Sinai is a mysterious land: utterly stark, wildly beautiful and intensely dramatic. Formed by a literal collision of continents, the austere and unforgiving mountains of the interior plummet down to meet golden beaches before melting into the coral gardens of the Red Sea. As the gateway between Africa and Asia via the Suez Canal, the peninsula has been a source of major contention in recent history. It was occupied by Israel after the war of 1967 and returned to Egypt in 1982 with the signing of the Camp David Accords. Continued turbulence in the region has had an impact on tourism, but an ideal climate, the plethora of high-class resorts and backpacker havens, plus the unique natural wonders of the land and the sea keep luring tourists back.

It has been said that the triangular wedge of earth, home to just 340,000 people, is but “24,000 square miles of nothing”. Yet with its mystical past, dazzling seas and layers of desolate, majestic peaks, travellers fast come to find that in 'nothing' there is so much. The southern coastal region features some of the best diving in the world. Scuba classes are affordable and the beaches are inviting. Ras Mohammed National Park, at the peninsula's southern tip, is a sanctuary to every species of life that thrives in the Red Sea and a fantasy world for divers and snorkellers. Sinai's rugged interior, too, is magical: where sun and wind and water have converged to paint pictures in the rock and carve jagged peaks that fade endlessly into the horizon in a million shades of pink. Trekkers and pilgrims journey from afar to scramble up the splendid face of Mount Sinai, gaze at the rising sun and marvel at the sacred spot where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The opportunity for a hike through the mountains of the interior should be seized upon before everyone realizes that this is one of the earth's last unspoilt places, proffering isolation and an intimacy with nature that Bedouin have been experiencing for centuries.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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