Location: Mid-Southern Sinai
Area: 5,750 km2
Type: National Park
Year of establishment: 1996
The basis of the National Park's rationale is the conservation of biological diversity or biodiversity. This phenomenon has increased over geological time, the world's biodiversity is richer now than at any time in its evolutionary history. At the same time, global biological diversity is being lost at a rate many times faster than ever before, largely as a result of human activities.
The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA).
St. Catherine National Park occupies much of the central part of South Sinai, a mountainous
region of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rock, which includes Egypt's highest peaks (St. Catherine mountain, Moussa mountain, Serbal mountain, Umm Shomer mountain and Tarbush mountain). St. Catherine mountain is the highest peak in Egypt 2,624 m above sea-level. The Sinai massif contains some of the world's oldest rocks. Around 80% of the rocks are 600 million years old.
The St. Catherine National Park is an area of great biological interest and includes the highest mountains in Egypt. This high
altitude ecosystem supports a surprising diversity of wild
species; some found nowhere else in the world. The mountains are relic outposts for the Sinai rose finch from Asia, the ibex and wolf from Europe, and the striped hyena and Tristram's grackle which came from Africa. Several species are unique to the National Park including two species of snakes and about twenty plant species, such as a beautiful native primrose.
Around 1000 plant species, representing almost 40% of Egypt's total flora are found in this region. These include many endemic species. Half of the 33 known Sinai endemics are found in St. Catherine area. Many of these are rare and endangered. Small orchards are scattered in wadis particularly at higher elevations.
The White-crowned Black wheatear is very characteristic of the area. There are 46 reptile species, where 15 of which are found nowhere else in Egypt. e.g. Endemic Sinai Banded Snake and the Innes Cobra which is considered to be very vulnerable to extinction. Other fauna include Geckos, Agamids, Skinks, Rodents, Hedgehogs, Hares, Red fox, Wild cat, Sinai Leopard, Rock hyrax, the Nubian ibex, Dorcas gazelle. The Panther pardus jarvisi is endangered and the endemic
sub-species as well. A rich diversity of insects also exists.
The Saint Katherine National Park abuts the coastal reserves of Ras Mohammed National Park, the Nabq and Ras Abu Galum Managed Resource Areas that lie along the Gulf of Aqaba. The coastal resorts, a mainstay of the Egyptian economy, are among the fastest growing tourism developments in the world. Their relative proximity to the Saint Katherine monastery and Mount Sinai has resulted in a growing number of visitors to the National Park. The protection of the arearoutes, unique natural and cultural values was a primary goal in the declaration of the St. Catherine National Park. But, a wider national objective was to underpin and expand the tourist industry in Sinai. The aim was to enhance the quality of tourism by promoting environmental and cultural tourism in premium wilderness areas. In so doing it was concluded that conservation would become an attractive option to rural people by linking sustainable tourism with local community development. In pursuit of these goals the management unit of the St. Catherine National Park actively promotes environmental and cultural tourism in these areas.
A list of all these types of activities:
Backcountry/wilderness - trekking in the highest mountains of Egypt
Historical tourism - e.g. following heritage trails, visiting archaeological sites
Religious tourism - treks based on Biblical sites and routes
Bedouin/Cultural tourism - learning the secrets of the desert
Birdwatching/Wildlife tourism - watching birds and recording their whereabouts
Health tourism - based on clean, quiet environment, spiritual heritage and medicinal plant/herbal treatment.
Fully operational now are several low impact stays based on trekking, camping or simply finding a quiet place beneath a palm tree.
Last Updated: June 7th, 2011