Sinai has always had a special place in the hearts and minds of Egyptians mainly because the peninsula has witnessed many military triumphs. In 2014, the political leadership drew up a detailed development strategy for Sinai, starting with the elimination of terrorism and progressing to community development initiatives, infrastructure projects and the establishment of national corporations to attract investment.
Sinai Peninsula has considerable potential to become an attractive location for investment in agriculture, industry, tourism, energy, mining and trade.
This current phase is characterised by the ongoing implementation of the national strategy for the integrated development of the Sinai Peninsula, which necessitates co-operation of all state agencies and the participation of the private sector.
The government has set the Sinai Peninsula on the path of real development. It has launched major, unprecedented national projects covering various sectors, linking the Eastern Egypt Portal to the Delta by making the Canal cities a natural extension of the Nile Valley and overcoming all obstacles in order to attract investment.
One such project is the Great Transfiguration in St. Catherine, which is set to open this October and attract 5 million tourists yearly.
The project is funded by the New Urban Communities Authority in accordance with directives from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to develop the area of St Catherine. The town and the Land of Peace nature reserve were the meeting point of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
President Sisi told senior government officials to pay attention to every detail of Great Transfiguration and render it a world-class tourist destination for visitors from all over the world.
The aim of the project, announced in 2020, is to turn the sacred mountain area of St. Catherine suitable for spiritual, therapeutic and environmental tourism.
Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli said: “This site has special significance for the followers of monotheistic religions and therefore it is important to develop this unique area, the only place on Earth where Allah Almighty descended.”
The Great Transfiguration project is being carried out by the Central Agency for Urbanisation, an affiliate of the Ministry of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities, in co-operation with the ministries of tourism and environment. The project reuses underground water and is building a road network linking tourist destinations Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh.
For Great Transfiguration, the existing ecolodge will be refurbished and a new one will be built. A peace park will be laid out and a hotel will be constructed, in addition to a new visitors centre.
It also includes the development of the residential area of the
A new Bedouin residential compound and the development of the Valley of the Monastery are included in development plans. There will also be a spiritual sanctuary in the mountains surrounding the Holy Valley. This area will also be a premium destination for holistic, therapeutic tourism and rock climbers.
Golf carts will be laid on to take tourists from the parking area to the St Catherine Monastery, one of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries.
There will also be bazaars selling Sinai products and medicinal herbs. St Catherine’s Airport is to be upgraded, operating daily flights between Cairo and St Catherine’s.
“All ministries and authorities concerned are collaborating to finish the project on time,” Minister of Housing Assem el-Gazzar said, adding that the scheme will be promoted internationally through audiovisual material show the area’s holistic, historical, environmental and natural wealth.
The buildings and facilities being constructed as part of the project are fully in line with international environmental standards, with the protection of the natural environment of St Catherine’s being one of its major goals.
“Great Transfiguration project will completely change the Sinai Peninsula to be a unique venue for religious tourism,” South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda said recently.
“A shrine is to be built on the mountains around the Holy Valley,” Fouda added. “The area will be a destination for spiritual, healing and environmental tourism worldwide, while recreational facilities for visitors will dovetail with the requirements of nature conservation,” he said.
Great Transfiguration will bring 14 projects to the mountains surrounding Wadi Towa in South Sinai Governorate to turn the area into a major hub for religious tourism.
The governor went on to say that the project is being implemented in two phases at a cost of LE4 billion and will be open to the public in October.
A new residential area in Zaytouna will be established with 580 housing units. The project will also launch a new 216-room eco-lodge, the redevelopment of an existing eco-lodge, along with a desert garden and mountain hotel.
Fouda said that the Darb Musa walk will be laid, replicating the historic path of Moses through Wadi Al-Raha to Mount Sinai.
A Peace Square is being built as part of the project with a plaza for outdoor celebrations, a museum, theatre, conference hall and cafeteria. A hotel and new administrative complex are also under construction.