Centuries of European traders and Arab merchants had
to sail around the ape of Good Hope the southern most tip of Africa in
order to travel East from Europe and the Mediterranean Sea thereby
avoiding dangerous treks across the treacherous desert. Ancient Egyptians
recognized this problem and the records of Herodotus, ancient Greek
historian, bare evidence of a canal that was built around 600 B.C.
connecting the Gulf of Suez with the Nile river. After several starts and
stops, the project was finally completed about a century later. The canal
was used during the time of Alexander the Great, left to ruin, then
restored and reopened during the Arab domination around 645 A.D.
It was primarily used as a trading route connecting the Nile Valley with
the trade center in Mecca, on the western coast of Saudi Arabia. No traces
of this canal remain today as the sands of time have buried it forever.
Finally, in 1859 upon French insistence, the manual digging of the Suez
Canal began. It remained an independently run entity under European
authority until Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the
canal in 1956. Now crossing into Sinai is made easy by ferry, the A.H.
Tunnel, or by plane. There are daily flights from Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and
several major European cities that fly directly into the domestic and
international airport at Sharm el Sheikh.
Sinai is a triangular peninsula wedged in between
the waters of the Gulf of Suez to its west and the Gulf of Aqaba to its
east. The origin of the name "Sinai" can be attributed to two hypotheses.
The ancient inhabitants of this desert adored and worshipped the Moon
Goddess 'Sin', therefore perhaps in her honor naming their land "Sinai".
"Sinai" is said to be derived from the Semitic word "sin" which means
tooth. The peninsula does actually look like a tooth. Regardless of these
hypotheses, how the peninsula was formed is certain. Forty million years
ago, the Sinai was part of the African/Asian landmass until seismic
activity began a process which split the landmass into two separate
plates. Think of the Sinai as being pulled simultaneously by both Africa
and Asia in virtually opposite directions. Such plate motion continued to
influence the region thereby creating a protected underwater ecology, and
vast uninhabited areas of rugged mountain terrain and arid desert: the Red
Sea and Sinai.
People come to Sinai not just for its religious heritage, but to marvel at
its pure beauty. The Bible connects Sinai with the exodus of the Children
of Israel from Ancient Egypt. Modern Egyptian history connects Sinai with
a series of territorial wars with neighboring Israel. After exploring
Sinai, you will connect it with pristine nature and unadulterated beauty,
practically untouched by time and preserved by its dry desert conditions.
Its majestic scenery of colors ranging from deep purple to orange, yellow,
and charcoal grey will be imprinted in your mind's eye or on your camera
The Sinai is divided into three geologically different areas. The first
area lies to the north and consists mainly of shifting, pure and soft sand
dunes. Herein lie ancient 'wadis' or dried up riverbeds where fossilized
organisms from the Mediterranean can be found. The second area exists in
the central part of the peninsula. This flat elevated plateau is broken up
occasionally by limestone outcroppings. Towards the south of this area,
the landscape begins to change to a rocky granite and volcanic rock region
- the beginnings of the third area. Here stand the high mountain ranges of
the Sinai creating a natural barrier between the desert and the sea. The
gradation of colors flows from huge rock to steep cliff as the narrow road
winds through the valleys. It is literally a breathtaking view when
driving south towards the tip of Sinai through these mountains. You catch
your first glimpse of the blue sea peeking out between the cliffs
juxtaposed against an incredible foreground of desert rocks.
Beduoins are nomadic peoples that have traditionally
occupied Sinai. The word "beduoin" stems from the Arabic word, "baadiya"
meaning desert. There are eight beduoin tribes in southern Sinai, the two
most prominent and powerful being the El Muzeina inhabiting the southern
Gulf of Aqaba area from Nuweiba to Sharm El Sheikh, and the El Tarabin
inhabiting the area from Nuweiba to Taba. The total beduoin population on
the eastern side of the Sinai peninsula reaches approximately 3000
individuals. The desert governs their livelihood as ancient tradition
guides their life. Their culture has been founded on tradition and tribal
laws. They work closely with the Park management to maintain their
culture, heritage, rights, and homes. Women continue to tend the livestock
(donkeys, sheep, goats, and camels), and men continue to fish according to
the regulations of the Parks. Activities that may hinder the ecosystem are
now regulated by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). In fact
beduoin staff have now been contracted by the EEAA as Park Rangers thus
bridging the gap between the tribes and the state, both working together
on behalf of the environment.
The beduoins respect nature and punish offenders who don't. Water is carefully
consumed and tribal law prohibit the cutting down of green trees. They have
said that "killing a tree is like killing a soul." And those who do are
penalized up to three two-year-old camels, or the equivalent value. They
understand the delicate relationship between coral reefs and fisheries
therefore they tend to limit damage to the reefs. The EEAA tries to limit
the effect of development on traditional beduoin life by helping them
invest in their own knowledge. Medical care and veterinary assistance
combines both beduoin practice with a limited amount of modern technology.
For example livestock is treated first with local medicinal herbs before
being pumped with chemicals, the answer to any problem in modern
societies. The EEAA seeks to improve beduoin life by including them in the
decision-making process that affect their lives. Social work includes
health education, hygiene, and a veterinary program that is based on
familiar beduoin treatment as opposed to modern treatment.
Diving is probably the most popular recreational
sport in the Red Sea. If you're not a diver, and want to explore the Red
Sea, you are strongly encouraged to learn, on location! If you are a
diver, you better not forget your certification card and dive log book!
There are four main ways you can dive the Red Sea: daily boat diving; boat
diving safari; camel diving safari; and independent shore diving. If you
don't dive, or don't want to dive you can rent snorkeling equipment from
any dive center and go to any shore site along the coast that is
accessible by car. Consult the dive center on the most suitable places to
go. Ok, so you want to see the fish, but you don't want to get wet in the
process. No problem! Book an excursion on a glass-bottom and watch the
corals and fish as you comfortably cruise the surface. Your hotel would be
happy to help you out. There's more you can do! Na'ama Bay offers several
kinds of water sport activities for everyone.You can test your wings and
fly, getting a bird's eye view of the bay as you parasail.
If you're not into flying, how about skiing. You can take lessons to
improve your technique or just to learn how to stay standing. Both regular
skis and uniskis are available.
How about getting a bunch of friends together for a speedy ride on the
banana boat. This yellow, banana like craft is tied to a long rope that is
attached onto a cruising speed boat. Your goal is to hang on. The driver's
goal is flip you off as he make sharp turns over the water. OK, so you
want something a lot slower and laid back. You can rent a paddle boat and
find some remote cove to... Well that part is up to you! Wind surfing and
sailing is another popular activity. You can also take lessons, or if
you're experienced, you can cruise the water pushed along only by the
element of air. If you're not into diving, or you just want to take a
break, there's a lot you can do with your time. Horseback riding into the
desert is great fun. A guide wil l take you out and you have the choice of
any kind of horse, ranging from slow walker to speedy galloper. Or you may
want to climb atop a camel for a leisurely stroll through the desert. But
if you'd rather have the comfort of a cushy seat, you can rent a quad
runner, and speed through the desert on a lot of horsepower. Or if you're
the really adventurous type, dirt-bikes and motorcycles are available for
that racing spirit. Any way you go, make sure you have something to
protect your eyes from all the sand that's kicked up under hooves and
wheels! And somewhere in the middle of the desert sits an old beduoin man
under the shade of a single tree who waits with his tea to chat with
passersbys. Look out for him and join him for a sweet, refreshing glass of
beduoin tea, brewed on an open flame. For those of us who are really laid
back, and would like to enjoy a nice ride down the boardwalk on a bicycle,
stands are available from where you can rent asingle seat or double seat.
This also makes getting places a lot quicker and easier in the afternoon
heat of summer.