Geography and history
Sharm el-Sheikh is on a promontory overlooking the Straits of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Its strategic importance led to its transformation from a fishing village into a major port and naval base for the Egyptian Navy. It was captured byIsrael during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and restored to Egypt in 1957. A United Nationspeacekeeping force was subsequently stationed there until the 1967 Six-Day Warwhen it was recaptured by Israel. Sharm el-Sheikh remained under Israeli control until the Sinai peninsula was restored again to Egypt in 1982 after the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979.
A hierarchical planning approach was adopted for the Gulf of Aqaba, whereby their components were evaluated and subdivided into zones, cities and centers. In accordance with this approach the Gulf of Aqaba zone was subdivided into four cities:Taba, Nuweiba, Dahab and Sharm El-Sheikh. Sharm el-Sheikh city has been subdivided into five homogeneous centers, namely Nabq, Ras Nusrani, Naama Bay, Umm Sid and Sharm El Maya.
Sharm el-Sheikh city together with Naama Bay, Hay el Nour, Hadaba, Rowaysat, Montazah andShark's Bay form a metropolitan area.
Before 1967 Sharm el-Sheikh was little more than an occasional base of operations for local fishermen; the nearest permanent settlement was in Nabk, north of Ras el-Nasrani ("The Tiran Straits"). Commercial development of the area began during the Israeli presence in the area. The Israelis built the town of Ofira, overlooking Sharm el-Maya Bay and the Nesima area, and opened the first tourist-oriented establishments in the area 6 km north at Naama Bay. These included a marina hotel on the southern side of the bay, a nature field school on the northern side, diving clubs, a now well-known promenade, and the Naama Bay Hotel.
After Sinai was restored to Egypt in 1982 the Egyptian government embarked on an initiative to encourage continued development of the city. Foreign investors – some of whom had discovered the potential of the locality during the Israeli occupation – contributed to a spate of building projects. Environmental zoning laws currently limit the height of buildings in Sharm el-Sheikh so as to avoid obscuring the natural beauty of the surroundings.
In 2005, the resort was hit by the Sharm el-Sheikh terrorist attacks, which were perpetrated by an extremist Islamist organisation, and aimed at Egypt's tourist industry. Eighty-eight people were killed, the majority of them Egyptians, and over 200 were wounded by the attack, making it the deadliest terrorist action in the country's history (exceeding the Luxor massacre of 1997).
The city has played host to a number of important Middle Eastern peace conferences, including the 4 September 1999 agreement to restore Palestinian self-rule over the Gaza Strip. A second summit was held at Sharm on 17 October 2000 following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, but it failed to end the violence. A summit was held in the city on 3 August 2005 on developments in theArab world such as the situation in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Again in 2007, an important ministerial meeting took place in Sharm, where dignitaries discussed Iraq reconstruction. The World Economic Forum on the Middle East was also hosted by Sharm el-Sheikh in 2006 and 2008.
Amidst the 2011 Egyptian protests, President Hosni Mubarak reportedly went to Sharm el-Sheikh and resigned there on 11 February 2011.
Scuba diving and water sports
Ras Mohammed is the national park of South Sinai, located on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Along with Nabq, it has famous dive sites in the Red Sea, with 800-metre (2,600 ft) deep reef walls, pounding current and coral gardens.
The Sharm el-Sheikh Hyperbaric Medical Center was founded in 1993 with a grant from USAID by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, represented by Dr. Adel Taher to assist with diving related illnesses and complete the area's reputation as a full-service dive destination.
Main article: 2010 Sharm el-Sheikh shark attacks
On 1 December 2010 four tourists - three Russians, and a Ukrainian - were attacked and injured by an oceanic whitetip shark or sharks in three separate incidents off Sharm-el-Sheikh. One victim lost a leg, and another an arm. The Egyptian authorities subsequently claimed that the shark responsible for the attacks had been captured alive, but the identification was disputed by the diving industry based on eyewitness and photographic evidence. Four days later, on 5 December an elderly German woman was attacked and killed by a shark whilst snorkelling at the resort.
There has not been a single reported attack since