Area: 61,000 km2
Population: 554,000 inhabitants
Egyptian Peninsula with strategic importance
Sinai is a triangular peninsula in eastern Egypt, located in the Red Sea between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba.
In the north Sinai reaches the Mediterranean Sea. A land strip reaching from Suez to Port Said connects Sinai to Egyptian mainland in the west. In the east, Sinai shares a border with Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Most of the Sinai Peninsula is divided among two Egyptian governorates, North and South Sinai. Three more governorates – Suez, Ismailia and Port Said – span the Suez Canal, crossing into mainland Egypt.
The Sinai Peninsula has been a contested territory throughout its history. Sinai belonged to the Ottoman Empire until it became part of Egypt under the British Protectorate in 1906.
In 1948 Egyptian troops passed through Sinai on their way to the Arab-Israeli War. Israel occupied the northern corner of the peninsula, but withdrew following the 1949 Armistice Agreement.
In 1956 Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and prohibited Israeli traffic through the canal and prevented Israeli ships from entering Egyptian waters. This prompted the Suez Crisis: Israel invaded Sinai with French and British support. The three powers withdrew in 1957 due to pressure exercised by the USA and the USSR.
In 1967 Egypt imposed a blockade on Eilat again. During the subsequent Six-Day War, Israel defeated Egyptian troops and occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula. The Suez Canal, which became the new border between Israeli and Egyptian territory, was closed for traffic. In the 1973 October War (also known as the Yom Kippur War), Egypt re-conquered the western part of Sinai and, in 1975, re-opened the Suez Canal.
In 1979, following the Camp David Accords, Egypt and Israel signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. As a result, Israeli troops began to gradually withdraw from Sinai. Israel finalized its withdrawal from the peninsula in 1982. The Treaty allows monitoring of Sinai by the Multinational Force and Observers, and limits the number of Egyptian military forces in the peninsula.
In the 1980s South Sinai developed into a tourist destination, internationally popular for its natural setting, rich coral reefs, and biblical history. Tourism became the main source of income in the region.
Between 2004 and 2006, the South Sinai cities of Taba, Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab were targeted in a series of attacks on Egyptian tourist sites which injured many and left over a hundred dead.
Since the January 25 Revolution, unrest has become more prevalent in Sinai. The peninsula suffers from deteriorating state control and faces a security vacuum.
The influx of tourists has declined drastically, resulting in a state of widespread unemployment and poverty. Suspected sources of income in the region, apart from tourism, include the cultivation and trade of opium poppy, arms smuggling and human and organ trafficking.
According to Al-Ahram, a government report in 2010 said a quarter of all Sinai’s population did not carry national ID cards. The Bedouin account for the majority of this number; as a result, they are not allowed to own land, serve in the army or attend public schools and do not benefit from local tourism revenue.