Ages Perspective

Al Arish Through the Ages: A Historical Perspective

Nestled on the Sinai Peninsula, Al Arish history is a captivating blend of ancient roots and modern transformation. Its origin traces back to a humble Bedouin settlement, flourishing near the Ptolemaic outpost of Rhinocorura. Over time, the city blossomed around these ancient grounds, its name, ‘Arish‘, echoing the Arabic for ‘palm huts’, a tribute to its modest beginnings.

In the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire, recognizing its strategic importance, fortified Al Arish in 1560. This fortification stood the test of time until the Napoleonic Wars when French forces besieged and captured it on February 19, 1799, after a fierce 11-day conflict. However, the ravages of World War I saw British bombers reduce the once-sturdy fort to ruins. Amidst the turmoil, the 45th Stationary Hospital was established here, offering solace and healing to those wounded in the Palestine campaign. The souls lost were later honored at the Kantara Cemetery.

Al Arish’s historical significance extends to the realm of political ideology. Theodor Herzl, the visionary behind Zionism, once eyed it as a potential Jewish homeland. This was in the early 20th century when Palestine was not yet the focal point of settlement aspirations. Herzl, along with British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain and lawyer David Lloyd George, explored this possibility. However, an expedition led by Leopold Kessler presented a report that eventually led to the rejection of this plan, despite its ambitious proposal to divert Nile waters for settlement purposes.

In the aftermath of World War I, the El Arish Military Cemetery was established in 1919, a solemn reminder designed by Sir Robert Lorimer. The city’s skies witnessed the echoes of conflict again on December 8, 1958, as Egyptian and Israeli air forces engaged in a fierce battle. Al Arish experienced the harsh realities of military occupation, first briefly in 1956 and then from 1967 to 1979, before being returned to Egypt following the historic Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in 1979.

Tragically, on November 24, 2017, Al Arish was the site of a horrendous terror attack at the al-Rawda mosque, claiming 305 innocent lives. This dark day in the city’s history serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced in modern times.

Al Arish, with its rich tapestry of historical events, stands today as a symbol of resilience and cultural depth, a city that has witnessed the ebb and flow of civilizations, ideologies, and epochs, continually shaping its unique identity in the heart of Egypt.

Created On March 18, 2020

Updated On January 24, 2024

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