South Sinai Governorate is one of Egypt’s most fascinating and spectacular tourist areas. God endows it with charming nature where it embraces mountains, plains, valleys and beautiful beaches, and Red seawater where coral reefs, rare fish and stunning fish wildlife are portrayed.
Location of South Sinai Governorate
South Sinai Governorate lies in the southern half of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea, except for its northern part. It has a long coast on the Red Sea – the Gulf of Aqaba in the east and the Gulf of Suez in the west. However, it has vast frontiers with the North Sinai governorate to the north. Also, it takes the shape of a triangle when looked at it on the map.
History of South Sinai governorate
South Sinai is one of two governorates located in the Peninsula of Sinai. In general, it is one of the 28 governorates situated in Egypt. This Governorate had a low population for long periods of Egyptian history. But, it witnessed small communities in some of its parts. These communities were either for Bedouins or Christian monks. During the last 100 years, South Sinai has become an important place for its strategic location. Undoubtedly, the importance of the site led to its transformation into a major tourist destination in Egypt.
As for all the areas in the Sinai Peninsula, the Israelis occupied the South Sinai governorate during the Suez Crisis of 1956, and they delivered it back to Egypt in 1957. Because of the crisis between Egypt and Israel, a United Nations peacekeeping force was stationed there until the 1967 Six-Day War. Once again, Israel recaptured the city after this war. Then, Israel started some projects in the area, which effectively led to the more commercial development of the province of Sinai. By then, the Israelis had built the town of Ofira, overlooking Sharm El Maya Bay and the Nesima area. Besides, they opened the first tourist-oriented establishments 6 km north of Naama Bay. South Sinai remained under Israeli control until Egypt restored the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 under the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty of 1979.
After the restoration of Sinai in 1982, the Egyptian government launched an initiative to encourage the development of the Governorate. Nowadays, the South Sinai governorate is now an international tourist destination.
South Sinai comprises five administrative regions or Markazes and nine cities comprising 13 local units. They are Abu Rudies, including the town of Abu Rudies; Abu Zenima, including the town of Abu Zenima; Nuweiba, including the Nuweiba and Taba cities; Ras Sidr, including Ras Sidr city; and Sharm el-Sheikh, including Dahab, St Catherine, Tor Sinai and Sharm el-Sheikh cities. Nuweiba Markaz has the most significant area, followed by Abu Rudeis.
The South Sinai Governorate comprises the following municipal divisions for administrative purposes:
El Tor Town
Although it is the capital of the Governorate of South Sinai, El Tor is relatively small, with a central market and a few shopping streets around it. Foreigners usually visit it only to extend their visas. The town does have some charm and a couple of sights. The old city at the port consists of a few neglected, fenced off buildings and others in better conditions. There is also a hot spring in El Tor, known as Hamam Musa.
Dahab is a small Egyptian town on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, approximately 80 km (50 mi) northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, Dahab is considered one of Egypt’s most treasured diving destinations.
Ras Sedr Town
Ras Sedr (Also spelt: Ras Sidr, Ras Sudr, or Ras Sudar) is an Egyptian town located on the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea coast. It is a part of the South Sinai Governorate and consists of Wadi Sidr, Abu Sidr, and Soerp. The region where Ras Sedr exits is famous for its ancient biblical times. Ras Sudr was the last point of Sinai conquered by the Israelis on 8 June 1967. The town had a deadly event known as the Ras Sedr Massacre when Israelis killed Egyptian POW.
Saint Catherine City
Saint Catherine (also spelt St. Katrine) is a city in the South Sinai Governorate of Egypt. It lies on the outskirts of the El Tor Mountains at an elevation of 1,586 metres (5,203 ft), 120 kilometres (75 mi) away from Nuweiba, at the foot of Mount Sinai and Saint Catherine’s Monastery. In 1994, its population was 4,603 people. The Saint Catherine area is a UNESCO world heritage site, officially declared in 2002.
Sharm El Sheikh City
Sharm el-Sheikh is an Egyptian resort located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula and surrounded by the Red Sea. The sheltered sandy beaches, clear waters and coral reefs are remarkable in this resort.
Taba is an Egyptian town near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. For its importance, Taba city currently is the location of Egypt’s busiest border crossing with neighbouring Eilat, Israel. The Israelis initially developed as a tourist destination, with the first hotel opening there in the 1960s. It is a frequent vacation spot for Egyptians and other tourists, especially those from Israel, to other destinations in Egypt or as a weekend getaway. It is the northernmost resort of Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera.
Monuments and Tourism
South Sinai is considered a global hub for all types of tourism, where it hosts all climatic, natural, land and maritime factors. Thus, it enhances all kinds of tourism, mainly recreational tourism such as coastal tourism, diving, water sports on the Gulf of Aqaba, and therapeutic tourism and herbal therapy. Furthermore, South Sinai is viable for festivals and races, camel racing, and folk carnivals. South Sinai cities are becoming increasingly important due to conferences held primarily in Sharm el-Sheikh, which hosts many international conferences.
The most important tourist areas are concentrated in the Golden Triangle; Sharm El Sheikh, Nuweiba and Dahab. South Sinai includes Saint Catherine’s Monastery, which hosts the Library, the Great Church, the Icons library, the Holy Family Tree, EI-Mawta church, “the Church of the dead”, the Mosque of al-Hakim Bi Amr-Allah, and other buildings of the Monastery. Additionally, the Governorate encompasses Mount Sinai and the five-peak Mount Serbal that embraces in its centre an old monastery, a church and the Hermit Caves. Moreover, South Sinai hosts the famous turquoise mountains, Pharaoh Bath, Moses Bath, el-Maghara Valley, the Temple of Sarabjit al-Khadem, Naama Bay, the Pharaoh’s Island, Tiran Island, el-Qersh Gulf and the Monastery of the Seven Girls.
Ras Mohammed Park
Ras Mohammed became a natural reserve in 1983, with an area of 850 km2. It is 446-km far from Cairo and lies at the confluence of the Suez and Aqaba Gulfs. Coral reefs characterise it. It is home to many important birds and animals such as Nubian mountain ibex, small mammals, reptiles and insects.
St. Catherine Reserve
St. Catherine region became a natural reserve in 1988. Afterwards, it evolved into the attraction of tourists worldwide for it has abundant natural wealth and cultural heritage. It has an area of 5750 km2 and is 550 km from Cairo. Also, It has a natural habitat for several wild plants and animals, with the highest mountain tops in Egypt characterising it.
The announcement of Nabq as a natural reserve started in 1992. It has an area of 600 km2, at a distance of 500 km from Cairo. Coral reefs, sea and wildlife creatures, and high-density mangrove forests distinguish it. Also, it includes deer, ibex, hyena, reptiles and many migratory and resident birds.
Abu Galoum Reserve
The government announced Abu Galoum as a natural reserve in 1992. It has an area of 500 km2, 600 km from Cairo.
Abu Galoum reserve comprises various environmental systems of coral reefs, sea creatures, and sea herbs. The mountains and valleys are abundant in wild animals, birds, and plants in this reserve. Thus, it makes this reserve a tourist attraction for amateurs in diving, safari, and bird and animal watching.
Egypt declared Taba as a natural reserve in 1998. It has an area of 3595 km2, 550 km from Cairo.
Taba reserve enjoys distinguished geological formations, archaeological sites, rare wildlife, magnificent landscapes, and the traditional heritage of resident Bedouin. It contains essential flora such as acacia and fauna such as hyrax, Nubian ibex, wolf, hyena, deer, and others. Also, Some wild birds, such as the Egyptian vulture, the bearded, and the golden eagles, take shelter on the top of mountains.
South Sinai Governorate celebrates its National Day on 19 March, commemorating the raising of the Egyptian flag over Taba in 1989.
The emblem is overwhelmed by the golden yellow colour, which symbolises the sun disk and golden rays over the Governorate’s land throughout the year. The blue colour indicates the waters of the Red Sea in addition to the Suez and Aqaba Gulfs. At the same time, the green colour is represented by the olive branch as the symbol of peace.
South Sinai Governorate features mild summer and warm winter climate. The temperatures range from 15° C in January to 30° C in August, except for St. Catherine city, where the temperatures range between 6° C and 23° C.
The total area of the Governorate reaches 31,272 km2, representing about 3.1% of Egypt’s total area.
In March 2016 census, the population was estimated at 169,822.
The Governorate is famous for the cultivation of palm and olive trees. The cultivated lands reach about 14,000 feddans, which rely on rainwater for irrigation. One of the essential agricultural villages is Ferran, known long for cultivating fruit and olive trees, as it possesses many springs and wells.
South Sinai produces 30% of Egypt’s production of oil, in addition to manganese ore, glass sand, gypsum, choline and granitic rocks. They depend on quarrying areas of Sharm el-Sheikh, St. Catherine and Abu Rudeis. Abu Zenima is the most important industrial area in South Sinai, which includes an industrial complex, ferromanganese and gypsum plants, and factories for the extraction and processing of turquoise stone.
In 2013/2014, the number of schools reached 253, 8 technical schools, 108 Azharite institutes for pre-university education and several private schools.
There is one Ministry of Health hospital in the South Sinai governorate, three kidney dialysis centres, seven public and central hospitals, and five private hospitals. Moreover, the Governorate includes nine health offices in Abu Rudeis, Abu Zenima, Dahab, Ras Sidr, St Catherine, Sharm el-Sheikh, Tor Sinai and Nuweiba.
South Sinai Governorate includes eight houses and palaces of culture, 12 public libraries, five cinemas, two theatres, and Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh Archaeological Museums.
Youth and Sports
South Sinai encompasses 24 youth centres, nine sports clubs, and el-Tor Sports Stadium.