While jagged mountains dominate the gulf coasts and interior of the peninsula, northern Sinai is awash with pale sand dunes. Security concerns, however, mean that travellers are currently advised to avoid all but essential travel to the area north of the Suez–Taba road. The smuggling tunnels around the divided and tense Rafah border crossing are the main source of goods for the Gaza Strip, while El-Arish and the surrounding area are other notable flashpoints, with repeated clashes between security forces and Islamic militants, attacks on gas pipelines to Jordan and Israel and, in 2011, the rape of a British woman, allegedly by an Egyptian army officer.

In addition, every year thousands of refugees – mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan – attempt to cross the Sinai to Israel, but few make it. A CNN report at the end of 2011 revealed widespread enslavement of refugees by Bedouin people-smugglers, rape, extortion, blackmail, and even evidence of organ-harvesting.

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