Bedouin populations in Southern Sinai are broken down into 8 tribes. The Managed Resource Protected Areas of Nabq and Abu Galum are inhabited by two of these tribes, the Mezeina - one of the largest and most powerful tribes - inhabits the Southern Gulf from Nuweiba to Sharm El Sheikh, and the El Tarabin the from Nuweiba to Taba. The total Bedouin population in these areas is approximately 3000 individuals.
Bedouin culture has been founded on strict tribal laws and traditions. Nature is respected, water is consumed sparingly, small water reservoirs are constructed on hillsides to assist wildlife, the relationship between coral reefs and fisheries is clearly understood and damage to reef areas is
limited. Tribal law prohibits the cutting of "green trees", the penalty could be up to three 2 years old camels or equivalent value. Bedouins have said that "killing a tree is like killing a soul". Much can be learned from that statement.
With internationally recognized coral reefs, clear warm coastal waters, outstanding desert landscapes, sites of cultural and religious importance and near permanent sunshine, it is clear that the weather of southern Sinai lies in its natural resources. Those resources, coupled with their proximity to European tourism markets, have simulated the rapid growth of tourism development that the region is currently experiencing.
Damage to those natural treasure is due to actions that may appear to be perfectly normal but in fact can and do have serious consequences. For example, a swimmer, diver or snorkeller resting, standing or walking on a coral surface damages the fragile tissue surface of the coral animal. The coral is then open to bacterial attack and disease, and will often not recover from this impact.
The Natural Preservant of Ras Mohammed is the first and only Egyptian National Park. Declared in 1983 with an area of 97m2, it has since grown to an area of 480km2 and includes marine and terrestrial areas at the Ras Mohammed Peninsula and the island of Tiran, and all shorelines to the highest annual tide between the main Sharm El Sheikh harbor and the southern boundary of the Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area.
The Park is notable for its sharply defined raised fossil coral platforms which represent ancient shorelines. These reefs range in age from 15,000 to 2,000,000 years BP (Before Present). The more recent fossil reefs show similar species composition and structure to present day coral reefs. Recognizable species include: Goniastrea sp., Galaxea sp., Porites sp., and others. Fossil reefs, like modern reefs, were also habitats for a prousion of life seen as fossil remains in the Park.
Studies of fossil coral reefs provide scientists with valuable insights regarding past climatic conditions, changing sea levels and the effect of these on coral reef ecosystems.
The Managed Resource Protected Area at Abu Galum, covering an area of 400km2, protects varied coastal and mountain ecosystems unique on the Gulf of Aqaba. The Area differs dramatically from the other Protectorates on the Gulf. The coastal area contains undisturbed coral reefs with high diversities of coral reef fish and associated flora and fauna. Evidence of the richness of the area can be seen on the shorelines covered with shells of various mollusk groups. Careful inspection of gravel beaches will reveal an abundance of the snail Nerita sp., their shells colored and patterned to blend perfectly with granitic or basaltic pebbles found on the beaches.
The reef at Abu Galum supports an active Bedouin artisan fishery. Fishermen from Nuweiba and Dahab practice subsistence fishing and also supply local restaurants with fish and shellfish products. The fishery is now being regulated by the EEAA to reduce damage to the coral reef. The reef can be viewed at marked, safe access entry points.
The Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area, located 35km north of Sharm El Sheikh, is an outstanding natural area containing varied ecosystems and habitat types. Of these, the most notable are the dunes located at the mouth of Wadi Kid and the largest mangrove (Avicennia marina) stand on the Gulf of Aqaba. Other habitat types can be found in the mountainous regions of the Protectorate wherever conditions permit plant growth. With an area of over 600km2, Nabq contains 134 plant species of which 86 are perennial. All desert areas are therefore fragile and off track driving is prohibited.
The mangrove stand at Nabq fronts the shoreline at the mouth of Wadi Kid. The location and density of trees suggests that there is infiltration of fresh water, reducing the salinity to levels tolerated by the species. Mangroves have adapted to their saline environment. Their root Systems, seen as leafless branches sprouting from the ground around each tree, act as a barrier, keeping out most of the salts from the seawater. The water with its dissolved nutrients then nourishes the tree. Salt not removed by the roots is exuded by the leaves and seen as salt crystals on the underside of each leaf.
Mangroves serve several important functions. They stabilize and extend shorelines through their sediment retention capacities, they create a habitat important to large numbers of bird, invertebrate and fish species and they provide organic material which is then recycled through other near shore (coral reef, sea grass, back reef) communities in close proximity to the stand. Careful examination of the root systems will reveal a profusion of snails, crabs, algae, larval fish, shrimp, bivalves and other species. The mangrove habitat is unique in the area, at its northern limit and is fully protected. It must be viewed with care.