Nekhel – Nekhel
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Nehel (Arabic: نِخِل Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ˈNexel] ; also spelled and pronounced Nahl [næxl] ) is the capital city of the Nehel municipality of the North Sinai Governorate, Sinai, Egypt. It is located in the heart of the Sinai Peninsula along the southern border of the Governorate of North Sinai involving the Governorate of South Sinai. It is located on the edge of El Tih Mountain and the foothills at an altitude of 420.6 m (1,380 ft). The city’s coordinates are 29° 54′ north latitude; 33° 45’E. The city of Nehel is divided into 10 Markazes [ doubtful – discuss ] : Ras Naqb, Contilla, Seder Elkhitan, Tamd, Bir Setka, Hafga, Boruk, Netila, Ein Twiba and Assalam.
Nehel has always been part of the Egyptian Empire throughout history, and it was part of the province of “Du Mafqat” in Ancient Egypt. Nehel was the ancient capital of the entire province of Sinai in Egypt because of its prominent strategic location in the heart of the peninsula. In the 16th century B.C. the Egyptian Pharaohs built the Shura Way through Sinai to Be’er Sheva and on to Jerusalem. The region provided the Egyptian Empire with minerals, turquoise, gold and copper, and there are well-preserved ruins of mines and temples excavated here.
Being on the new Hajj, the Route of the Nehel has taken on added significance. In addition to its previous role as strategic fort the capital of Sinai. The city thus became a major resting and trading place for Muslims who passed the Hajj Route during the Hajj season from all over Africa and Egypt toward Mecca for pilgrimage.
The Ayyubi and Memlukhi Era
During the Islamic rule the Ayyubid Caliphate and the Mamluks lined up. Several sultans built forts and castles in Nehel to protect Egypt from the Crusades from the Middle East and the Red Sea. Nehel played a significant role as an influential military base for the Egyptian army during the Middle Ages in defeating the Crusades and liberating numerous provinces of the Islamic Caliphate.
Geography and Climate
The Keppen-Heiger climate classification system classifies the city’s climate as borderline hot desert ( BWh ) and cold desert climate ( BWk ). The mountain ranges of El Tih look at the city from different sides, with several valleys leading from the Mediterranean north to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez to the city and the mountains in all directions. The city’s altitude is about 420.6 m (1,380 ft) above sea level, but the nearby El Tih Mountains are at a higher elevation. Therefore, the nearby foothills and mountains result in lower temperatures. Summer days are quite hot, reaching 40° C (104° F), but with moderate nights. At night, Nehel is one of the coldest cities in Egypt, along with St. Catherine and the mountain provinces of Sinai.
The area is very arid, averaging less than 50 mm per year. It is one of the driest regions on earth. Although there are still many permanent sources of water in the mountains, the area is constantly drying up.
The city also puts a lot of pressure on water resources, as groundwater in the valley comes from the mountains. Work is underway to connect the city to the Nile through a pipeline.
|Climate data for Nehel|
|Average High ° C (° F)||15.8 (60.4)||17.3 (63.1)||20.1 (68.2)||23.7 (74.7)||27.8 (82.0)||30.4 (86.7)||31.5 (88.7)||31.9 (89.4)||29.6 (85.3)||27.1 (80.8)||22.0 (71.6)||17.6 (63.7)||24.6 (76.2)|
|Daily mean ° C (° F)||10.9 (51.6)||12.1 (53.8)||14.6 (58.3)||17.8 (64.0)||21.2 (70.2)||24.0 (75.2)||25.5 (77.9)||25.8 (78.4)||24.0 (75.2)||21.4 (70.5)||16.7 (62.1)||12.6 (54.7)||18.9 (66.0)|
|Average Low ° C (° F)||6.0 (42.8)||6.9 (44.4)||9.1 (48.4)||12.0 (53.6)||14.7 (58.5)||17.7 (63.9)||19.5 (67.1)||19.8 (67.6)||18.4 (65.1)||15.8 (60.4)||11.4 (52.5)||7.6 (45.7)||13.2 (55.8)|
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||5 (0.2)||8 (0.3)||7 (0.3)||3 (0.1)||2 (0.1)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||0 (0)||2 (0.1)||7 (0.3)||6 (0.2)||40 (1.6)|
|Source: Climate-Data.org , altitude: 405m |
Nehel was an important destination on the Hajj Route for Muslims from Africa to the cities of Mecca and Medina. 
Culture and Population
The traditional inhabitants of the area are Bedouins, whose culture is very similar to that of other Bedouin groups. The Nehel Bedouin tribes are cattle ranchers and farmers who depend on rain and partly snow. They are also Egyptians who live there and work in public sectors and public services.
The methods used are very similar to the Byzantine methods, partly because of the environment. They grow vegetables and fruits in gardens enclosed by stone walls called bustan or karm, and have mastered grafting, in which a branch of a more productive low-growing variety is planted on a more stable but low-yielding mountain variety. are either built into the garden wall or stand apart from the wadi floor, away from the devastating flash floods that occur after periodic heavy rains. Houses are often built next to huge boulders; natural cracks and holes are used as shelves and candlesticks. Small stone sheds and storerooms are built under boulders and in walled-in caves and are found everywhere in the highlands. Ancient leopard traps can be seen in many places. A goat was placed as bait, and when a leopard entered, the entrance was slammed shut with a large stone. No more leopards have gone to Sinai; the last one was seen in the 1980’s. In many places you can see large boulders with oval marks engraved on the surface. These are marriage proposal stones, where the lover has drawn a line around his foot on the rock next to the footprint of his lover. If the two marks are circled, their wish has come true and they are married. Wish stones are boulders, usually a short distance from the main paths, with a flat top: if you throw a pebble and it stays on top, your wish will come true. According to government plans, the city’s population is expected to increase. More and more Egyptians living there will succeed in fulfilling this national development plan. Most of the population of Nehel consists of Bedouins, and the rest are Egyptians.
Agriculture in Nehel mainly depends on wells, which are found mainly in Contilla, Tamd, Bir Setka, and Hafga. In addition, rain and snow help in planting crops such as wheat, barley, and corn. There are many types of plants and crops growing in Nehel. Mediterranean crops are the main agricultural products. Fruits include apple, almond, pear, apricot, peach, pistachio, dates and grapes. Wild walnuts, mulberries, and figs are grown wild in the eastern parts of the city, where there is more rainfall. Like other Mediterranean, Egyptian and North African cities olives are very important in Nehel, and can be found in many places. Gardens are usually built on wadi floors in the main watercourse and are surrounded by massive stone walls. These walls must withstand regular flash floods, hold the soil – called a retaining wall – and protect the garden from animals. Wells are either built in the garden or some gardens have them, but these wells freeze in winter and sometimes in spring and fall. Today, generators usually pump water, but you can still see a lot of shady ones. Water is often found at high altitudes, in natural springs or in wells built on dams called jiddahs. Bedouins built small dams and closed canyons to form reservoirs.  In either case, water was directed to small stone basins, called birkas, from where it was available for irrigation. Water flowed through narrow channels made of flat stones, sometimes for miles – these are still visible, but today plastic pipes (hartum) are used in gardens.
The city of Nehel and the entire Central Sinai region are part of the Plateau El Tih region.This is a unique high mountain ecosystem with many endemic and rare species. Some species are endangered, but there are many wild animals, birds and flowers that are worth seeing. There are many Sinai agama, foxes, and rock damans. Rock damans are frequent visitors to the gardens, and there are many migratory and resident birds from Europe. In addition, the mountains are home to large numbers of wild donkeys, which migrate to this region and lower areas (reportedly as far as El Tur ) in winter and return to grazing for more abundant summer. Many are family owned and marked. However, they put a lot of pressure on the ecosystem.
One of the main goals of the Protectorate is to preserve the biodiversity of the fragile ecosystem with an emphasis on the Nubian ibex and wild medicinal and aromatic plants.
Rain and snow are the best source of water, so water is released at a steady rate, better replenishing the water pools. Water due to the rains quickly drains into the barren mountains, which can cause flash floods and less water.
The views from the foothills of El Tih are spectacular, and there are many other natural attractions in the Wadi system. There are springs, streams, reservoirs, narrow canyons, steep wadis with huge boulders, amazing rock formations, and barren plains with islands of lush vegetation. The mountain tops are full of interconnected basins with a unique highland ecosystem.
Nehel is a beautiful historical site with archaeological landscapes and monuments, as well as beautiful nature. Several Pharaonic archaeological sites are expected to be discovered nearby. The main attractions of the city:
City of Nehel on the map of Egypt
In the heart of the Sinai Peninsula lies the city of Nehel, which witnessed the rule of the pharaohs, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and was at the epicenter of World War I.
Nechel was once the principal city of Sinai and, earlier, Egypt’s most important outpost. Now it is a must-see for travelers who want to explore the world’s cultural treasures.
History of the city
Originally it was part of ancient Egypt. The successful location of the site led the pharaohs to build through it the Shur Way, which could be used to get to Jerusalem. The value of Nehel was also due to its mineral deposits. Minerals, gold, copper, and turquoise were mined there.
During the Islamic era, the settlement did not lose its importance. For a long time, the city existed as a shelter where pilgrims and nomads going to Mecca got food and water and rested in safety. Soldiers protected them from robbers. They also made sure that trade was carried out in accordance with the law. But the garrison could not resist the onslaught of the barbarians. Of the mines, temples and city as a whole remained only ruins.
The place got the second life during the reign of the Circassian Mameluk al-Ashraf Gansuh al-Ghawri. His residence was located here. The modern fortress was built in the Ottoman era. For a long time the site had been used as a military base. Today it is of cultural interest and is included in the list of UNESCO. It was added in 2003.
Twentieth century and modern realities
- Since 1900, the settlement begins to experience economic hardship due to a decrease in the number of pilgrims who began to use the sea route to Mecca;
- in 1915 the fortress withstood a siege by the Lebanese leader;
- in 1917 An-Nechel was abandoned, the people left;
- In 1969, for several weeks, al-Nakhel was the place of exile of a Palestinian political figure.
Today the fortress is not used for its intended purpose; the base has been liquidated. However, the adjoining town still exists. About 12 thousand people live there permanently.
Geography and Climate
The settlement is located in the center of the Sinai Peninsula, at a considerable distance from major cities. The terrain is mountainous, uneven, and belongs to the El Tih Plateau region. Here the barren plains alternate with canyons, steep wadis and waterfalls. Several endangered animals are found in the surrounding areas. Of interest are also the interconnected mountain basins with a unique ecosystem.
It is cooler here than in coastal areas. However, during the summer days the temperature can still rise to +40 ° C. In the winter, there are brief frosts. Sometimes it even snows.
In some years there is no precipitation at all. Drought is a problem because rainfall is still one of the main sources of water in the area. The lack of rain also affects the water table. Periods of drought alternate with torrential downpours, accompanied by devastating floods.
How to get to Nehel
Nehel is located at the crossroads of Nehel-Sadr Al Hetan, Nehel-Taba Road and Nehel-El Hasnah. It is located about half way between Sharm El Sheikh and Suez. The route has been used by pilgrims for hundreds of years, but it is not exactly a paved one: the roads are often unpaved.
It is only a few hours’ drive from the city to the point on the map where North Sinai ends and South Sinai begins. From one governorate to the other can be reached by road through Nehel.
There are cabs along the route. You can also rent a car.
The nearest towns
If you believe the maps, the way to El-Arish takes 2 hours, to Cairo – at least 8 hours, to Suez – 4 hours. However, the condition of the road and the landscape do not allow speeds over 30 mph in some areas, so the journey takes much longer. Problems should be expected from narrow passes, plateaus, water gullies, and wadis.
The driving schedule should be tailored to the time of year, the weather. It is quite difficult to get to Nehel when there are floods.
It takes 4 hours to get to the nearest airport and 5 hours to the international airport in Taba. You will have to make several transfers. The second most distant international airport in Sharm el Sheikh is half a day away. Both are located in Egypt. It takes 9 hours to get to the Israeli airport in Ovda. There are flights from Cairo as well. There are helicopter landing sites in Nehel itself.
The city has witnessed many different eras. Its ruins and the fortress of An-Nechel are interesting from a cultural point of view. The surrounding area is of interest because it is home to many rare species of fauna. It is also worth visiting the place for religious purposes. There are many reasons to visit this place, but it is worth remembering about the poor transport accessibility. If it is not an obstacle, try to visit Nehel in winter. At this time of year, it is most comfortable here.