Sinai is one of Egypt’s most spectacular and beautiful landscapes, with many of the peninsula’s sites designated as national parkland.
Sinai’s most famous national park, the sandy Ras Mohammad peninsula, is situated at the far southern tip of the region, edging out into the Red Sea,
The Nabq Protected Area is one of the lesser-known Sinai Tourists Attractions, although it remains to be seen how long this will continue. This is especially as it is just a short drive away from popular tourist areas, such as Sharm El-Sheikh.
The Nabq Protected Area, or Nabq National Park, is located about 35 kilometres away from Sharm El-Sheikh, in the South Sinai Governorate.
Covering an area of about 600 sq km, the Nabq Protected Area is considered one of the most strikingly beautiful national parks in Egypt, with an incredible unspoiled natural beauty.
The Nabq coastal area is considered to be the largest on the Gulf of Aqaba with its mangroves, sand dunes and extensive wildlife. The area is a unique combination of landscapes, with high mountains, surrounding numerous wadis, or valleys.
Although very different from those found at Ras Mohammed, Nabq’s coral reef area is still extremely rich and easy to reach from the shore. The Nabq Protected Area is considered to be one of the richest diving sites in the Red Sea, with virtually untouched and rarely visited diving areas.
It is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world, and the beauty does not stop there either.
The Nabq coastline is fringed by 4.8 km of mangrove forest, the most northerly and the largest in the Red Sea. The mangrove park is composed of just one species of tree, Avicennia marina, which is very fragile and worthy of protection due to its importance in the survival of the bay’s wildlife.
Mangroves are also unique in that they act as natural desalination plants, their roots filtering salty water and getting rid of excess salt in the form of crystals on leaves.
The mangroves also shelter an exceptional wealth of animal life. The shallow and calm waters among their roots provide good protection for small fish, as well as acting as a rest stop for migratory birds. Interesting species can be seen, such as Pacific Golden Plover, Black Bellied Plover and the Caspian Tern.
Many plants and animals, including gazelle and ibex, also are found in the area. They are sustained by the periodic valley flooding following heavy rains. The bay also provides a supply of fresh water to local animal and human populations, and are an important grazing area for Bedouin sheep and goatherds.
Visitors to the National Park will not only be amazed by the area’s natural beauty, but will also be helping to support some of the local Bedouin who live in the area.
All services provided at the Nabq Protected Area are provided by the Bedouin, including like meals and camel rides. Some also try to supplement their earnings by making and selling souvenirs and beautiful handmade garments.
Seen at the far end of the bay is an old shipwreck that offers a rare and amazing diving site, and which the locals call Al-Ghara’na, which means ‘the drowned’. The area can be accessed by walking through knee-deep water.
Approximately where the rusty wreck lies, the coral reefs begin, stretching along the entire coastline.
Many of the tribes in the protectorate gave up their nomadic lifestyle in the late 20th Century and are increasingly settled and dependent on a wage economy. They even built villages in the bay and along the coast. Nevertheless, they still depend on the surrounding natural resources, with fresh water for drinking and their animals provided from the wadi.
Some of the Bedouin live by the bay all year long, whilst some consider it just a summer retreat. They protect the area and exploit the tourism opportunities that come their way with flexibility.
Most are familiar with several foreign languages due to the continuous contact with tourists. Their hospitality is legendary, and their knowledge of Sinai’s animals and plant life extensive.
A day trip from Sharm El-Sheikh is sufficient to visit the area and explore a couple of its fascinating lagoons and maybe venture on a desert exploration trip on the back of a camel.