An imposing fortress guards a deserted granite outcrop in the azure waters of the northern Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat). This island of many names—Jezirat Faroun (Pharaoh’s Island), Isle de Graye, Coral Island—lies about 250 yards from the Sinai coast (and about half a mile from the eastern Red Sea coast, in the distance). The fortress, on the island’s northern hill (left), may have been built by the Moslem caliph Saladin in 1170 C.E., after he captured the island from the Crusaders. Some scholars date the ruins of a wall encircling the island to the tenth century B.C.E. and identify a protected inlet on the island’s western shore (visible in the photo) as King Solomon’s harbor, Ezion-Geber (1 Kings 9:26–28
During an archaeological expedition that served as a cover for a British military survey of Turkish defenses in southern Palestine, Lawrence swam out to explore the ruins. His intimate knowledge of the area no doubt aided his later capture of the city Aqaba, about 7 miles north of Jezirat Faroun.