Sharm el Sheikh History Facts and Timeline

(Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt)

Long before the first foreign tourists dove beneath Sharm el Sheikh's crystal blue waters, this popular holiday destination was one of Egypt's most significant ports.

Located at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba, Sharm el Sheikh has grown from a sleepy fishing village where 100 Bedouins lived just 40 years ago, into a bustling boom town welcoming an average of 9,000 tourists per day. Not even the 2005 terrorist attack killing 88 people has slowed the steady tide of visitors attracted to the city's world-class diving and desert hospitality.

Jabal Musa

The first chapter in the history of Sharm el Sheikh is said to have taken place in Jabal Musa (Mount Sinai), where, in Biblical times, Moses is believed to have climbed the mountain and received two tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Another important Biblical landmark situated near Sharm el Sheikh is St. Catherine's Monastery, which dates all the way back to the 4th century BC and is widely acknowledged as being the site of the Burning Bush.

Arab and Ottoman Egypt

By 639 AD, the Arabs had conquered Sinai. A succession of Islamic dynasties followed before Sharm el Sheikh came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. It became a significant port named Sarm-us Seyh in the 16th century. Some attempts were made to mine gold here, although these mines were largely unsuccessful and unproductive.

History of the Israeli Occupation

It was the Israelis, however, who first turned this tiny fishing village into a thriving tourist destination during their 1967 Sinai Peninsula occupation. Israel also briefly occupied Sharm el Sheikh during the 1956 Suez Crisis, before the port fell back under Egyptian control the following year. The Israelis established a settlement called Ofira next to the Sharm el-Maya Bay during this important turning point in the history of Sharm el Sheikh.

Growing Tourism

After Sharm el Sheikh once again became part of Egypt in 1982, the Egyptians picked up where the Israelis left off and expanded upon the city's tourism infrastructure. Despite the growing number of modern shops and hotel complexes along the city's shores, strict environmental laws prohibit the construction of buildings over a certain height, meaning that visitors can always admire the city's surrounding mountains and desert scenery.

City of Peace

Even though most visitors come here solely for pleasure, the community has also hosted a variety of peace conferences in recent years, earning Sharm el Sheikh the moniker 'City of Peace'. The city hosted the 2006 and 2008 World Economic Forums relating to the Middle East, while former Egyptian president Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak is said to have submitted his resignation in Sharm el Sheikh following the start of the 2011 Egyptian protests.

Although Sharm el Sheikh's tragic terrorist attack in 2005 was the deadliest terrorist attack in all of Egypt, this 'City of Peace' has lived up to its name ever since and has once again become a tranquil place, where modern hotel resorts abut traditional Bedouin communities.