Geography of the Sinai Desert

Sinai is the product of a major disturbance in the earth's crust and part of one of the world's most famous rifts, stretching from Turkey and the Sea of Galilee to the great rift valley in Kenya. The peninsula is divided into three distinct parts. The northern region consists chiefly of sandstone, plains and hills. The middle region consists of the Tih Plateau and the mountainous southern part where towering peaks - the highest of them Mount Catherine - abound.

The entire Sinai region is deeply dissected by the river valleys or wadis that eroded at earlier geological periods. These wadis break the surface of the plateau into series of detached massifs with a few oases scattered here and there.

triangular peninsula

Sinai is a triangular peninsula, the base points to the north and it's apex to the south. Most lowlands slope gently towards the Gulf of Suez, the lowest forms the El-Qaa coast plain. In the southern zone, the mountains come close to the sea forming a bold and rocky coastline that runs into the Gulf of Aqaba. The Sinai coastline is varied alternating high mountains, hills and fine-grain yellow sand beaches.

Land of Turquoise, Land of Enchantment, Bridge to Asia...these are a few of the many names used to describe Sinai. In fact, this land situated on the crossroads to Asia and Africa has long been a land of culture and riches. The beautifully preserved tombs and houses of the Nawamis in Wadi Zaghra dating from Chalcolithic Age (4000-3150 B.C.) prove this fact.

The turquoise mines at Wadi

The turquoise mines at Wadi Maghara supplied the Pharaohs with precious stones, and the ruins of Serabiyyat al-Khadim north of Wadi Firan show the importance of the area during Pharaonic times. It is here that the deities Hathor and Sopdu, God of the Desert were worshipped. Wadi Firan at the foot of Gebel Serbal is the only large fertile strip where dates-palms, tamarisks and acacia (trees) grow in the midst of barrenness.

Traditionally this wadi was also the site where the battle involving local Amalakite warriors and Hebrews took place, in the 3rd century. Traditions abound about the site of Uyun Musa, south of Suez, all relating to Chapter 15 of the Book of Exodus. It is said that this oasis was the first Israelite camp to be set up following the exodus from Egypt, and that Moses threw a tree into the spring, Marah, turning its water sweet.