Facts about the St Katherine Protectorate

Sinai Baton Blue butterfly

Sinai Baton Blue butterflies mating

The Sinai peninsula is the land-bridge through which early man probably left Africa between 1.7 and 1.6 million years ago.

There are over 300 major archaeological sites in the Protectorate:

o Upper Palaeolithic rock shelters from 30 000 years ago

o Neolithic sickles and flint hoes (4000 BCE)

o Nawamis (4000 BCE): circular stone structures, probably the world’s oldest examples of stone roofed buildings and the oldest known remains of a pastoral nomadic society.

o Early Bronze Age settlements and copper smelters (3100-2200 BCE)

o Nabataean ruins and rock inscriptions (500 BCE)

o Hermit cells and chapels (2nd and 3rd Century CE).

Important trading and pilgrimage routes pass through South Sinai:

o Nabataean trading routes just north of the Protectorate

o Christian pilgrimage routes to Mount Sinai through the Naqb el Howa

The first alphabetic system in the world, Proto-Sinaitic, appeared in rock inscriptions in Serabit el Khadem to become eventually the basis of the Greek and Hebrew alphabets.

The first ever recorded use of copper instead of stone took place in Sinai.

Sites in Sinai, most notably, Mt Sinai, are intimately associated with the Biblical account of the Exodus and the founding events of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.

The Monastery of St Catherine is the oldest continually inhabited monastery in the world and home to the oldest icons and some of Christianity’s most precious early manuscripts, including the oldest bible in the world.

The rocks of South Sinai date back to the late Precambrian, over 700 million years ago, and are some of the oldest rocks in the world.

Over 450 higher plants have been recorded within the Protectorate, including almost half of Egypt’s endemic flora and a large number of medicinal plants.

The Protectorate is home to species that were pushed here by the advance of the glaciers in Europe and Asia during the last ice age. As the glaciers retreated and the land warmed up, these species withdrew to the High Mountains and are known as relicts:

o Sinai rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus) from Asia

o Ibex (Capra nubiana) from Europe

o Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) from Africa

o Tristram’s grackle (Onychognathus tristramii) from Africa

Almost the entire world population of storks flies over the Sinai during the migration season.

Two thirds of Egypt’s butterflies occur in the Protectorate, including two endemics:

o Sinai Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes sinaicus)

o Sinai Hairstreak (Sartyrium Jebelia)

St Catherine is the only Protectorate in Egypt with a sizeable indigenous population, including about 7000 Bedouin.

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