National Geographic : 2009 Mar
• which he felt had humiliated the Arab world. Al Masaid regarded Egypt s 1979 peace deal with Israel as a collusion with the West. e deal led to the creation of the Multinational Force and Observers, an international team of peacekeep- ers who sti e movement along the Egypt-Israel border. To Al Masaid, the peacekeepers were more than an affront; they cut him off from possible Palestinian help. e dentist needed followers---disaffected young men willing to strike out against authorities, against tourists, against Israel, against Egypt itself. He found them among Sinai s own people. Sinai s land bridge has o ered passage for prophets and pilgrims, traders of goods and ideas. But like any bridge it also holds strategic value in war. Armies have marched across its dunes as long as men have fought: the pharaohs with their chariots, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans. The Islamic conquerors and their nemeses, the European crusaders. e Ottoman Turks and the British. All have carried the sands of Sinai on their soles. e latest iteration of war, between the Egyp- tians and Israelis, shaped life on the peninsula today. It shaped the literal topography---bun- kers and trenches still cross the horizon---but it shaped the human landscape in more unexpect- ed ways. Although the current truce began 30 years ago, mainland Egyptians still o en regard Bedouin, the desert herdsmen who make up more than half of Sinai s 360,000 or so people, as collaborators with the enemy. e Bedouin simply showed no loyalty to any government, Egyptian or otherwise. As I le Mount Sinai, a policeman directed me onto the roadside at one of Egypt s many police RESORT TRASH offers recyclables to needy boys and food to Bedouin camels when pasture is scarce. A visitor (opposite) has a more sheltered view, including of the luxury Hilton Taba resort. Terrorists released their fury at the hotel's opulence and ethnic mixing in 2004 with an attack that killed 31. Bookings plunged but are rising again.