West Coast

The west coast of Sinai on the Gulf of Suez is far less attractive than the Gulf of Aqaba coast. It has been spoilt by the oil industry which, while being one of Egypt's sources of foreign exchange, has transformed this region into a mass of oil rigs and gas flares and made it unsuitable for another foreign exchange earner - tourism. However, the best windsurfing in Egypt draws people to Ras Sudr and a couple of short safaris into the interior are feasible from here or from Abu Zneima, removing the need to go all the way to St Catherine's for an inland adventure.

Ras Sudr

Near the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, Ras Sudr, 190 km from Cairo and 250 km from St Catherine, is both an oil company town and the site of a noxious oil refinery and also a year-round destination for middle-class Egyptian tourists. Incessant gusts of wind throughout the day all year round make it
the
spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Moon Beach
offers internationally acclaimed windsurfing opportunities and makes a good weekend break from Cairo less than three hours away.

Nearby sites include
Ain Moussa
- the springs of Moses mentioned in the Bible - and the place where the Hebrews rested after their exodus from Egypt and God provided honey dew and quails. Situated 3 km from Ras Sudr, the pool is at the foot of a small mountain where hot water springs spew out water at
26°C. There's also
Hammamat Pharaoun
, 50 km south of Ras Sudr on a 494-m mountain that rises like a natural pyramid. Some Bedouins call it
Jebel Hammam Firaun Malun
, 'the Mountain of the Baths of the Cursed Pharaoh', believing it was here the King of Egypt drowned in the Red Sea with his army when he was pursuing Moses and his people. A very hot sulphur spring spews out of the mountain at 72°C and flows to the sea. Bedouins have visited these baths for centuries to cure rheumatism. You can bathe in the steamy waters, or in the sea where they fall.

Further to the south is
Serabit El-Khadim
which, in the pharaonic period, was an area well known for the mining of the semi-precious stone turquoise. Here are the ruins of the 12th Dynasty Temple of Hathor erected for the 'Lady of Turquoise', with a small chapel to Sopdu, who was guardian of the desert ways. It's possible to arrange a tour to Serabit from Sharm El-Sheikh or Dahab, however, it is an adventure to arrange things yourself from this area. South of Ras Sudr, you will find a small port community called Abu Zenima from where it is possible to organize excursions to the lonely turquoise mines of Maghara and the temple a few kilometres further south. Bring lots of water.

El-Tur

During the third and fourth centuries El-Tur was an important Christian centre with a monastery (now in ruins) built by Justinian. But now, although it is the administrative capital of south Sinai, the seedy and dilapidated coastal town, 108 km from Sharm El-Sheikh and 170 km from Suez, has little to recommend it. It is, however, an easy and fairly efficient place to renew visas and saves a trip to Cairo. The Mugamma building is on the main road, and a visa usually takes about two hours to process if you go in the morning.

If you do end up here, have a look at the
Fortress of El-Tur
, built by Sultan Selim I in AD 1520 and the
Temple of Serabit Al-Khadim
, which stands on a small hill to the north of the town. To the east of the town are several caves such as
Cave of Hathor
, built during the reign of King Snefru, and
Cave of Souidu
, the God of War.

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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