Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1223, (27 November - 3 December 2014)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1223, (27 November - 3 December 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The hidden face of Ras Sudr

The Sinai city of Ras Sudr is crying out for further development, writes Abeya El-Bakry

Al-Ahram Weekly

Located about 60 km from the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel on the Cairo-Suez Road on the Gulf of Suez, about 200 km from Cairo opposite Ain Sokhna, the city of Ras Sudr was becoming a popular holiday destination in the 1990s when it was known for its clean air and clear turquoise waters. A number of tourism ventures began near the city, dotting the beach with numerous resorts all claiming a view of the clear coastline and a quiet place away from Cairo.

Today, local people are arguing that these ventures should be built upon, giving Ras Sudr the reputation it deserves as an up-and-coming tourism destination.

The city has a growing population of Bedouin and government employees, as well as some impressive facilities. Adel Al-Safouri, manager of the Ras Sudr Public Hospital, said that the city’s hospital “offers the best treatment and preventive medicine services. It has a twenty-four hour admission system all year round. In-house clinics include a dialysis ward. Patients arrive from Cairo to receive treatment in the hospital, where there are four operating theatres, an intensive care unit, incubators, facilities for physical therapy, and a health promotion office serving city residents and others from the vicinity including Abu Rudais, Al-Tor and Moses Springs.”

Mahmoud Maher, a student at the Sinai Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotels, helps out at the local orphanage. “It’s a small orphanage with only ten children and is a branch of a larger organisation in Cairo. The organisation chose Ras Sudr for its clean environment and good climate. The orphanage provides the children with schooling, entertainment and health services in a safe family environment,” he said.

The institute itself was inaugurated in 1992 in order to help develop Sinai. “We need better education to do this, and Ras Sudr was chosen as a centre,” said Institute dean Nirvana Harraz. A government strategic plan in the 1990s foresaw Sinai’s potential for tourism, and since then the institute has sought to educate the local community to meet hotel and tourism employment needs. It has provided literacy education, language and computer skills, and given access to its library. In addition, there are student exchange programme to enable students to train abroad in countries like Finland and Germany.

 “Ras Sudr was considered to be a holiday destination, but it was only active during the summer holiday season. The institute has helped revitalise the area by bringing people in throughout the year, developing community activities and establishing a growing local market,” commented the Chairman of the Sinai Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotels, Abdel-Azim Bassiouni.

As well as tourism, the city is also noted for rug-making, tents, butter, cheese, and rice. “The hair tents are typically of the local Bedouin culture and are made from animal fur and hair to protect people from the sun and keep the temperature cool inside,” Bassiouni said, adding that the local pottery was also made using age-old techniques and was now being distributed for exportation.  

Such local skills and traditions reach further inland than may meet the eye, with supplies in some cases coming from deep in the surrounding desert. In recent years, the town’s new activities have led to the building of a new market featuring goods from major companies along with a modest pharmacy, clinic, and two local hotels.  A public garden sits along a road leading to the coastline.

 “Young people in the city need to be empowered, and incentives should be given to enable them to stay here,” Bassiouni said. “In 2008, there was an incentive scheme for doctors, but this has now been reduced in scale and doctors from the local community are not given an allowance to stay in the city while the allowance for resident doctors has been reduced. There needs to be a system that is more than just about government employees working to serve each other. The local community needs to be empowered in order to meet local employment needs,” he added.

And there are plenty of opportunities in Ras Sudr calling for development. Roads and public transport could be developed to attract visitors to the area. Agriculture could be promoted, and industry developed. “There is marble in the nearby mountains ready to be mined, and even fishing could be a more popular activity, though the oil rigs in the Red Sea have driven fish further from the shore,” Al-Safouri said.

While Cairo for many retains its position as a dream city where opportunity lies, Ras Sudr continues to shine under the Sinai sun, with its clear blue waters and empty roads.

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