Ronald Sheridan

An imposing fortress, probably built by the Moslem caliph Saladin in 1170, guards a deserted island that once bustled with activity. This island of many names—Jezirat Faraun (Pharaoh’s Island), Isle de Graye, Coral Island—has now regained, according to Alexander Flinder, its Biblical appellation Ezion-Geber. It is from here that the joint Israelite-Phoenician naval venture described in 1 Kings 9 and 2 Chronicles 8 set sail. With King Solomon providing the bulk of the manpower and access to the Indian Ocean and with King Hiram contributing the Cedars of Lebanon for the ships and his people’s maritime expertise, the fleet embarked on three-year long expeditions that brought back such treasures as gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks.

Measuring 1,000 feet from north to south and 200 feet from east to west, Jezirat Faraun (as it is known today) is a granite outcropping that sits amid the placid azure waters of the northern Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah. The sea between the island and the Sinai mainland, a mere 900 feet to the west, provides the best natural anchorage in the entire region. The island’s harbor, seen here to the right of the dominant hill that holds the fortress, opens to the anchorage. This view is from the craggy Sinai coast; the mist-enshrouded mountains of Jordan and Saudi Arabia rise in the background.