Difference between revisions of "Sinai"
Revision as of 10:43, 19 April 2007
The Sinai peninsula is the easternmost part of Egypt between the Mediterranean and the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, both forks of the Red Sea. The western and northern coasts are practically uninhabited, but several Bedouin settlements-cum-tourist attractions dot the eastern coast.
Above ground is a harsh, forbidding and (in summer) brutally hot desert of parched rock. The reason most tourists come here is the vistas underwater: the Sinai coast offers some of the best diving in the world.
Like in all Egypt, the language of the Sinai is the Egyptian Dialect of the Arabic language. But in tourist areas you also get through with English, in touristical areas on the east coast also Hebrew, because here many Israelis come for holidays.
No Egyptian visa is required, as special 14-day Sinai permits are granted on arrival at the Taba border, Taba Airport and Sharm el-Sheikh's airport. Note that this permit allows travel only on the eastern Sinai coast and the Mount Sinai with St. Catherine's monastery.
Two ferries run between Nuweiba and Aqaba, Jordan. One is a standard speed ferry, the other a so-called high-speed ferry. For travelers interested in bypassing Israel by crossing the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt to Jordan directly, these ferries offer some degree of convenience. Patronized mainly by Arab nationals prohibited from entering Israel, the ferries will save other travelers little time and hassle over the land route from Taba through Eilat to Aqaba.
Regular ferry: $35 USD, plus 50 EGP or 5 JD departure tax.
High-speed ferry: $50 USD, plus 50 EGP or 5 JD departure tax. Though its marketing materials say, "On time departure, first class service," that is not quite true of the high-speed ferry, named the Princess. The boat departs daily from Nuweiba at 3PM, or so its schedule says. However, the consensus among regular travelers is that the real time of departure is more like 5PM. (Schedule of Aqaba to Nuweiba trips unknown.) For trips departing Egypt, passengers must arrive at the station in Nuweiba and purchase tickets by 1PM. AB Maritime, the company that owns the Princess, does not offer any baggage handling service; indeed, luggage must be stacked against the walls of the vast cargo hold beneath the passenger deck, and cannot be taken as "carry on." And, non-sensically, dirty crowded buses transport passengers from the customs terminals in both Nuweiba and Aqaba to the boat, meaning an extra busride on each end of the trip adds time to the schedule.
Whether you're going from the airport to your hotel, traveling from beach resort to beach resort, trekking up to St. Katherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai, or heading to Nuweiba to catch the ferry to Aqaba, Jordan, the trick to getting around in Sinai is to coordinate all ground transport through your hotel.
Several local organisatinos offer trekking and excursions into the Sinai desert. The Bedouin tribe of the mountains (http://www.sheikmousa.com) organises treks in St Katherine's national park.
Others offer yoga trips to the St Katherine's area and the desert itself (http://www.yogatravel.co.uk) where the silence and tranquility is ideal for relaxation and meditation.