The Sinai peninsula
is a roughly triangular piece of land located on the east side of Egypt
, bordering Israel
. The Red Sea to the south splits into to the Gulf of Suez
in the west and the Gulf of Aqaba
in the east. Just across Aqaba lie Jordan
and Saudi Arabia
. The northern side of the peninsula borders the Mediterranian Sea
The geography is desert and craggy badlands, with little arable land. Despite being largely undeveloped and sparsely populated, it is still a valuable and highly strategic area. It is the only land bridge between Africa and Asia, and is also a key area for control of the Suez Canal, the shortest sea link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The coasts provide beautiful beaches, reefs, and world class diving. Sharm al-Sheikh, at the southern tip, is a major destination for tourists looking to explore both the nature and the history of the area. Mount Sinai is located just inland, along with the sixth century Monastery of St. Catherine, at the base. The mountain is, of course, where Moses is said to have see the burning bush and received the Ten Commandments.
The history of Sinai begins with the Exodus story. Sinai was the desert wilderness crossed by Moses and the Hebrews to the promised land. More recently, the peninsula has become a focal point in the wars between Israel and its neighbors. In the 1956 Suez crisis, Israel briefly captured Sinai, but withdrew shortly after. Again, it was captured in the 1967 Six Day War. This time Israel held on to Sinai, along with the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. As in the other territories, Israelis began to form settlements in the newly conquered areas. Unlike its other spoils of war, however, the Sinai wouldn't remain under Israeli control for long. Sinai was the site of fierce fighting in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, and although the Egyptian invasion was ineffectual at best, control was ceded back to Egypt in the Henry Kissinger brokered peace deal. Some Israeli settlers were less than enthusiastic about this turn of events and had to be forcibly removed from their settlements by the IDF. By 1982, Egypt was back in control.
Since then, Sinai has remained Egyptian, and, given the stability of the region, surprisingly peaceful. Egypt now strives to develop the area, both to exploit the natural resources and to solidify its control of the region.
CIA World Factbook