Lying in the extreme north eastern part of Egypt,
Sinai is shaped like a triangle, bounded by the Gulf of Aqaba on the
eastern side, and the Gulf of Suez on the western side.
North of this triangle,
the remaining part is a trapezium-shaped area bounded by the Mediterranean
coast on the northern side , the demarcating line running between the
capes of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez on the southern and
Egypt’s international borders with Israel on the east and Suez Canal on
the west. Sinai Peninsula has an area of approximately 61,000 sq. km,
accounting for about 6 % of Egypt’s total area. Sinai’s important
geographical and strategic position has been the > password < and the
decisive factor across history and so it is at present and will remain in the future.
The Peninsula is surrounded by water masses on three sides: the
Mediterranean on the north , with 160 km of coasts, the Gulf of Suez on
the south west, with 240 km of coasts and the Gulf of Aqaba on the east
and south east, with 150 km of coasts. Of the total length of Egypt’s
coasts, Sinai alone accounts for 30 %.
Sinai is the land bridge between Asia
and Africa and cross-road a for civilisations of the ancient world in
the Nile Delta, Euphrates- Tigris Delta and Syria.
Sinai is honourably mentioned in the Holy Quran and
other Heavenly Scriptures. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him ) crossed
it; Prophet Moses lived and the stone tablets there and the Holy Family
also crossed en route to the mainland. Sinai’s geographic and economic
importance is so strongly reflected on its historical development that it
became an all-encompassing record of major events of the region in both
the remote and near past.
Glimpses of Sinai's History
Historical and scientific evidence has proved that,
since the Palaeolithic age,i.e.; circa 100,000 years before, Egyptians
have populated several parts in north, central and west Sinai . At that
time, Sinai was the route of immigration between Asia and Africa. Tools
dating back to this era, found at al-Areesh, al-Hasana, ar-Rawaf’a and
Abu-OEqaila looked similar to those used in the Nile Valley. This proves
that Sinai had been long since populated, being an integral part of the
Nile Valley’s civilisation.
The first reference to Sinai in the known
annals of ancient history dates back to the Year 3000 BC. It was known for
its copper and turquoise mines. However, these mines were exploited even
hundreds of years before this date as ancient Egyptians had known and made
tools of copper since man moved from the stone age to the metal age
The Old Kingdom ( 2780 BC - 2280 BC )
Sinai was known for its copper and turquoise mines,
particularly in al-Maghara area where inscriptions showing names of major
kings of that period were found .
The Middle Kingdom ( 2130 BC - 1600 BC )
Mines in Sinai continued to be exploited and more
sites nearby al-Maghara such as Serabeet al-Khadem were explored. On this
site a temple was built for goddess Hathur , where numerous inscription
showing names of kings were found.
The Modern Kingdom ( 1600 BC - 1000 BC )
Particularly with the beginning of the 18 th.
Dynasty ( 1580 B C ), the great military route was frequently used as one
of the important military routes in the ancient world following the defeat
of the Hyksos at the hands of the Egyptian army. En route to Egypt, the
Holy Family crossed through Sinai.
A few centuries later, some Christian
converts , escaping Roman persecution, defected to Firan Oasis in South
Sinai where they built a number of monasteries , of which there still
remains St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Moses.
The Middle Ages
In the course of Arab conquest of Egypt in 640
A D , the Muslim army led by Amr Ibn al-A's , coming from Syria, marched
through Sinai along the often-trodden old military road parallel to the
Mediterranean coast up to al-Areesh. Hence the army proceeded forward to
al-Farma (Pulusium) where it managed to overcome strong resistance by the
At last the Muslim army forged its way into Egypt
across Bilbees. Later, Sinai Peninsula regained its military prominence
during the Crusades. As soon as the Crusaders established themselves in
Jerusalem and southern Syria, they thought of laying their hands on Egypt.
In 1116 AD King Baldwin I of Jerusalem staged a military expedition
towards Egypt. He managed to reach Aila on the Red Sea and then St.
Catherine’s Monastery. When the monastery’s monks refused to host him, he
proceeded to al-Farma which he seized and pillaged. On his way back to
Jerusalem, he fell sick and died in al-’Areesh (1118). Taking advantage of
the decrepitude of the Fatimid state, Nour-ed-Deen, ruler of Aleppo was
competing with the Crusaders over the capture of Egypt . Armies of both
warring parties passed through Sinai on their way to Egypt.
finally clashed in the Nile Valley, and the confrontation ended up in the
seizure of Egypt and the rise of the Ayubid state in Egypt and Greater
Syria. As the pivotal link between both centres of the state in Cairo and
Damascus, Sinai was subject of great attention on the part of an-Nasser
Salah ad-Deen (Saladin) al-Ayyoubi. To secure it against possible attack
by the Crusaders, well-fortified castles were built there.