Sharm-el-Sheikh: Once a war zone, now a city of peace | world | Hindustan Times
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Sharm-el-Sheikh: Once a war zone, now a city of peace

If Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan succeed in bringing a thaw in their ties — after they meet on Thursday on the sidelines of the NAM summit — they will surely be making history. But this city too will add to its history of international accords, reports Shekhar Iyer.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2009 00:11 IST
Shekhar Iyer

If Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan succeed in bringing a thaw in their ties — after they meet on Thursday on the sidelines of the NAM summit — they will surely be making history.

But this city too will add to its history of international accords.

Already, apart from India and Pakistan, there are signs that tensions between other countries have begun to thaw here. Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has been talking to his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

(Egypt has long accused Iran of meddling in Arab conflicts. It wants Iran to end its support for Shia militants in Iraq, Hizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon and the Palestinian group Hamas. Iran has been pushing for improving ties between the two countries. Formal diplomatic ties were severed in 1979 when Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel.)

Sharm el Sheikh, located at the tip of the Sinai peninsula, literally translates in Arabic as the ‘city of peace.’

The site of Sharm el-Sheikh is believed to have been mentioned as early as 1762 on a Spanish map, but until about 1968, it was nothing more than a quiet fishing community.

It was captured by Israel during the Sinai conflict of 1956 and restored to Egypt in 1957. A United Nations peace-keeping 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 returned to Egypt in 1982 after the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979.

Since then, the city has witnessed to a number of important Middle Eastern peace conferences, including the September 4, 1999 agreement to restore Palestinian self-rule over the Gaza Strip. A second summit was held here on October 17, 2000 following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, but it failed to end the violence. A summit was held on August 3, 2005 in this city on developments in the ArabIraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict. world such as the situation in

Locals say commercial development of the area began during the Israeli presence in the area. The Israelis built the town of Ofira overlooking Sharm el-Maya Bay, and the Nesima area, and opened the first tourist-oriented establishments in the area six kilometers north at Naama Bay.

These included a marina hotel on the southern side of the bay, a nature field school on the northern side, diving clubs, a now well-known promenade, and the Naama Bay Hotel.