Pharaoh’s Island

Thirty-five kms north of Basata is Pharaoh’s Island.  The island, known as Gezirat Fara’un in Arabic, is situated just a few hundred meters from the coast.  It is believed to be the ancient Phoenician port of Eziongaber, founded by King Hiram of Tyre in the tenth century B.C.  The island, also called Coral Island because of the extensive coral formations found on its northeastern coast is dominated by a castle.  This castle was built by the Crusaders at the beginning of the twelfth century upon the remains of a Byzantine settlement and was later enlarged by the Sultan Salah al-Din, or Saladin, who seized the island in 1182.  With its reefs and high winds the island was ideal to defend Sinai and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on the Arabian coast from Crusaders advancing from Palestine.