Sharm el-Sheikh is a city situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, in South Sinai Governorate, Egypt, on the coastal strip along the Red Sea. Its population is approximately 35,000 (2008). Sharm el-Sheikh is the administrative hub of Egypt's South Sinai Governorate which includes the smaller coastal towns of Dahab and Nuweiba as well as the mountainous interior, Saint Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai. It's a part of Egypt's Asian land, as Egypt is a transcontinental country.
Sharm el-Sheikh ("Bay of the Sheikh" in Arabic) is sometimes called the "City of Peace", referring to the large number of international peace conferences that have been held there. It was known as Şarm-üş Şeyh during Ottoman rule and was known as Ofira during Israeli occupation between 1967 and 1982. Among Egyptians and Israelis, the name of the city is commonly shortened to "Sharm".
Sharm el-Sheikh is on a promontory overlooking the Straits of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Its strategic importance led to its transformation from a fishing village into a major port and naval base for the Egyptian Navy. It was captured by Israel during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and restored to Egypt in 1957. A United Nations peacekeeping force was subsequently stationed there until the 1967 Six-Day War when it was recaptured by Israel. Sharm el-Sheikh remained under Israeli control until the Sinai peninsula was restored again to Egypt in 1982 after the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979. A hierarchical planning approach was adopted for the Gulf of Aqaba, whereby their components were evaluated and subdivided into zones, cities and centers. In accordance with this approach the Gulf of Aqaba zone was subdivided into four cities: Taba, Nuweiba, Dahab and Sharm El-Sheikh. Sharm el-Sheikh city has been subdivided into five homogeneous centers, namely Nabq, Ras Nusrani, Naama Bay, Umm Sid and Sharm El Maya.
Sharm el-Sheikh was formerly a port, but commercial shipping has been greatly reduced as the result of strict environmental laws introduced in the 1990s.Until 1982, there was only a military port in Sharm el-Sheikh, on the northern part of Marsa Bareka. The civilian port development started in the mid-1980s when the Sharem-al-Maya bay became the city's main yacht and service port. Sharm el-Sheikh's major industry is foreign and domestic tourism, owing to its dramatic landscape, year-round dry and temperate climate and long stretches of natural beaches. Its waters are clear and calm for most of the year and have become popular for various watersports, particularly recreational scuba diving and snorkeling. There is great scope for scientific tourism with diversity in marine life species; 250 different coral reefs and 1000 species of fish. These natural resources, together with its proximity to European tourism markets, have stimulated the rapid growth of tourism that the region is currently experiencing. The total number of resorts increased from three in 1982 to ninety one in 2000. Guest nights also increased in that period of time from sixteen thousand to 5.1 million. Companies which have been attracted to invest in this city include Hyatt Regency, Accor, Marriott, Le Méridien, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, with categories of three to five stars. In 2007 the area saw the opening of its first aqua park hotel resort. The four star Aqua Blu Sharm Resort was built on the Ras Om El Seid, with an area of 133,905 square metres (1,441,340 sq ft). Sharm is also the home of a congress center, located along peace road, where many international political and economic meetings have been held, including peace conferences, ministerial meetings, world bank meetings, Arab League. The Maritim Sharm el-Sheikh International Congress Centre can host events and congresses for up to 4,700 participants.
The nightlife of Sharm El-Sheikh is modern and developed. The colorful handicraft stands of the local Bedouin culture are a popular attraction. Ras Mohammed, at the southernmost tip of the peninsula, has been designated a national park, serving to protect the area's wildlife as well as its natural landscape, shoreline and coral reef. A number of international hotels and noted restaurants are clustered around the centre of Sharm, known as Naama Bay, with golf courses and other leisure facilities further up the coast. The Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area is a 600 square kilometres (230 sq mi) area of mangroves, coral reefs, fertile dunes, birds and wildlife. Nationals from the EU and the US do not require a visa for travel to Sharm El Sheikh if the visit is for fourteen days or less, although those travelling to outside the Sinai area may still require a visa, which are purchasable for a small fee on arrival. It is mandatory for all travellers arriving at Sharm El Sheikh International Airport to complete a landing card (handed-out by crew on flight), and on departing to complete an exiting card (handed-out at check-in) before passing through passport control.