Much of the north coast of Sinai between Port Fuad and Al-Arish is dominated by the swampy lagoon of Lake Bardawil, separated from the Mediterranean by a limestone ridge. As a result of this inhospitable geography, Al-Arish is the only major city in the region, and by default the capital of North Sinai Governorate. The town’s sprawl of ugly low-rise cement blocks wouldn’t win any design awards but the long palm-fringed (though litter-strewn) coastline is a popular weekend getaway for holidaying Cairenes in summer. The weekly market draws in thousands of Bedouin traders from around the peninsula, making for a vibrant and completely chaotic experience.
The main coastal road, Sharia Fuad Zikry (which changes its name to Sharia al-Geish as it heads north), forms a T-junction with Sharia 23rd of July, which runs a couple of kilometres south – changing name to Sharia Tahrir on the way – to the main market area.