The Nabq Protected Area in South Sinai
by Lara Iskander
South Sinai is one of the most spectacularly beautiful landscapes found in Egypt and perhaps even in the world. In the past years, many of the sites have been set aside as national parkland (see also our Overview).
The most famous of Egypt's national parks is situated at the far southern tip of Sinai, where the sandy peninsula of Ras Mohammed edges out into the Red Sea.
Heading northeast up the Aqaba coast, you pass through Sharm el Sheikh-the best-known resort of southern Sinai- and Naama Bay. Afterwards, you come across Wadi Kid, which runs far into the center of southern Sinai's mountains.
Wadi Kid is one of Sinai's most abundantly watered wadis, supporting a comparatively great abundance of vegetation all along its length.
View of Nabq protected zone from the Mangroves and the Sinai Mountains in the background
Found further at the bottom of the Wadi, is another astonishing site; the mangroves, sand dunes and wild animal life of the Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area. Further north still, lies a smaller town, Dahab and then Abu Galum (see also our feature story on Abu Galum), another Protected Area.
The Nabq coastal is considered to be the largest on the Gulf of Aqaba. It extends over an area of 600 square kilometers and contains almost 134 plants. The area is a unique combination of landscapes, with high mountains, surrounding numerous Wadis (valleys). Nabq's coral reef are very different from Ras Mohammed, nevertheless its coral reefs are extremely rich and easy to reach from the shore.
The coastline of Nabq is said to be fringed by 4.8 km of mangrove forest, the most northerly and the largest in the Red Sea. This mangrove which is composed of just one species of tree, Avicennia marina, is very fragile and worthy of protection because of the important role it plays in the survival of the wild life surrounding the bay.
Many plants and animals (including Gazelle and Ibex) are found in the area. They are sustained by the periodic valley flooding following heavy rains. The Wadis also provide a supply of fresh water to local populations, and are an important grazing area for Bedouin sheep and goatherds.
The mangroves in the bay area have to deal with the salty water. They do so first by filtering at the roots, and second by getting rid of excess salt in the form of crystals at the leafs.
They also shelter an exceptional wealth of animal life. The shallow and calm waters among their roots provide a good protection for small fish as well as appropriate rest stop for migratory birds. Interesting species can be seen, such as Pacific Golden Plover; Black bellied Plover and the Caspian Tern.
Seen at the far end of the bay is an old shipwreck that offers a rare and amazing diving site. The locals call the area "al-Ghara'na", which means the drowned. The bay can be accessed by walking knee-deep through the water.
It is possible to reach the wreck but suitable shoes are necessary as one is bound to walk through stretches of shells and endless starfish. Approximately where the rusty wreck lies, the coral reefs begin, although they stretch along the entire coastline.
The Bedouin population of Nabq has built villages (huts) in the wadi and along the coast.
Many of the tribes in the protectorate have given up their nomadic lifestyle in the late 20th century and are increasingly settled and dependent on a wage economy. Nevertheless, they still depend on the natural resources surrounding them. Fresh water for drinking and for the goatherds is provided from the wadi.
Some of them live by the bay all year long and some just consider it a summer retreat. They protect the area and exploit the touristic opportunities that come their way with flexibility. Most of them are familiar with many foreign languages due to the continuous contact with Tourists. They could provide you with camel safari trips, Bedouin dinners or sell you charming handmade necklaces and oriental dress made by the women.
Their hospitality is legendary, and their knowledge of Sinai's animals and plant life extensive.
Nabq protected area, is considered to be one of the richest Diving sites in the Red Sea. It offers virtually untouched and rarely dived areas.
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.
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