The Sinai Peninsula

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The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangle-shaped peninsula in Egypt. Sinai is the part of Egypt that lies in Asia. It lies between the Mediterranean Sea (to the north), Red Sea (to the south), and the Gulf of Aqaba (to the east) forming a land bridge to Southwest Asia. It falls between Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and is well connected to all of them. Its area is about 60,000 km². It is world renowned for its amazing diving and snorkeling and is visited by millions (mostly Europeans and Israelis) annually.

Some twenty million years ago Sinai was connected with Egypt and the Saudi Arabian Peninsula as part of the same land formation. Thermal currents in the earth’s mantle created huge cracks, which lifted and spread the land. Sinai is part of the Great Rift Valley, the great fracture in the earth’s crust, that begins in East Africa continues through the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aqaba through the Jordan Valley (Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee) widening each year about 5mm moving the Saudi Arabian Peninsula northwards.

The Sinai Peninsula is currently divided among several governorates, or provinces, of Egyptian administration. The southern portion of the Sinai is called Janub 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 As Suways, literally “the Suez”; on its southern end and crosses into Egypt-proper. In the center is Al Isma’iliyah, and Bur Sa’id lies in the north with its capital at Port Said.

Approximately 66,500 people live in Janub Sina’ and 314,000 live in Shamal Sina’. Port Said itself has a population of roughly 500,000 people. Portions of the populations of Al Isma’iliyah and As Suways 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).

In part due to its being a tourist destination due to its proximity to Israel, the Sinai has been the site of several terrorist attacks targeted at Westerners and Israelis, but also Egyptians on holiday.

All visitors to Egypt are required to have a visa and a passport valid for six months. A visa stamp can be purchased upon arrival at many airports and border crossings at the costs of US $15. The 14 days Sinai Visa is granted free of charge upon arrival to Taba border, Taba and Sharm el Sheikh airports and Nuweiba Port to many nationalities. The Sinai visa is limited to the coastal area between Taba and Sharm el Sheikh and includes St. Catherine Nature Protectorate and Monastery, but excludes Ras Muhammad and Wadi Feiran.

Sinai possesses many great little towns for both backpackers and package tourists. Sharm El Sheikh is the most upscale, popular and largest of the tourist towns. Sharm el Sheikh has developed into a luxury holiday resort most treasured by divers and sun-lovers. Among famous hotel names are Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, Four Season and many more Egyptian themed hotels sharing the beautiful bays between Ras Um Sid to Naama Bay and Nabq. Scuba diving and dive safaris in the Red Sea are offered along with all different kind of waterport activities.
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There is plenty to do in Sharm el Sheikh. Though the main activities are water sport activities and diving but the terrific interior of the Sinai desert invites for adventurous and fascinating trips by quad runners, motorbikes and jeeps . Another exciting adventure is a ride out into the desert on camel or horseback.

When I was there with my cousin, we chartered a yacht with a bunch of other people and went diving for the day. It was one of the most memorable experiences I had out there and was a terrific way to enjoy the Red Sea without dealing with all the tourists.

Every resort has got its own bar with different happy hour offers. An evening stroll along the promenade gives you an insight of what the beach bars of the hotels have to offer for the evening. Some hotels entertain their guests with belly dancing performances . After the shows you can dance the night through in one of Sharm’s discos. If you are not in a dancing mood-like I am usually not, you find play pool tables at some places or you hang out in the coffee shops until late night smoking the water pipe and playing chess. If the glitz of Sharm wares on you after a while, then head up to Dahab-about an hour to the north.

Dahab is one of the most attractive beach resorts in South Sinai, located half way between Sharm el Sheikh in the south and Nuweiba in the north. It is best known for its laid back back days and nights and is very popular with the backpacker and hippie types. It is really a lot of fun to be there. This may be the Red Sea’s best windsurfing, diving and snorkeling spot.

Dahab consists of two bays. El Qura Bay and Ghazala Bay. In the latter one the Bedouin village El Assalah is located. Within the years the area has developed into a tourist center with camps, motels, restaurants, and bazaars. The newly constructed beach promenade is the core of Dahab’s activities, where globetrotters from all over the world meet in a lively atmosphere. A large variety of restaurants offer international and local cuisine at reasonable prices. Prices for accommodation are still very reasonable and you may find yourself not wanting to leave for weeks or months because Dahab is infectious and so easy going that you can stay there stress free for a long time.
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In addition to the towns of Sharm and Dahab, there are many other places you can visit including a climb of Mount Sinai in the middle of the night for a gorgeous sunrise early in the morning overlooking the whole peninsula. Taba in the far north of Sinai will serve as your jumping off point into Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan where from either place you can move on to possibly the greatest site in the world of Petra-Jordan’s amazing new wonder of the world. Also, you can fly from Sharm El Sheikh and check out the Pyramids in Cairo or head off to Europe on the many charters that fly to and from Sharm. Finally, you could also catch a ferry to the further south Egyptian resorts of Hurghada and beyond to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.

Sinai is great and there is so much to do. The weather is perfect and the mix of people you will see there is amazing as well. The food is stellar as long as you like Middle Eastern food but there are selections of everything from Europe and beyond. But most of all the Red Sea is enchanting. The color of the water is tough to describe but if you’ve seen it and dived into it them you will never forget the color or the perfect temperatures and cool breezes. Sinai may be the worlds most perfect destination.

Comments

  1. What a great topic, how did you think of it?

  2. Dahab is a lot of fun but I definitely liked Sharm the best because it is just so nice and clean

  3. I’m giving you guidelines Baumer

  4. I still can’t believe I ever left Dahab, after all a month there I was defintely “Dahabed”. It might be the most chill spot in the world, dive all day and hang out all night (also being extremely cheap didnt hurt either)… Sharm blows and the dives are way too crowded, you see more divers than sea life

  5. I can’t believe you ever left either and let’s be fair-Sharm doesn’t blow-you just had an extra good time in Dahab and barely spent any time in Sharm-besides you were happy to be out of the hospital, haha

  6. I loved Sharm. It is a lovely town and the diving was brilliant. We also went out on a charter yacht. I have been diving many places in the world and Sharm is one of my favorites.

  7. Hi Lee, great Sinai post, We love Sharm El Sheikh, I was there with my wife last year and we loved it. Stayed at a hotel called the Sanafir. I also did climb Mt. Sinai-brilliant!

  8. What desert is located between the Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea? I need to know soooon!

  9. I think you’re referring to the Negev Desert.

  10. Great article but the picture of The blue hole is actually the blue hole in Belize (off Sanpedro)in the Caribbean. The blue hole in Dahab looks totally different.

  11. You are absolutely right, I did put up the wrong picture, thanks for pointing that out. Belize is awesome too and has great diving

  12. The picture is of the blue hole in Belize, not Egypt. Change it, someone already took the same pic and quoted it as being in Dahab.

  13. Thanks Joe, I guess I forgot last december when Asad mentioned it. Still not sure how I mixed that up.

  14. Great article, I have lived in Sharm for a year and loved it there. I love Sinai so much that I called my daughter Sina (Egyptian for Sinai) LOL I went there last year and was a bit disappointed though :( When I first started going there, it was empty and wild. In Sharm there were 3 hotels on Neama bay and one on the Hadaba (or the hill). When i lived there, there were much more hotels, but nothing like it is today.

    Great article.

    If you don’t mind, I have some corrections:

    1. The Sinai peninsula has 2 governorates, North and South Sinai. The three other governorates you have mentioned are on the other side of the Suez canal and thus are not part of the Sinai peninsula.

    2. “In part due to its being a tourist destination due to its proximity to Israel, the Sinai has been the site of several terrorist attacks targeted at Westerners and Israelis, but also Egyptians on holiday.” Well the terrorist attacks on Sinai have been a new trend. There have been more terrorist attacks on Upper Egypt than Sinai (at least more damage). The main reason for that is the fact that Egypt heavily relies on tourism as approximately 60% of its national Income. This makes Egypt very vulnerable and also tourism becomes a perfect target for terrorists. :(

  15. Thanks Mona for that info. I wrote this almost two years ago and I am sure I got the governorates wrong. Thanks again for the post.

  16. sinai will always belong to Israel!!

  17. OK Giddi, let’s not start a holy war here! Haha…Israelis are free to travel to Sinai and are a majority tourist group in Sinai.

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