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The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai (sina; Egyptian Arabic: سينا sina; sina'a; is a triangular peninsula in Egyptmarker. It lies between the Mediterranean Seamarker to the north and the Red Seamarker to the south, forming a land bridge between Africa and Southwest Asia. Its area is about 60,000 km². The Egyptians call it the "Land of Fayrouz", On the same linage of their ancestors who called Sinai "Dumafkat" which also means land of Fayrouz in Ancient Egyptian Language.


Topography of Sinai Peninsula
The 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-Khadimmarker. 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 Mamlukmarker of Egypt controlled the Sinai from 1260 until 1518, when the Ottoman Sultan, Selim the Grim, destroyed them at the Battles of Marj Dabiq and al-Raydaniyya. From then until the early 20th century, Sinai, as part of the Pashalik of Egypt, was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1906 it became part of British-controlled Egypt, when the Turkish government yielded to British pressure to hand over the peninsula. The border imposed by the British runs in an almost straight line from Rafahmarker on the Mediterraneanmarker shore to Tabamarker on the Gulf of Aqabamarker. This line has served as the eastern border of Sinai ever since, and is now the international border between Palestinian territoriesmarker and Israelmarker from one side and Egypt from the other.
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 Stripmarker which came under Egyptian administration, 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 Eilatmarker. Following this, Israeli forces, aided by Britain and France (which sought to reverse the nationalization and regain control over the Suez Canalmarker), 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 American and Soviet pressure. 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. In response to Egyptian actions, Israel initiated the Six-Day War in which the Egyptian army was defeated, and Israel captured and occupied the entire Peninsula. The Suez Canalmarker, the east bank of which was now controlled by Israel, was closed.

In the Yom Kippur 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 Yamitmarker in north-eastern Sinai. The exception was Ofiramarker, which became the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikhmarker. The Treaty allows monitoring of the Sinai by the Multinational Force and Observers and limits the number of Egyptian military forces in the Peninsula.


Sand dune and rocky exposure on the Sinai Peninsula

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 Canalmarker, including el-Sewaismarker, literally "the Suez"; on its southern end and crosses into African Egypt. In the center is el-Isma'ileyyahmarker, and Port Saidmarker lies in the north with its capital at Port Saidmarker.

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'ileyyahmarker and el-Suweismarker 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).

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.

Sinai is one of the coldest provinces in Egyptmarker because of its high altitudes and mountainous topographies. Winter temperatures in some of Sinai's cities and towns reach -16C and the topographic locations may be suitable for the establishment skiing resorts and the construction aerial tramways.

See also


  • Gardner, Ann "At Home in South Sinai" Nomadic Peoples 2000. Vol. 4,Iss. 2; pp. 48-67. Detailed account of Bedouin women

Further reading

  • Sinai Hotels by Haubitz, Zoche Publisher: Fotohof Editions, 2006 ISBN 3-901756-64-7 ISBN 978-3-901756-64-1

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