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.
Location of El Tor Town
History of El Tor
El Tor, also romanised as Al-Tur and known as Tur Sinai, formerly Raithu, is a small city and the capital of the South Sinai Governorate of Egypt. The city’s name Jabal Al Tor comes from the Arabic term for the mountain where the prophet Moses received the Tablets of the Law from God.
Al-Tur town appears founded in the 13th century near the ancient Raythou (medieval Raya). The El Tor strain of cholera was discovered there in 1905. It was a quarantine camp for Muslim pilgrims returning from Hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca).
The Raithu desert exists around El Tor town, between Saint Catherine and the Red Sea. It is part of the Archdiocese of Mount Sinai and Raithu of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Theodore of Raithu was a champion of neo-Chalcedonian in the early 7th century. Bedouins murdered the “Martyrs of Raithu”, who were 43 anchorites (early Christian hermits) during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305CE). Christian monks fleeing persecutions had been present since the 3rd century. Further, the Byzantine emperor Justinian commissioned the Raithu monastery (or Rutho) in the 6th century. The latter was proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site on November 1, 1994, in the Cultural category.
En route to Suez, warmen sent a Portuguese Armada in 1541 to the Red Sea to seek and destroy the Ottoman fleet. After several days of sailing, Commander Estevão da Gama orders direct a surprise attack. The troops could disembark, and the defenders came out to the shore. But, the Portuguese pushed them back to the city. Moreover, those defenders could not manage to close the city doors.
Further, the Portuguese were ready to loot as the city fell. However, two Priests came to the Commander and appealed to him, avoiding the destruction. Several soldiers were armed Knights after a mass. The armada stayed for a few days preparing to sail and attack Suez.
The Köppen-Geiger system classifies its climate as hot desert (BWh).