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a peninsula in western Asia, situated between the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba of the Red Sea; part of Egypt. Area, 25,000 sq km.
Mountains, composed of granites, gneisses, and schists, dominate the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula; at 2,637 m, Mount Katrinah is the highest point in Egypt. To the north the land descends to elevations of 500-1,000 m; the highly dissected rocky plateau al-’Ajmah Jabal and part of the al-Tih plateau cover most of the peninsula. A narrow, sandy lowland stretches along the Gulf of Suez.
The Sinai Peninsula has deposits of oil at Sudr, Abu-Rudays, and al-Tur and deposits of manganese ore at Umm Bugma. The climate, at the point of transition from subtropical to tropical, is hot and dry. Annual precipitation is less than 50 mm. The Sinai Peninsula has no permanent rivers, only a dense network of wadis. It has sparse desert vegetation—subshrubs and ephemeral grasses. Thornbush and isolated trees grow along the dry riverbeds. Nomadic herdsmen raise sheep, goats, and camels. Date palms, barley, millet, and maize are cultivated in the oases.
Among the best-known works of art and architecture in the Sinai Peninsula is the Monastery of St. Catherine, founded in the fourth century. The monastery has a rich collection of medieval manuscripts and Byzantine art. Its icon painters, using the wax-painting technique, created some of the oldest Christian icons (sixth century); the vivid images of the icons are reminiscent of the Fayyum portraits.
REFERENCESPamiatniki Sinaia arkheologicheskie i paleograficheskie, fase. 1-2. St. Petersburg-Leningrad, 1912-25.
Soteriu, G. kai M. Eikones tes mones Sina, vols. 1-2. Athens, 1956-58. (In Greek and French.) [23–1212–]