotels can get them wrong. In Sharm el-Sheikh, the East Delta bus station lies about 2km outside of town on the road toward the airport and Dahab. Call the appropriate East Delta office ahead to check the timings & rates that concern you:

Taba: 069 - 3530250 Nuweiba: 069 - 3520371 Dahab: 069 - 3641808 Cairo: 02 - 23428589

  • Desert Landscapes: Sinai's mountains and desert are spectacular. Rugged mountains made up of different mineral layers, contrasting with golden sand and blue skies. Trees and lush oases provide a beautiful surprise. Recommended is Wadi Ulrada and the Coloured Canyon. But many more little gems including hot springs and pharonic ruins are also to be found.
  • Sunrises and Sunsets: Sun rises over the Saudi Arabian Mountains and the Red Sea are a beautiful sight. As are the sunsets from the Sinai Mountains over the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia - when the sea is calm on a clear day you will see the red sea become red!
  • Underwater attractions: The Sinai peninsula is situated by the Red Sea and as such is an ideal point for diving and snorkeling. Various dive centers operate in each resort town/city to arrange both recreational and educational trips for all levels of experience and budgets.


If you love hiking, this is the place to be, so many hiking trails, i.e Tarboush Mountain, El Galt el Azrak, Gabal El Banat, Bab El Donia mountain (gate to life) Nabateya village, Wadi Etlah, Kharazet El-Shhagg, Gebel Abbas Pasha, Ain Najila, St. Katherine mountain and Moses mountain. Arranging a hike and guides are fairly easy. You can base at El Karm Echolodge in El-sheikh Awwad, or the Bedouin Camp in Katerina village. Sheik Mousa, Mob:+2 0106880820 can help you hire a Bedouin guide and camels to carry luggage to your destination. You can also check Sheikh Sina website for Bedouin treks arrangements. Bedouins will also arrange dinner for the group. Several local organizations offer trekking and excursions into the Sinai desert. The Bedouin tribe of the mountains organizes treks in St Katherine's national park. Saint Katherine website also offers information on region, treks and history.

  • Sharm Tickets (Aqua Parks, gokarting, parties, paintball tickets delivered to your door), 0103451290, [1]. Aqua Parks, Go Karting, parties, paintball tickets delivered to your door.  edit

The Muziena Tribe offer you Coloured Canyon, Ain Hudra, The blue desert and many more beautiful places to visit. Try Sheikhs Travel at Sheikh Salem House for organising tours and safaris in east Sinai. They also offer taxi transfers from Taba, Nuweiba, Dahab, Sharm El Sheikh or St Catherines if you can't wait for the buses. [2].

Others offer yoga trips to the St Katherine's area and the desert itself ( where the silence and tranquility is ideal for relaxation and meditation.

  • Underwater attractions: The Sinai peninsula is situated by the Red Sea and as such is an ideal point for diving and snorkeling. Various dive centers operate in each resort town/city to arrange both recreational and educational trips for all levels of experience and budgets.
  • Bir Sweir - Cheap and amazing place, 32 km from Taba, including many devine beaches, mostly cost 20-30LE for a Hut. You can start in one beach and leave it, if there are too many mousquitos for example. the most popular beaches are Paradaise (in the middle of Bir Sweir, the chepest food but the noisiest place) and Alexandria (in the South), but there are also Aquarium beach (of Auda, a local intelectual), Diana or Antica. Try the sweet hot Sahleb, theBanaganoush (eggplant salad) and the Bedouine Salad. Give a try to the Sudanese Salad in Alexandria beach. when you go in a taxi from Taba, pay 40-50LE or 50-70LE alone, if they ask for more, start to walk away and bargain.
  • Harby's Place, Wadi Mahash (20 KM north of Nuweiba, 40 KM south of Taba), [3]. Harby's Place is a Bedouin owned and managed eco-lodge situated in the beautiful surroundings of Wadi Mahash on the shores of the Red sea, South Sinai, Egypt. Its remote location and authentic beach huts make it an unique destination for eco-tourism and peace-seeking visitors. It is also very suitable for workshops and training courses, spiritual retreats, or similar group activities. Harby's Place operates on two fundamental principles: the Principle of Simplicity and minimal environmental impact, and the Principle of Hospitality - the highest Bedouin virtue. Guests experience the time-honoured hospitality and culture of the Bedouins in the simple comfort of the Zula. Harby's place aspires for a practical ecological equilibrium and respect to the local Bedouin culture. The camp's restaurant offers local organic and seasonal food. Just as the locals eat… Fish and seafood cought off shore on the same day, fresh salads from locally grown organic vegetables, and Bedouin dishes as Magluba - a meal of lamb (or chicken), rice and vegetables cooked for over 4 hours on red burning coals and Sayadiya the fisherman's food – rice and fish cooked with fish stock and local vegetables and spices. 30EU for Full board , 10EU B&B.  edit
  • Ananda Camp, around 42 kilometers south taba check point, (++2)012-356-1742. One of the most beautiful places in the coast of Taba/Neuibaa. Wooden bungalows that accommodate 2 persons two screened windows. some huts are right on the beach with rugs over sand and no electricity and others with hard tiles and electricity available. Nice hangout area and few shady ones on the beach. Clean, shared modern bathrooms are available with showers and hot water. Electricity is available throughout the camp from 6PM-12midnight. Prices: hut which comfortably accommodates 2 people costs LE60 (approx $12)per night. Meal is between LE25-LE50 ($5-$10). Drinks are reasonably priced.

Get out

*Sharm Tickets (Aqua Parks, Go Karting, parties, paint Ball tickets delivered to your door), 0103451290, [4]. Aqua Parks, Go Karting, parties, paint Ball tickets delivered to your door  edit

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