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History of Sharm El shiek


Sharm El-Sheik is not nicknamed “Pearl of Egypt” for nothing. Its strategic location led to its eventual transformation from a dull fishing village into a naval base and a major seaport, and currently to a world-class resort city.  This charming city is under the jurisdiction of the South Sinai Governorate. It is located right at the corner of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, situated at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula facing the Red Sea. As with any resort city, the local population is usually low as tourist visitors usually outnumber the natives and currently is estimated to about 12,000 locals.

During the Suez Crisis in 1956, Israel took control of Sharm El-Sheik but gave it back the following year. Again in 1967, Sharm El-Sheik came back to Israeli control after the Six-Day War until 1982. During the Israeli occupation, Israel built a town to house 500 families and called it Ofira. Around 1976, a small airport was built in this Israeli-controlled town. In the same year, six kilometers north of Naama Bay, the first tourist village was built by the Israelis. This included a marina hotel, diving spots, and a nature field school.  

In 1982, Israel eventually handed over control of Sharm El-Sheik back to Egypt as one of the stipulations of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979. The occupation, the development by the Israelis, and then the restoration of control back to Egypt of Sharm El-Sheik was actually a very significant event in the stability of the region during that time. The Israelis used it as a leverage to be recognized officially by an Arab nation, also have the part of the agreement to leave the area demilitarized, free access to the Suez Canal, and have the Gulf of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba declared as international waters. Being on the losing end of the war, if they wanted the Sinai Peninsula back in their control amidst intense negotiations, Egypt had to accede to Israel’s terms.

After control of the Red Sea city was finally back in Egyptian hands in 1982, and also needing to honor the 1979 Treaty with Israel, Egypt cannot restore the naval base in the area as heavily as before. One small favor the Israelis did though left Ofira, the airport, and the commercial developments unscathed. Seeing the potential of the place of being successful commercially, Egypt has drawn up a masterplan for the full development of Sharm El-Sheik. To date, there are 40 hotels vying for tourist occupancy. Some of the famous hotels are the Savoy Group of Hotels, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Le Meridien and Four Seasons hotel chains are just some of the few marquee hoteliers that have helped develop Sharm El-Sheik as it is right now.

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