Sinai Peninsula, peninsula in northeastern Egypt, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Negev Desert in Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the southeast, the Red Sea to the south, and the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal to the west. Sinai is roughly triangular in shape, with the tip in the south where the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez meet at the island of Ra's Muhammad. The area of the peninsula is approximately 61,000 sq km (approximately 23,500 sq mi). The name Sinai may stem from the moon god Sin who was worshiped in the area in ancient times. It may also come from the Hebrew word seneh, the name for a native bush.
The peninsula is divided into a number of distinct geographic zones. In the north, a strip of loose sand and dunes runs inland from the coast for 16 to 32 km (10 to 20 mi) and then gives way to a flat, barren plain. This gravel and limestone plain continues for nearly 241 km (150 mi), rising at its southern extremity to the plateau Jabal al Tih. From the plateau to the southern tip of the peninsula, Sinai is cut by a jagged system of mountains and wadis (channels that fill with water during rainstorms). The climate of Sinai is generally hot and dry, receiving an average of less than 100 mm (4 in) of rain per year.
The peninsula contained a population of 199,764 at the 1986 census, with most inhabitants sparsely distributed along the coast. Several Bedouin tribes live in the region, some still following their traditional nomadic lifestyle (see Bedouins). Due to the difficult terrain and lack of water, economic activity is limited primarily to mineral extraction, fishing, and tourism, with some offshore oil drilling as well.
According to biblical tradition, Sinai is the land where Moses, the Hebrew prophet, and the Israelites wandered after their exodus from Egypt. Jabal Mosa (Arabic for "Mountain of Moses"), a peak in southern Sinai, is traditionally identified as the Mount Sinai of the Old Testament, where Moses was said to have received the Ten Commandments from Jehovah. One of the primary attractions on the peninsula today, Mount Sinai rises 2285 m (7497 ft). Mount Catherine (Jabal Katrinah), whose summit reaches 2637 m (8652 ft), is the highest mountain on the Sinai Peninsula. Another site of religious pilgrimage is the Monastery of Saint Catherine. Located at the base of Mount Sinai, the monastery was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD.
Sinai has long served as the land bridge between Africa and Asia, but its harsh climate has also made it a buffer zone between competing empires. In recorded history the peninsula has been invaded more than 50 times, by Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, and others. The recent history of the peninsula has been driven by competition between adjacent powers for control of the area. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Sinai grew in importance. Great Britain occupied Sinai and the rest of Egypt in 1882, mostly due to interest in the canal. During World War I (1914-1918), the Ottoman Empire attempted unsuccessfully to wrest control of the peninsula away from British forces. When Britain declared Egypt an independent monarchy in 1922, Sinai remained a part of Egypt. Since World War II (1939-1945), Sinai has been a recurring battlefield for conflicts between Egypt and Israel. In October 1956 Israel invaded the peninsula after Egypt interfered with Israel's shipping routes by closing the Strait of Tiran (at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba) and nationalized the Suez Canal. Backed by British and French forces, Israel took control of Sinai. The United Nations (UN) mediated a truce, however, and the troops withdrew by the end of 1956.
In 1967 Egypt once again blockaded the Strait of Tiran. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser also forced the UN Emergency Force, which had been stationed on the Sinai Peninsula since the Suez crisis, to leave the region. In response to these acts, Israel invaded the peninsula and captured the entire territory from Egypt in the Six-Day War. This war resulted in a temporary closure of the Suez Canal. In an effort to regain the land taken by Israel in 1967, Egypt, together with Syria, attacked Israel in 1973 and began what has come to be known as the Yom Kippur War. Israel defeated the Egyptian and Syrian forces and retained control of Sinai, but a state of unrest continued. An Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was finally signed in 1979, at the conclusion of a peace conference mediated by United States president Jimmy Carter at Camp David, Maryland. The treaty required that Israel withdraw entirely from the Sinai Peninsula. The withdrawal was completed in 1982, except for the city of Taba, where a large Israeli tourist resort opened in 1982; Taba remained occupied by Israelis until 1989. The peninsula is now divided into a number of zones of demilitarization, monitored by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) drawn from the United States and other countries.
Since 1982, the Egyptian government has expanded Sinai's tourism industry, which was established during the period of Israeli control. The Red Sea coast, renowned for its scuba-diving sites, draws tourists from all over the world. Egypt has also maintained the military airfields left behind by Israel.
Playing: Ana Ma2Balsh Midi