The coastal resort cities, such as Sharm el Sheikh, are well known, and most people heard of St Katherine – although not all realise it is actually a town, not only the Monastery alone. On this website some other, even smaller, settlements are also included, as they are relevant for different reasons from a visitor’s perspective.
Sharm el Sheikh: Sharm el Sheikh is a sprawling resort city at the tip of the peninsula and most visitors to Sinai arrive through its airport. Mostly noted for water sports and the wide selection of high-end hotels, the city now stretches over 20 kilometres from the port in the south to the Nabq Protectorate fence in the north. For many visitors off-road adventure means quad-biking on the outskirts of the city, but there are several good operators in town who run proper safaris.
Dahab: Livelier and more developed than Nuweiba, Dahab is the second resort city of South Sinai, but it is more human-scale than Sharm el Sheikh. Apart from excellent diving and other types of water sport it offers a few hikes, most notably in Wadi el Beda and Wadi Gnai. You could also reach the Abu Galum Protectorate on foot from the nearby Blue Hole.
Nuweiba: Nuweiba is a major port city, connecting Egypt to Jordan at their port of Aqaba. The city is spread out with four major hubs: the Muzeina village, Port (Mina), Centre and Tarabin village. Often considered part of Nuweiba, the coast to the resort town of Taba in the north is lined with simple beach camps and it is a pleasantly undeveloped sea shore. Wadi Watir is the main route inland to the Tarabin areas and also to Suez and Cairo. The city is also connected off-road to Jebel Mileihis via Wadi Saada.
Taba: The northernmost resort town on the Gulf of Aqaba, Taba is a popular holiday destination. It is also the border town with Israel, and you could also take a ferry to Jordan. Apart from the resorts and sea, and a casino, there is not much to see and do in this area, with the only exception being Pharaoh Island, a nice day-programme just off the coast. Along the coast, towards Nuweiba, there are many simple camps with huts on the beach, offering an alternative to the upmarket hotels.
St. Katherine: The town of St. Katherine is famous for the Monastery of St. Katherine, built on the site of the Burning Bush at the foot of Mt. Sinai (Jebel Musa). This is the only site most tourists visit in the interior, so it can get crowded. The best way to avoid the crowds, at least on Mt. Sinai, is to go for the sunset instead of the sunrise and descend to town before total darkness sets in. A wide range of accommodation is available in town, from simple camps to up-market hotels. A new ecolodge, called Mount Sina Eclodge, has also opened its doors near town in Wadi Isbaiya.
Sheikh Awad: The settlement of Sheikh Awad is mostly known for its ecolodge – Al- Karm was the first such place. It lies where the high mountains and the plains meet. Popular with Caireens on long weekends, it is indeed a beautiful place. With an offroad vehicle it can be approached via Wadi Islaf from Wadi Feiran, or from Tarfa village. A good place to relax, it offers treks to nearby Nabataean ruins or the seasonal waterfall at Sida Nogra. The foot pass, known as Naqb el Hawa, starts at the tomb of Sheikh Awad, connecting the settlement to St. Katherine – in the past this was the main pilgrims’ route.
Wadi Feiran: The main sights in Wadi Feiran is its Convent. The functioning, newer complex is in a beautiful garden on the main road, right next to older ruins. Opposite is Jebel Tahoun, with several hermit caves at its base and the ruins of a church on top. The view from there is dominated by towering Jebel Serbal, possibly the most beautiful mountain in the Sinai. It was believed in early ages to be the true Mt. Sinai. A guesthouse in the Convent and a couple of beautiful Bedouin gardens a bit further on along the road provide accommodation. Wadi Feiran is a very long settlement, with the centre, Markez Feiran, in the middle at an open plain.
El Tur: Although it is the capital of the Governorate of South Sinai, El Tur is quite small. It features a central market and a few shopping streets around it. Foreigners usually visit it only to renew visas, but the town does have some charm and a couple of sights. The old town at the port consists of a few neglected and fenced off buildings and another few in better conditions. They are beautiful but need some effort to be saved. There is also a hot spring in El Tur, known as Hamam Musa.
Abu Zenima: Abu Zenima is a very little town on the coast along the main Cairo- Sharm road with a few shops, cafés, restaurants and possibly basic accommodation. (You find more places to stay bit north of town towards Ras Sudr.) An asphalt road branches off from the main road just outside town in the south, the way to Serabit el Khadim. This is the shortest and easiest route from the coast, although some parts are not paved. You can organise a 4×4 vehicle with Sheikh Barakat’s family at their office in the Desert Falcon Restaurant, and possibly at the other cafés.
Serabit el Khadim: Seabit el Khadim is a settlement in the desert, where the archaeological site of a Pharaonic temple and turquoise mines are found. The family of Sheikh Salim Barakat runs a camp and organises treks and safaris further into the desert.
Ras Sudr: Located on the Gulf of Suez, on the Cairo- Sharm road shortly after the Tunnel, it is a popular holiday spot for Caireens, Egyptian and ex-pat. The town itself is a simple little place with few shops, cafes and restaurants – places to stay are mostly on the coast to the south. The area is known for its wind and windsurfing is a popular activity. Apart from these few beach resorts, there is not much else to do in Ras Sudr itself, but local Bedouin operators can organise safaris into the desert.