Ras Mohammad (Egyptian Arabic: راس محمد Rās Maḥammad, IPA: [ɾɑːs mæˈħæmmæd]; Arabic: رأس محمد Raʼs Muḥammad) is a national park in Egypt at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf of Suez on the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east.
Location of Ras Muhammad National Park
Ras Muhammad National Park is located in Egypt on the Sinai Peninsula. It is found at the southern tip of the peninsula. The national park, which encompasses 185 square miles (480 sq km), was the first announced park for Egypt.
History of Ras Muhammad National Park
When the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt, Ras Muhammad was declared for protection from fishing and other human activities. Some fishing methods, such as dynamite and knives, also impacted the coral reef and fish populations. In 1983, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) established the area as a marine reserve to protect marine and terrestrial wildlife. The park was also set to protect against urban sprawl from Sharm El Sheikh and other coastal development. The name means “Mohammad’s Head”, where “head” in this instance means “headland”. In the area, the term arose because, in the side view, the contour of the cliff looks like the profile of a bearded man’s face, with horizontal hard strata providing the nose and bearded chin.
The park is situated in the Red Sea Riviera‘s tourist region, 12 km from the city of Sharm El Sheikh. The park spans an area of 480 km2, including 135 km2 of surface land area and 345 km2 area over water. Marsa Bareika is a small bay inlet in Ras Mohammed, and Marsa Ghozlani is a tiny inlet across from the park visitors centre.
Ras Mohammad encompasses two islands, Tiran and Sanafir. Tiran Island is located approximately 6 km offshore from the Sinai Peninsula. Underwater caves formed as the result of earthquakes are located in Ras Mohammad.
About 0.9 hectares of mangrove forest cover a 1.16 km shallow channel at the southernmost end of the Ras Mohammad peninsula. Near the mangrove and approximately 150 m inland, there are open cracks in the land caused by earthquakes. One of the cracks is about 40 m in length and 0.20−1.5 m in width. Within the gaps are water pools, some with over 14 m.
The inland area includes a diversity of desert habitats such as mountains and wadis, gravel and coastal mud plains and dunes. The site also plays a role in bird migration, serving as a place of rest and nourishment.
Ras Mohammad National Park experiences an arid climate, with only minimal rainfall during the winter. Temperatures are mild during the winter, with daytime high temperatures averaging around 23 °C (73 °F) and low temperatures 14 °C (56 °F). During the summer, temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) and low temperatures around 27 °C (81 °F).
Coral reefs of the fringing and hermatypic types exist along the coast around Ras Mohammad, close to the shoreline. More than 220 species of coral are found in the Ras Mohammad area; 125 of them are soft coral. The coral reefs are located 50 to 100 m below the sea surface and have a width of 30 to 50 m in most places. Though in some spots on the western coast, the coral reef is 8 to 9 km wide. Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef are popular areas of coral reefs in the park for divers. Other coral reef sites include South Bereika, Marsa Ghozlani, Old Quay, and Shark Observatory. The wreckage of the SS Thistlegorm, located off the coast of Ras Mohammad, is a popular area for divers.
The area is home to more than 1,000 species of fish, 40 species of starfish, 25 species of sea urchins, more than 100 species of mollusc and 150 species of crustaceans. Among others, sea turtles appear regularly in Ras Mohammad, such as the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
On the Ras Mohammad peninsula, there are acacia trees and dum palms (Hyphaene thebaica) around the wadi mouths. Ephemeral herbs and grasses also exist in Ras Muhammad.