Few environments in the world can prepare a first-time visitor for the ferocious natural beauty of the Sinai. In the sinuous wadis of the south and the majestic, blasted vistas of the interior, the landscape is both visually overpowering and utterly still--as if nature had frozen the vast symphony of the earth's creation in stone.  

And in fact that idea is not so far from the truth, for the twisted, multicoloured granite and limestone terrain constitutes a stunning geologic record that stretches back eons. The most ancient of Sinai's elements are its craggy southern mountains, whose weatherworn granite dates from the Precambrian period, more than 600 million years ago. Less old, though more expressive in some ways of the antiquity of Sinai, are the dozens of Wadis, or fossilized riverbeds, that define the terrain all over the peninsula. From the depth and frequency of the Wadis, we can tell that Sinai was at one time a lush and fertile region. 

Even today, these sandy courses carry sufficient water below their surface to support a remarkable variety of life. Larger wadis, like the Wadi Kid and the legendary Wadi Feiran, are quite fertile in places, and a careful exploration of even the smallest of wadis will reveal surprising pockets of color. In fact, it is not uncommon during certain seasons for sudden storms to send floodwaters raging down the close-hewn channels of the coastal wadis--floods that bring in their wake a veritable explosion of brilliant green plant life.  

The fauna of this landscape is, as one would expect, a hardy lot, with a curious tendency to bear an "x" in their names: desert fox and Nubian ibex, many reptilian species, the small hyrax (a sort of guinea pig) and the occasional gazelle, and many birds, especially in the coastal regions. Plant life is similarly resilient: date palms in especially fertile oases and even mangroves in the fertile delta of the Wadi Kid, but otherwise mostly acacia trees and other desert vegetation. As any photo of the land reveals in an instant, it is stone that dominates the landscape of Sinai, though that stone seems at times to carry as much lively color as any rainforest canopy. However, the landscape of Sinai is only half of the story--equally magnificent is the world that lies off its coast, the coral reefs of the Red Sea.






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