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By 1983, the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs realized the importance of protecting Egypt's rich heritage and its diversity of ecosystems, in turn started declaring locations as protected areas, which are now collectively known as Parks Egypt. In 1994 the (NCS) Nature Conservation Sector was established and given the responsibility of managing Parks Egypt. The NCS is entrusted with implementing policies, programs, studies and other actions that ensure compliance with the nation's habitat and species protection legislation as well as Egypt’s commitment to the relevant international conventions. By 2007 more than 14% (27 protected areas) of Egypt was protected under the NCS, with plans to further accommodate all of Egypt's natural habitats and ecosystems. The expectation that by the year 2017, a total of 40 protected areas, which is around 17% of the country, will be protected and managed by the NCS.
To conserve these ecosystems and habitats, the species of flora and fauna have to be safeguarded, to maintain the sustainability of the area. In Egypt, the fairly low number of species and the relatively large number of eco-zones and habitats makes the preservation of both especially important. Likewise the indigenous people are an integral part of these ecosystems. Their knowledge and tradition are an important part of Egypt's cultural heritage, which have become threatened by modern intrusions of expanding civilization. Being able to create revenue to fund for the management of these protectores and to create business for its indigenous people, conserves not only this unique culture and knowledge but the nature as well, through traditional means and ethics.
Among the largest of these protectores is the Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area. Nabq is about 35 km north of Sharm El Sheikh and 500 km from Cairo. About halfway between Naama Bay and Dahab, Nabq lies at the narrowest part of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the second of the five protected areas of South Sinai. It is the largest coastal park in the area stretching over 600 square kilometers and shelters a variety of ecosystems. It was established in 1992 to protect the coral reefs, wild life and the mangroves.
The park provides unique and extremely diverse landscapes and habitats, from the high mountains in the North, to rolling dune systems of the South, to the rich coral environment where the desert meets the sea. The park is known to be home to 134 plant species, 6 of them are found only in Nabq, and 86 are perennial. The coast of Nabq is said to be fringed by 4.8 km of mangrove forests. This mangrove which is composed of just one species of tree, Avicennia marina, is very fragile and worth protecting because of the important role it plays in the survival of the wild life surrounding the bay. If you are a nature enthusiast, bring along binoculars to observe a variety of birds and animals that live on the park. The park attracts birds holding an important ecological role either as a migratory stop, or as breeding grounds. Species that frequent the area include the Heron (both white and grey), Ospreys, Spoonbill and even storks. Also Nabq is home to a variety of animal and marine species, finding sufficient food and shelter. One of the largest populations of gazelles in southern Sinai is often seen at sunset in the vicinity of the dunes. Nubian ibex can be found in the mountain areas and hyraxes thrive in Wadi Khereiza (one of numerous wadis, or valleys in the park.)
The mangrove stand at Nabq fronts the shoreline at the mouth of Wadi Kidd, which runs far into the center of southern Sinai's mountains. Near the top of Wadi Kidd is the lush oasis of Ain Kidd, boasting many date palms, and toward the bottom of the wadi is mangroves, dune growth, and wild life. Wadi Kidd is one of the Sinai's most abundantly watered wadis, supporting prolific vegetation all along its length, which explains the abundant presence of vegetation and wild life. They are sustained by the periodic valley flooding following heavy rains. The wadi also provides a supply of fresh water to local populations, and is an important grazing area for Bedouin sheep and goatherds.
The mangroves' root system, allow the species to adapted and tolerate their saline surroundings. Their remarkable aerial roots that appear as leafless branches sticking out of the ground around each tree help aerate its submerged roots. They act as a barrier that holds back most of the salts from the seawater. The excess salt that has been absorbed by the root is then removed in the form of salt crystals on the underside of each leaf. The shallow calm waters around the trees form a haven for crustaceans and small fish playing an important role as their breeding and nursing grounds, in turn attracting an extraordinarily varied population of bird life.
At the far end of the bay is an old shipwreck, which provides for a unique and rare diving site. Known to the locals as "Al Gharaqna" (in English "the drowned"), the site can be accessed from the shore, walking knee-deep through the water with suitable shoes, to aid walking over the stretch of shells and endless starfish. The coral reefs of Nabq are rich, virtually untouched and rarely dived areas stretching the entire length of the coast. Possessing a diverse coral population, small and large fish alike, and sea grass beds, the reefs here are different from those of Ras Mohammed National Park. Marine life that can be seen includes turtles, huge variety of pipefish, jacks, wrasse, groupers, stonefish, lionfish, moray eels and seahorses.
The wadi also supports a number of Bedouin tribes who depend on the natural resources of the area, which provides for their fresh water for drinking and for the goatherds. In the late 20th century many of these tribes gave up their nomadic way of life and settled in the wadi, building hut villages along its coast although some still consider it only as a summer retreat. Bedouin population is centered in the Khreiza and Al Gharqana villages. Their knowledge of the area and its plant and animal life has been employed to protect the park. The NCS has committed to a programme that fully integrates the resident Bedouins in all aspects of its area management strategy. As the Bedouins are legendary for their hospitality they are the ones to provide for all the touristic services in the park. These will include catering services at the visitor centre, guide services, provision of camels for access to areas closed to vehicles (all desert areas are considered fragile and off track driving is prohibited), maintenance, visitor interpretation, operation of camping areas (camping is allowed in designated areas but there are several hotels in South Nabq and along the Gulf of Aqaba), selling handmade necklaces and oriental dress and other activities of mutual benefit. Most of them are familiar with many foreign languages due to their continuous contact with tourists.
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