Sinai Peninsula

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Sinai Peninsula
Satellite image
Geographical location
Sinai Peninsula (Egypt)
Sinai Peninsula
Coordinates 29 ° 30 ′  N , 33 ° 50 ′  E Coordinates: 29 ° 30 ′  N , 33 ° 50 ′  E
Waters 1 Gulf of Aqaba
Waters 2 Gulf of Suez
surface 61,000 km²
Map of the Sinai Peninsula

The Sinai Peninsula [ ˈziː.na.i ] ( Arabic سيناء, DMG Sīnāʾ ) is a peninsula belonging to Egypt .


Along the Suez Canal, parts of three other governorates belong to the Sinai Peninsula

physical geography

Southern Sinai - view from Mount Moses

The Sinai Peninsula lies on the African Plate between the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula , from which it is geologically separated by the Jordan Rift . It is geographically assigned to Asia. The approximately 61,000 km² land mass extends into the Red Sea , making it about one and a half times the size of Switzerland. To the west of the peninsula lies the Gulf of Suez , to the east the Gulf of Aqaba . The peninsula represents the link between Asia and Africa. The landscape is desert-like and, especially in the south, characterized by rugged, bare mountains .

at-Tih is the name of the northern sand desert of Sinai, also called Sur desert in ancient scriptures. It is a stratified plateau between northern Sinai and the mountains, whichincludes Mount Sinai and the Katharinenberg ( Jabal Katrina ) - at 2637 m the highest point on the peninsula. With 20 mm to 50 mm of precipitation per year, it is the most inhospitable area on the peninsula. In contrast, rainfall of 150 mm to 200 mm in South Sinaienablesnomadsto keeptheir cattle in wadis and on mountain slopes. Since the Sinai is again under Egyptian administration, the Katharinenberg is also the highest elevation in the state of Egypt . During the Israeli occupation it was the highest mountain in Israel.


The peninsula is divided into two governorates . In the north is the Shimal Sina governorate with the capital al-Arish on the Mediterranean coast, with about 128,000 inhabitants (2005) the largest city in Sinai. In the south is the Dschanub Sina governorate with the capital at-Tur .

Catherine's Monastery , founded between 548 and 565

About half of the total of about 1.3 million inhabitants of the peninsula are Bedouins , who are spread over almost 20 tribes and only partially lead a nomadic life. They live from cattle breeding (goats, sheep, dromedaries), on the east coast also from fishing and increasingly from tourism as guides for camel tours through the desert or in the tourist infrastructure on the coast.

The Orthodox St. Catherine's Monastery is located in the south of the Sinai near the village of Milga below the 2285 meter high Sinai Mountain . It dates from the 6th century, making it one of the oldest surviving monasteries in Christendom .

The As Salam Canal is being built in the north of the peninsula . Water from the Nile is channeled under the Suez Canal to irrigate large, dry areas . The first section was completed in 1997. At the southern tip of the peninsula are the city of Sharm El-Sheikh with many hotels and the uninhabited Ras Mohammed National Park .



Round prehistoric stone buildings, so-called nawamis , can be found in southern and eastern Sinai. The buildings made of sandstone slabs, built using dry masonry technology and provided with cantilever vaults , are marks of the dead. Already in the 4th millennium BC BC predynastic Egypt was supplied with copper from Sinai . Large numbers of molds found in Hujayrat al-Ghuzlan are similar to the copper bars from Maadi .

Ancient Egyptian time

Sinai peninsula in hieroglyphics
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The Sinai Peninsula has belonged to the sphere of influence or power of Ancient Egypt since the early dynastic period . The peninsula had significant turquoise deposits . The oldest documented mining areas are the mines of Wadi Maghara . Already in the third millennium BC Several expeditions were made to this region to mine turquoise. In ancient times military operations to Retjenu took place over the northern Sinai and the Gaza Strip . From there there were also several waves of immigration from Asian tribes and nomads.

Biblical tradition

According to the biblical tradition, Sinai was to a large extent the scene of the Pentateuch and other passages of the Old Testament , especially the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the covenant with the God YHWH , the story of Moses , the reception of the 10 commandments and the beginning of the Israelite conquest .

Roman and Arab times

Sinai was part of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea , which was established by Emperor Trajan in 106 . In 395 the province fell to Eastern Era . The peninsula has been part of the Islamic world since the Arabs defeated the troops of eastern Egypt in 640 and 642.

Modern times

Suez crisis

From 1517 to 1906, Sinai was part of the Ottoman Empire . In 1906 it was transferred to the de facto long independent Egypt, which was de jure still a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. A few decades after the Suez Canal was built (1859–1869), the British Empire had military rights granted and in December 1914 declared Egypt with the Sinai a British protectorate . In January 1915 an Ottoman offensive to the Suez Canal began, which opened the Sinai and Palestine fronts . The north of Sinai was the scene of numerous skirmishes, especially in 1916, which ended with the British conquest of Al-Arish and thus relocated to Palestine.

On October 29, 1956, Israeli troops marched through the Sinai to the Suez Canal, causing the Suez Crisis to reach its climax. Troops from Great Britain and France - these two countries had control of the Suez Canal on the basis of a lease agreement - then intervened and tried to regain control of the canal nationalized by Gamal Abdel Nasser on July 26, 1956. Under political pressure from the USA and the Soviet Union, the non-Egyptian troops withdrew and with the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) the first international UN peacekeeping force was stationed on the Sinai. In May / June 1967, the UNEF withdrew at the request of Egypt.

In the Six Day War of 1967, the peninsula next to the Syrian Golan Heights and the Jordanian West Bank was occupied by Israel. This was Israel's reaction to the Egyptians' blocking of the Strait of Tiran , Israel's only access to the Indian Ocean. Gamal Abdel Nasser then broke off relations with the USA and some European states because they supported Israel, with the result that he turned to the Soviet Union (arms deliveries).

On February 20, 1973, a Libyan Arab Airlines Boeing 727 civilian aircraft, flight number LN 114 , got lost on its flight from Tripoli to Cairo due to a sandstorm over the Sinai military exclusion zone, an 18-minute flight from Cairo. At 2:04 p.m. she was shot down by an Israeli phantom fighter plane. Only two of over 100 passengers survived.

Also in 1973, in October, the Yom Kippur War took place. It ended at the negotiating table and as a result partially conceded to Egypt the recovery of Sinai territories.

From 1973 to 1979 the UN troops were stationed on the Sinai as part of the UNEF II mission. After the Camp David Agreement in 1978 and the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1979, the last part of Sinai was returned to Egypt in 1982 . After the end of UNEF II, an international peacekeeping force outside the UN, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), followed on August 3, 1981 . In 1989, Taba near Eilat was also returned, for which negotiations had been continued until then.

terrorist attacks

Israel-Egypt border near Eilat

On October 7, 2004, car bombs exploded in front of the Hilton Taba and in the Bedouin camp ( Moon Island Village ) near Nuwaiba, killing at least 34 people. The terrorist organization al-Qaeda is suspected to be the originator .

In the largest seaside resort on the Sharm El-Sheikh peninsula , at least 88 people were killed and over 100 injured in several terrorist attacks on July 23, 2005.

On April 24, 2006, at around 7:15 pm local time, a terrorist attack with explosions took place in three closely spaced locations in the center of the city of Dahab . There were around 25 dead and many seriously injured. The perpetrators of the attacks have not yet been identified.

Sinai uprising

In 2011 an armed conflict began on the Sinai Peninsula , initially accompanying the Egyptian revolution . Radical Islamic extremists, mostly radicalized Bedouins, carried out a series of terrorist attacks against the Arab gas pipeline and against a police station. The Egyptian military responded with Operation Adler . On August 5, 2012, a militant group attacked a military base and carried out an attack on an Israeli border crossing using stolen armored vehicles. This was followed by a military action, Operation Sinai , in which the extremists were driven out. In total, there were between 95 and 103 deaths in the course of the conflict.

Construction of the border fence

According to official figures, more than 60,000 people entered the country between 2006 and 2013, most of them from Eritrea or Sudan . In the first half of 2012, 9,570 migrants from African countries came to Israel illegally; then the Netanyahu II cabinet decided to build a metal fence on the border. In the first half of 2013 only 34 migrants came.

Transport links

An important road connection in Roman times was along the coast of Cairo via Pelusium , al-Arish and Rafah to the north, the Via Maris . Another important road ran from Heliopolis to Aqaba and connected Egypt with the Via Nova Traiana . In the 16th century, during the reign of Suleyman I, it was replaced by the so-called Tariq al-Bint , which made it easier to get to Mecca .

During the First World War there was a military advance of Ottoman troops into Egypt (see also: Asia Corps ) with the aim of interrupting the Suez Canal. The Ottomans extended the Hejaz Railway to Sinai in 1915. After the Ottoman advance was repulsed, the construction of a British railway line for the Sinai Military Railway (SMR) began in 1916 . This route was operated between 1920 and 1948 by the Palestine Railways , then by the Egyptian State Railways . It ran between al-Qantara on the Suez Canal and Rafah. Shortly after the Six Day War in 1967, it was abandoned and dismantled by the Israeli occupation forces.

A ferry from the Arab Bridge Maritime Company to Aqaba in Jordan runs from the port city of Nuwaiba in the east .

In 2011 it became known that a 32-kilometer bridge would be built from Cape Nazrani, near Sharm El-Sheikh, to the Saudi Arabian Ras Hamîd.

Tourists can reach the seaside resorts on the Gulf of Aqaba via the international airports of Sharm El-Sheikh or Taba.

There are daily buses in the East Delta between Sharm, at-Tur, St. Katharina, Dahab , Nuwaiba , Taba and Cairo , not far from the road to the Nawamis in the Ain Khudra oasis .


The economic structure of the Sinai is mainly shaped by tourism, and to a much lesser extent by mining. Manufacturing and agriculture play a subordinate role.

In 2007/08 a natural gas pipeline was built from the north to the southern tip. There is an EU program for the promotion of Sinai and the Bedouins (SSRDP).

Canyon in Sinai
Canyon in Sinai


At the southern tip of the Sinai there are some tourist facilities, such as Sharm El-Sheikh with many hotels and the former fishing village / Bedouin camp Dahab , where coral reefs in the sea have become a popular tourist destination for divers from all over the world. They belong to the national parks Dahab and Wadi Nabq. At the extreme southern tip is the uninhabited Ras Mohammed National Park , also rich in coral reefs . Tourism was initiated more than 20 years ago by the Bedouins, who welcomed globetrotters from all over the world to Sinai with their hospitality. They were also the builders of the first holiday camps, which fit idyllically into the coastal landscape of the Red Sea. In the last few years international organizers and other global players have discovered the Sinai as a source of money for themselves and are building more and more hotels in this area. There are also building ruins there, mostly financed as projects with loans and then abandoned due to inefficiency or lack of money.

The reasons for the construction freeze of the hotel resorts are diverse and range from bad investments to the misappropriation of state subsidy loans to the decline in tourism due to the uncertainty caused by terrorist attacks.

Well-known tourist places of the Bedouins on the Gulf of Aqaba are besides Dahab , Nuwaiba with Tarabeen and Muzeina . Mahash with idyllic Bedouin camps for sustainable tourism (beach vacation, adventure travel , study trips ) and Taba , which lies on the border with Israel .


The Sinai Coal Company in Maghara has been mining coal underground since 1996, and the deposit was discovered in the 1970s. Quartz is being mined and untapped deposits of manganese and uranium are known.


Deal of the century

The North Sinai is repeatedly traded as an alternative area for a future Palestinian state. On December 16, 2017, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on preparatory measures taken by the incumbent Egyptian President Al Sisi.

Flora and fauna

Camels in a small oasis of Sinai

The Bedouins keep many dromedaries and goats, but horses, mules and donkeys are also used as pets. During desert tours, one can occasionally come across mice, rabbits, hyenas, jackals, desert foxes, vultures, as well as gazelles and gerbils. You can often see lizards and geckos. Giraffes, leopards, lions and ostriches once lived in Sinai. Snakes (cobras and sand vipers) and scorpions live secluded and under stones.

The Red Sea is a special Dorado for marine animals . The biodiversity of marine life there includes dolphins, sharks, clown fish, napoleon fish, barracudas, tuna, rays, moray eels and parrot fish.

The flora on the Sinai and the Red Sea is strikingly characterized by acacias , date palms, junipers and tamarisks . Allegedly more than a thousand different plants have been identified.

Mangrove forests can be found on the Red Sea . The northernmost in the world are in the Nabq Nature Reserve, which is just north of Sharm El-Sheikh.


Autumn and spring are the best times to travel when the temperatures are at their most moderate. Winters can get very cold, at least at night. On the other hand, the inland summers are 30 ° C (in individual cases up to 50 ° C). It is a little milder on the Red Sea. The water temperature there rarely drops below 20 ° C.


  • Theodor Wiegand (Ed.): Sinai. In: Scientific publications of the German-Turkish Monument Protection Command. Issue 1, Berlin 1920.
  • Alberto Siliotti: Sinai. History - art - tourism. Müller, Erlangen 1995, ISBN 3-86070-503-2 .
  • Beno Rothenberg : Sinai - pharaohs, miners, pilgrims and soldiers. Kümmerly & Frey, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-259-08381-3 . (History of Sinai until today. Rothenberg himself carried out excavations in Sinai)
  • Michel Rauch: Sinai and Red Sea (= DuMont travel paperbacks. Vol. 2141). 1st edition, DuMont, Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-7701-4036-2 .

Web links

Commons : Sinai Peninsula  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Sinai  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  1. a b The translation Bergwerkerland is not certain, see also Rainer Hannig: The language of the Pharaohs (2800-950 BC). Part: Large concise dictionary of Egyptian-German. von Zabern, Mainz 1995, ISBN 3-8053-1771-9 , p. 1135.
  2. January 6, 2018 / Stefan Tomik: Operation "Accelerated Removal"
  3. New Data Shows 99% Drop in Illegal Entry , July 2, 2013
  4. see also en: Illegal immigration from Africa to Israel
  5. Volkhard Windfuhr: Red Sea: Egypt approves mega-bridge to Saudi Arabia . In: Spiegel Online . July 17, 2011 ( [accessed December 22, 2017]).
  6. [1]
  7. [2]
  8. Nabq Nature Reserve - Travel Guide on Wikivoyage. Retrieved December 22, 2017 .