Northern Sinai

The vast majority of tourists coming to Sinai only visit the Gulf of Aqaba coastline and St Catherine's Monastery, and this is for good reason. Although the northern part of the peninsula has a number of attractions both in El-Arish and along the 210-km Mediterranean coastline stretching from Port Said to the border at Rafah, these are low-key in comparison to the temptations of the Red Sea and interior. Distinctly different in feel from the red rugged south, Northern Sinai has softer charms, with palm-fringed beaches and creamy sand dunes that melt into Mediterranean lagoons. Birdwatchers will find fulfilment in the Zaranik Protectorate Reserve, while El-Arish appeals to those who like to mix a taste of the beach with a gritty dash of Bedouin culture. As the situation on the Rafah border grows ever more tense, very few travellers make it this far - either as a destination or en route to Israel.

Ins and outs

Getting there

The road east from Ismailia crosses the Suez Canal Bridge, also know as the Japanese-Egyptian Friendship Bridge, which rises bizarrely out of the desert and affords brief views down the length of the canal. Coming from Suez further south, the road goes through the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel.

Pelusium and Lake Bardweel

The road to El-Arish passes through some wild-looking towns, next to huge dunes and goat-herders roaming among the scrub, and past small enclaves of nomadic settlements. About 40 km along the road from Qantara to El-Arish there is a signpost for
Pelusium.
 
The road is surfaced until it crosses a small canal. Turn left on to the next (unsurfaced) road. This road is not passable after rain - be prepared to walk from the tarmac.
If you have your own transport and official permission
you can visit these Roman ruins, also known as Tel El-Farame. The site covers a wide area, littered with ancient rubble, stone, bricks and columns, of which the highlight is the partially uncovered amphitheatre. The city was situated on a now dry tributary of the Nile and guarded
access from the east and acted as a customs post. It is mentioned in the Bible as 'the stronghold of Egypt'. The Persians came through here and both Pompey and Baldwin I ended their days here in tragic circumstances.

Lake Bardweel (66,500 ha) is important for fish such as mullet and seabass as well as migratory birds but access to the shore is often difficult. At the eastern end is the
Zaranik Protectorate
where over 200 species of migrating birds have been recorded. This area is of such significance that it has been preserved as a wetland under the auspices of UNESCO. Take the track north at the hamlet of Al-Sabeka (the sign says keep to the road but forgets to mention the landmines).

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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