Taba is an Egyptian town near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. Taba 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.
Location of Taba Town
The small town of Taba is located at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba between the mountains and plateau of eastern Taba on one side and the water of the Gulf of Aqaba on the other side. Taba is located 240 kilometres to the North of the famous resort of Sharm El Sheikh, and the town has a very strategic position near the borders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, whose boundary is located on the edge of the City of Taba.
The Taba Crisis of 1906 started when Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire decided to build a post at Taba. The British Navy sent warships into the eastern Mediterranean and threatened to seize certain islands under the Ottoman Empire. The British sent an Egyptian Coast Guard steamer to reoccupy Naqb el Aqaba and Taba. When a Turkish officer who refused them permission to land encountered, the Egyptian force landed on the nearby Pharaoh’s Island instead. The Sultan agreed to evacuate Taba on May 13, 1906. Both Britain and the Ottoman Empire agreed to demarcate a formal border that would run approximately straight from Rafah in a south-easterly direction to a point on the Gulf of Aqaba not less than 5 kilometres (3 mi) from Aqaba. The border was initially marked with telegraph poles, and boundary pillars later replaced these.
Taba was located on the Egyptian side of the armistice line in 1949. During the Suez Crisis in 1956, it was briefly occupied by Israel but returned to Egypt when the country withdrew in 1957. Israel reoccupied the Sinai Peninsula after the Six-Day War in 1967, and subsequently, a 400-room hotel was built in Taba. Following the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Egypt and Israel were negotiating the exact position of the border. Israel claimed that Taba had been on the Ottoman side of a border, agreed between the Ottomans and British Egypt in 1906 and had been in error in its two previous agreements. After a long dispute, the issue was submitted to an international commission composed of one Israeli, one Egyptian, and three outsiders.
Both parties agreed that since 1915, except for one 1916 Turkish-German map, all maps show Taba on the Egyptian side and that no dispute had previously been raised on the issue in the intervening years. However, Israel contended that errors had been made when boundary pillars in 1906–1907 replaced the telegraph poles.
The written 1906 agreement, rather than its demarcation with boundary pillars, was the legal border. The commission did not accept that the boundary pillars were in error but, in any case, held that a demarcated boundary accepted by all parties for such a long time had achieved legal status. Based on the wording of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the commission ruled that the accepted border during the Mandate period was the one that counted. However, it did not take that border was different from the earlier frame. The final boundary pillar near the Gulf of Aqaba was of particular concern, which had disappeared. There are early photographs of a pillar northeast of Taba, but Israel contended that it had been placed in error. The commission did not accept Israel’s case and positioned the pillar close to its historic location.
Therefore, Israel and Egypt resumed negotiations which ended in February 1989. As a result, Israel returned Taba to Egypt; Hosni Mubarak raised the Egyptian flag in the town on March 15, 1989.
Travellers can cross from Israel at the Eilat–Taba border checkpoint as part of this subsequent agreement. They can visit the “Aqaba Coast Area of Sinai”, stretching from Taba down to Sharm el-Sheikh, including Nuweiba, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, and Dahab. Furthermore, they can travel using a visa-free for up to 14 days—all of this makes Taba a popular tourist destination. The resort community of Taba Heights has located some 20 km (12 mi) south of Taba. It features several large hotels, including the Hyatt Regency, Marriott, Sofitel, and Intercontinental. It is also a significant diving area where many people come to either free, scuba, or learn to dive via the many PADI courses available. Other recreation facilities include a new desert-style golf course.
On September 24 1995, the Taba Agreement was signed by Israel and the PLO in Taba.
On October 7, 2004, the Hilton Taba was hit by a bomb that killed 34 people, including several Israelis. Twenty-four days later, an inquiry by the Egyptian Interior Ministry into the bombings concluded that the perpetrators received no external help, but Bedouins on the peninsula aided them.
In February 2014, a coach carrying tourists to Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai exploded in Taba shortly before crossing the border to Israel. The official authorities blamed terrorists for this blast. As a result, at least two South Koreans were killed and 14 injured.
Taba Protected Area
Located just southwest of Taba is a 3,590 km2 (1,386 sq mi) protected area, including geological formations such as caves, a string of valleys, and mountainous passages. There are also some natural springs in the area. The site has 25 species of mammals, 50 species of rare birds, and 24 species of reptiles.
Since Taba existed only as a small Bedouin village, there was never any existing transportation infrastructure. More recently, Al Naqb Airport, located on the Sinai plateau some 35 km (22 mi) from Taba, was upgraded and renamed Taba International Airport (IATA: TCP, ICAO: HETB). Now it handles half a dozen charter flights a week from the UK and weekly charter flights from Belgium, Russia, Denmark, and The Netherlands. Many tourists enter via the Taba Border Crossing from Eilat, Israel. A marina has been built in the new Taba Heights development, some 20 km (12 mi) south of Taba, and has frequent ferry sailings to Aqaba in Jordan. However, the government uses this port for tourist activities on organised tours.