Strategic town opposite Tiran island, near the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
The cove and town of Sharm al-Shaykh control maritime access to the Strait of Tiran from the Gulf of Aqaba. In 1954 Egypt fortified the cove to block Israeli shipping from the port of Elat, but in the Arab–Israel War (1956) Israel captured it along with the rest of the peninsula. The United States later persuaded Israel to withdraw its forces in return for assurances of free passage through the Tiran Strait. When the Sinai was restored to Egyptian control in 1957, the United Nations Emergency Force was based at Sharm al-Shaykh until 1967, when Egypt asked it to leave. Its removal was one of the events precipitating the 1967 Arab–Israel War. Occupied by Israel during that conflict, the site became the Israeli naval and air base of Ophira. Restored to Egypt in 1982, the town has become a major tourist resort and frequently serves as the site of high-profile meetings of Middle Eastern and world leaders, notably the Anti-terrorism Summit of 1996 and one phase of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2000.
see also aqaba, gulf of; arab–israel war (1956); arab–israel war (1967); tiran, strait of.
Fry, Michael, and Hochstein, Miles. "The Forgotten Middle East Crisis of 1957: Gaza and Sharm el Sheikh." International History Review 15 (1993): 46–83.
updated by arthur goldschmidt