Mountains, desert and sea… the Sinai has much more to offer than most people think. The High Mountain Region, with its religious and historical importance, orchard gardening tradition and unique nature, is like no other place in the World. The desert is just as beautiful as any in the Middle East and North Africa and you will find an amazing variety of different landscapes within a small area. The coral reefs of the Gulf of Aqaba are rated internationally as some of the best and a number of coastal protectorates, with their different eco-systems, offer quiet getaways from the resort towns.
Satellite view of South Sinai with cities and main attractions
The capital of the Governorate of South Sinai is El Tur (1), although the biggest and most developed city is Sharm el Sheikh (2). Another popular destination is Dahab (3), a smaller and more laid back town, attracting mostly the independent traveler. In Nuweiba (4), the gateway to Jordan, and further north along the road until Taba (5), there are many simple camps offering huts right on the beach. The road beyond Taba leads to the only border crossing to Israel. In the center of the mountainous interior is the town of St. Katherine (6), famous for Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Katherine. Wadi Feiran (7) and Serabit el Khadim (8) are smaller settlements with important historical and archeological sites. The coastal town of Abu Zenima (9) is a small place with a few shops and cafeterias from where transport can be organized to Serabit el Khadim. Ras Sudr (10), further to the north, is a sea-side destination popular with people from Cairo. To Suez and Cairo the road connects via the Ahmed Hamdy tunnel (11) under the Suez canal, and from here there is also a road going to North Sinai, and another, the ancient caravan route of pilgrims from Cairo to Mecca, cutting across the peninsula via the interior at Nakhla (12) and connecting to the Gulf of Aqaba.
Egypt is one of the most populous African countries, but the Sinai Peninsula, located across the Suez Canal in Asia, is its least populated region. It is a very harsh desert environment, home to Bedouin tribes. Most are settled these days, but many still maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Today you find bigger urban centres around the coast, some relying on tourism, as in the south, others on oil and gas as in the west, and on the wetter Mediterranean north coast on agriculture and trade. North and South Sinai are actually two separate governorates, with the political border more or less corresponding to the road that cuts across the peninsula from Taba to Suez. There are also clear geographical and cultural lines. The Bedouin mark the border at the edge of the Tih Plateau: to north and south, it’s two different tribal federations. The Tih Plateau is a vast eroded slope gently descending to the north; it has, and North Sinai in general, no touristic significance, apart from the views from the edge to the south. The land to the south is a very diverse and spectacular desert and mountainous landscape – that’s where all the trekking and safari routes are found. The Bedouin used to be guides even before tourism started, guiding and providing camels for pilgrims and trading caravans. For the Bedouin this is the real safari, the long desert journey on camel. Otherwise the word comes from the Arabic “safer”, which simply means travel. In our usage safari means a tour on either camel or by 4×4, a more recent innovation, while trekking is only on foot. Camel safari and trekking routes, more or less, are the same, although sometimes camels have to go a slightly different way to overcome obstacles. The 4×4 routes connect to many of the same attractions that you can reach on foot, but often via a very different way. On this website and in the guidebook you’ll find all the main routes and other relevant information.