Sinai Peninsula, a historic area of Asia that forms a land bridge to Africa. It is part of Egypt. Since 1948 the Sinai has been a strategic battlefield in the Arab-Israeli conflicts. In 1956 Israeli forces routed the Egyptians from the Sinai, but then withdrew under a peace agreement. In 1967, following the Six Day War and the defeat of the Egyptian army, Israel occupied the region. After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Egyptian sovereignty was reestablished over parts of the Sinai adjacent to the Suez Canal. Under a 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Israel began a step-by-step withdrawal from the Sinai. In 1982 the last troops were removed and Egypt regained sovereignty over the entire peninsula.
Since earliest times the largely arid Sinai has been only sparsely inhabited, mostly by nomads. Around 2800 B.C., Egypt began mining copper and turquoise in the southern Sinai's mountain region. The mines were worked periodically for centuries before Egypt finally abandoned them in the 12th century B.C. From the miners, many of whom were captives of war from Semitic lands, came one of the world's earliest alphabets. Their inscriptions, which were probably written around 1500 B.C., were found by archeologists in 1905.
According to Biblical accounts, Moses led the Israelites from Egyptian bondage into the Sinai, where they lived for 40 years before entering Canaan (Palestine). The Biblical Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, has traditionally been identified as Gebel Musa (Mount of Moses), but other peaks have been suggested also.
Over the centuries, the Sinai was ruled by many peoples, including Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Turks. The Arabs were the only masters of the region to have more than a negligible influence, converting the Bedouins (nomads) to Islam sometime after the seventh century A.D Following World War I, the Sinai was taken from the Ottoman Empire and put under Egyptian rule.