| A great example of
modern engineering, the Suez Canal links the Red
Sea with the Mediterranean sea. Completed during 1869, it has repeatedly
been the cause of dispute, most recently when blocked in 1967 during
the war with Israel. Port Said is the main city.
Anyone travelling to Sinai by road would cross
the Suez on a small shuttle boat, or underneath the tunnel.
The Red Sea Coast sits strategically between Asia and Africa, is
rich in mineral wealth and revered as the place of miracles and
prophets in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. God is said to have
appeared to Moses here, and thought to have delivered the Israelites
from the Egyptian army to the Red Sea. These days, the region is
revered for its beaches, spectacular diving resorts,
stunning coastline and vast deserts. This area has some of the best
snorkelling and diving in the world, and has a more liberal atmosphere
than in the rest of Egypt.
The coastline attracts tourists ranging from expensive package deals,
to backpackers in campsites. Sharm el-Sheikh is
a large resort, and is good for diving. Na’ama Bay
is much better developed and more upmarket, with private beaches.
A few kilometres north is Shark Bay, a little calmer
resort camp. The beaches at Dahab are spectacularly
framed by jagged mountains and holiday villages within a Bedouin
settlement are close by.
Nuweiba is a port city, with a few resorts, and is famous for Olin
the dolphin, with which people can pay to swim and local
Bedouins offer jeep safaris into the interior. Between here and
Taba, there are several small, quiet resorts that threaten to be
overshadowed by a large new tourist development, Taba Heights.
On the west of the Red Sea Coast, the largest diving resort is Hurghada,
once a fishing village and now a main commercial tourist centre.
Ras Muhammed is the southernmost point on the peninsula,
bordered with lagoons and reefs, and now a National Park.
Little is accessible in Sinai’s interior, a barren area with
rocks and sands, and the best way to explore this is by treks or
on safari by camel or jeep. One of the highlights is St
Catherine’s Monastery and now home to Greek Orthodox
monks. St Catherine was the legendary martyr of Alexandria, who
was tortured and beheaded for her Christianity. Within the monastery
is the ‘burning bush’ from which God
is said to have appeared to speak to Moses. Mount Sinai, honored
as the site of God’s revelation of the Ten Commandments,
is a stony and sheer-faced mount of grey and red, dramatic and steep,
care should be taken when ascending. Other places to visit in this
region include Oyun Musa (‘Springs of Moses’),
Qalat al-Gindi, an 800-year-old fortress, and Hammam
Fara’un’s hot springs and the isolated beach.